Where business IT has gained the advantage
Schadler, whose research for Forrester is the basis of a book (co-authored with Josh Bernoff) called "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business," interviewed numerous IT executives asking what benefit they obtained by embracing consumerization. Here is some of what they learned:
The CIO of a 20,000-person European engineering company (Forrester has withheld the company's name) was concerned about employees wasting time and potentially creating liability by accessing porn or other inappropriate sites, so he installed Websense to block traffic on the corporate network. That worked, but when the filter made Skype inaccessible, his phone rang off the hook. Skype, it turned out, was an important tool for engineers in Vietnam and Pakistan to talk to customers, partners, and their global project teams, where landline and even cellphone service was limited or unavailable. He turned it back on.
At Lloyd's of London, clients wanted to reach their salespeople via Facebook. But the company's conservative IT department had blocked the social networking service. The salespeople simply pulled out their iPhones (also not permitted) and accessed Facebook anyway. CIO Peter Hambling saw the disconnect between employee-favored technology and the IT department, and convinced top management to permit the use of Facebook, the iPhone, and more. Just as Kraft found when it opened the doors to consumerization, Lloyd's gained benefits it had never considered, such as an underwriting application developed for the iPad.
Earlier, Schadler interviewed IT execs at a major California pharmaceutical company (whose identity Forrester promised to keep secret) who found that deploying iPhones instead of BlackBerrys saved the firm $360 per device each year. And at software giant Oracle, early iPhone deployment was a benefit because "the development platform and intuitive user interface means that Oracle IT can build collaboration and business applications that employees can take with them anywhere," Schadler says.
The use of Twitter by many companies to stay in touch with customers and provide personalized service seems like old news, but it's only been three years since Best Buy launched Twelpforce, one of the largest and most successful uses of social media as a customer service tool. And it's worth noting that large-scale Twitter deployments by Comcast and JetBlue originated with customer service agents using Twitter on their own to help their customers.
Taking the consumerization bull by the horns
"Quite simply, the consumerization of IT is a disruptive trend, and the best way to meet a disruptive trend is head-on, anticipating the changes it will bring and exploiting those changes for competitive advantage," says Colin Lacey, who writes a blog on disruptive technologies for Unisys.
To harness the full power of this new wave of productivity, says Lacey, organizations need to modernize their IT environments to:
- Manage and support these popular consumer technologies
- Secure critical data and assets against hackers, viruses, identity thieves, and other widespread consumer IT threats
- Offer the interactive app experiences that consumers are looking for when transacting with their suppliers
- Handle the expected four-fold increase in transaction load that these new interactive experiences will impose on the IT infrastructure
- Attract and retain the new generation of workers enteringthe workforce
John Almasy, who also blogs for Unisys, says that he expects enterprises to build and maintain their own app stores, which will be used to securely provision, deploy, and audit corporate approved mobile applications.
Consumerization is hardly a magic bullet, and it can create its own problems. Security is probably the most obvious of these, and has been written about and discussed endlessly. But there are many other issues to consider. Managing workflow and making connections between social media apps and corporate data, such as a customer's history, is challenging, even beyond the potential security pitfalls. Legal issues related to the use of personal technology at work -- privacy is one example -- are still being defined.
But those issues are all merely details of execution. Ultimately, as PwC's Garland puts it, the challenge for both IT management and employees who demand to use consumer technologies on the job "is to forge an adult relationship."
This story, "How consumerization gives business an edge," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology and consumerization at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
Read more about consumerization of IT in InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT Channel.