Consumerization of IT

Information workers make technology decisions for themselves

The list of information technologies that end-users are adopting directly, without the help, consent, or even awareness of their company's IT department, is long and getting longer every day. We've all seen personal iPhones, iPads, and Android devices used in the workplace, a trend that some companies embrace as advantageous and others reject as risky and painful. Whether these devices are encouraged, tolerated, or stubbornly resisted, companies and their IT organizations are only beginning to come to grips with managing their presence.

Yet the consumerization of IT goes far beyond personal technology choices and the "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon. Ultimately, it marks a shift in the relationship between information workers and all of IT, such that workgroups, line-of-business managers, and entire business units are making their own technology decisions. Google Apps, Dropbox, Salesforce.com, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and countless other cloud services and software-as-a-service applications are readily available, easy to use, and able to be provisioned at the push of a button. It's no surprise that people often make use of them without seeking guidance or approval from IT.

Clearly, the consumerization of IT presents a challenge to traditional IT organizations that may be accustomed to provisioning and controlling access to all information assets. As information technology continues to play a more prominent role in everyone's lives, information workers and technology staff must find a new balance -- one that gives workers more freedom and flexibility to meet business needs but also ensures that important considerations like security and compliance don't take a backseat to instant gratification.

The irony is that IT too will increasingly find itself in the role of technology consumer. With cloud computing, the consumerization of IT is taken to its logical conclusion. To borrow the old analogy, if working in IT is like changing the tires on a bus that's moving at 60 miles an hour, while talking to the bus driver (business executive) on the phone, cloud computing means relying on someone else to change the tire. As parts of the IT organization evolve from information technology provider and controller to information technology guide and middleman, it seems some IT professionals will increasingly be left holding the phone.

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