In 2005, the idea promoted by Gartner that consumerization would be the most important trend of the next decade might have been controversial. But traction from the iPhone, which went from 0 percent adoption to 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies between June 2008 and June 2010, undeniably demonstrates the powerful impact of this trend.
Even so, Philippe Winthrop, founder and managing director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, believes that the mobile consumerization trend demonstrated by the iPhone (and now the iPad) is subtly different from the general trend of consumerization.
According to Winthrop, "The consumerization of enterprise mobility is slightly nuanced from the consumerization of general IT. First and foremost, the price points make mobile devices far more accessible than other computing devices. Second, the massive diversity of applications, and the ease of purchase and installation of these applications is very different from what IT departments are typically used to. Forward-thinking companies have recognized the opportunity to embrace, as opposed to fight, this change and use it to their advantage. True ROI is still elusive in many cases, but there is no question that the future of the workplace is predicated on the use of mobile devices and applications."
How Hyatt embraced the "consumerization of IT" relationship
But what does the "consumerization of IT" actually mean to a corporate leader of information technology? In my search for a clear definition of this concept, one of the best explanations I've heard was from Mike Blake, the CIO of Hyatt Hotels. He shared with me the journey that Hyatt went through to both recognize and then ultimately embrace this trend of consumerization with the iPad. In Blake's words:
When iPad came out it was the latest "shiny object" introduced by one of the most innovative companies in the world. Everyone had to have one, yet no one really knew what it was for. The power in the product, aside from its beautiful design and solid operating system, was found in the spark that it created in the imagination of its users. Users were defining ways of leveraging the tool to prove that it is more than just flash, that it could offer true utility.
In our case, IT embraced the iPad from day one, helping to get the product out into as many people's hands as possible. From that grassroots trial we have found ways of serving our customers in new ways, and providing powerful tools to our employees that they truly enjoy using. That's where consumerization of IT really comes into play. It is IT recognizing the power of a consumer product, cultivating it, and giving it a fair chance to succeed. We have shed our arrogance, but we keep a little bit of our skepticism and our conservative approach to make sure the enterprise systems are still secure and our help desks are not overwhelmed.
IT's acceptance of consumerized technologies in the enterprise has led us to enable a more agile organization with users empowered with choice in selecting their computing platform preference. In fact, IT's embracing of these technologies has helped to propel a more positive view of IT. Where IT was previously considered to be rigid and dictatorial, it is now viewed as a true partner who proactively works with the business and uses consumer technologies to help solve critical business issues.
The end result is that employees are able to get the data and information they need to better inform decisions. These consumerized tools enable people to better use and interpret information: they are easier to maintain, and have a higher satisfaction level with the user base than any previous generation of tools.