Don't let consumerization be the free lunch that eats you

When it comes to enterprise tech, price is almost an afterthought. So why let it dictate what you do in the cloud?

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Consumerization: The downside of simple

To understand the point, look at everything you hate about dealing with just about every telecommunications company -- yes, mobile providers, I'm talking about you. What you hate is the opposite of consumerization. Call it businessification.

What you hate about them is that you need advanced degrees in telecommunications provisioning and contract law to make heads or tails out of the two-year commitment you're about to sign. I say that as someone who managed enterprise telecommunications for a few years. Were Dropbox to buy the company that sells you your cellphone and service, you wouldn't merely understand what you're getting into, you'd be happy about it.

A lot of cloud providers target consumers and very small businesses as customers. Because of this, they've kept everything simple. The upside of simple is that regular folks can figure it out and make it work.

The accepted use of "consumerization" is companies bringing in technologies originally developed for consumers and putting them to business use. Yippy skippy.

What's interesting about consumerization is choosing technologies because they've been designed to be simple enough for consumers to use -- Dropbox or Google Drive instead of SharePoint, for example.

But nothing is free, even when it's free. There are always trade-offs. The downside of simple is that when the time comes that more sophisticated functionality is called for, it isn't there.

Actually, it's worse. The downside of simple is that when the time comes that more sophisticated functionality is called for, someone figures out how to trick the technology into doing something that looks a lot like what's needed -- only whenever you trick technology into doing something its designers never intended it to do, the result is a kludge. It gets the job done through the judicious use of duct tape, chewing gum, and the occasional Band-Aid or two -- as long as the wiseguy who figured out how to make it do that is still around (this used to be me once upon a time) and remembers how he or she put it together.

The danger of success

Before your company builds critical processes on consumer-grade cloud tech, spend some time figuring out what the future is likely to look like. Investigate, that is, the danger of success.

If success means needing something more sophisticated than consumer-level tech can provide, you have two choices. The first is to plan for a conversion when you get there. This isn't necessarily a bad choice, so long as your company is the sort that faces situations squarely and does what needs to be done.

The alternative is to start right out with the more sophisticated tech you're likely to need, then put a consumerization-grade skin on top of it so that it looks no more complicated than the consumer tech you're encouraging everyone not to use.

The IT-grade tools are capable of this. I'm confident this is the case, for the simple reason that if they can't even do this, they aren't very capable tools.

You're capable of this too. I'm just as confident because, well, you're sophisticated enough to be reading this column, aren't you?

This story, "Don't let consumerization be the free lunch that eats you," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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