Business leaders know: Let in the smartphones, tablets, laptops

Forward-thinking firms like Kraft didn't wait for employees to bring in consumer tech, but led the effort themselves

Kraft Foods, a forward-thinking giant when it comes to consumer taste, was anything but when it came to IT. Simply put, the company was mired in the old-school culture of rigid centralized information technology. Not anymore.

Kraft was one of the first major enterprises to recognize the value that consumer devices could produce for business — and it recognized that value early. Kraft began deploying the iPhone back in 2008, well before smartphones had become must-carry devices.

By early 2009, almost half of the company’s mobile users had an iPhone 3G, and the company was then ordering hundreds more every month. “We want to instill innovation in our culture,” says Dave Diedrich, Kraft’s vice president of information systems. “Seeing the innovation in iPhone opens our employees’ minds to what’s possible in their jobs.”

It did just that. Forrester analyst Ted Schadler, who has written extensively about the consumerization of IT, says the success of the iPhone’s internal deployment helped Kraft understand that it could be a powerful tool to reach consumers in new ways. As a result, Kraft developed its own iPhone app, which gives consumers access to thousands of recipes, a library of instructional cooking videos, full-meal shopping lists, and a store locator.

Kraft’s story illustrates two of the four major benefits that the consumerization of IT can produce:

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