Guess what? IT isn't afraid of consumerization after all

Two surveys of IT and business execs shows that most are embracing the consumerization trend, not resisting it

CIOs are circling the wagons as users rampage for their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other nontraditional computing devices. Those CIOs and their IT staffs are fretting over security breaches, information loss, and their own power base, and they're blocking users at every turn to preserve the status quo.

That's the message you get from many vendors, consultants, and publications. But it's wrong. Most CIOs aren't fearful or resisting consumerization -- they're embracing it, figuring out how to make heterogeneous, user-oriented computing work in their businesses.

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So says the consultancy Avanade, a creation of Microsoft and Accenture, based on its survey released today of 605 senior IT and business executives throughout the world conducted in late October 2011. And so says IDG Enterprise (InfoWorld's parent organzation), based on an online survey released yesterday of more than 1,900 respondents. The surveys make it clear that consumerization is not something that's just now transpiring -- it's already happened.

The Avanade and IDG Enterprise surveys are very heartening, especially in the face of all the self-interested fearmongering over consumerization and BYOD by the security vendors. It should also serve as a wake-up call to those IT organizations and businesses that are in fact resisting consumerization, showing them their fears are misguided, their resistance is unconstructive, and they don't lose by embracing the consumerization phenomenon. Although the Avanade survey shows that more business execs than IT execs think supporting consumerization is manageable with existing resources, majorities of both groups say consumerization is not an undue burden to handle.

Here are the key findings from the Avanade survey:

  • 60 percent of companies are now adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employees' personal devices, rather than to restrict employee use of personal devices. So much for the fear reaction.
  • 73 percent of C-level executives reported that the growing use of employee-owned technology is a top priority in their organization, and 88 percent said employees are already using personal technology in the business. So much for the notion that IT and business leaders have their heads in the sand about the consumerization phenomenon.
  • 91 percent of C-level execs and 75 percent of IT leaders said their IT department today has the staff and resources needed to manage the use of consumer technologies. Furthermore, 62 percent of IT execs and 84 percent of C-level execs said it is a relatively simple matter to integrate the employee-owned devices, applications, and online services with the enterprise IT systems.
  • Executives aren't blind to the risks of the consumerization phenomenon: 66 percent see security as the main risk, whereas 37 percent see unmanaged data as the top risk. More than half (55 percent) of companies said they have experienced at least one security breach due to the use of a personal technology in the business (most commonly, USB thumb drives and lost laptops or other devices, Avanade has found when talking to clients), and 81 percent said they need to strengthen their IT infrastructure to reduce these risks. But that stated concern isn't matched by their actions, which I think is a better measure of the real risk potential they see or the skill gap they think they actually have: Only 35 percent will train IT staff responsible for critical infrastructure on how to address these risks, and only 38 percent will train business employees.

The IDG Enterprise survey's key points echo that of Avanade's findings:

  • 72 percent of participants have embraced the use of consumerization of IT by allowing employees to use their own device to perform work tasks either away from work or at work (48 percent of the participants who have embraced consumerization), expanding the list of devices provided to employees to include more consumer devices (42 percent), and/or providing an allowance for employees to buy personal devices to use at work (11 percent).
  • Mobile devices rank highest in the types of personal devices organizations will support, with smartphones at 79 percent and tablets at 68 percent. The top personal devices supported by IT departments are BlackBerrys (68 percent), iPhones (61 percent), and iPads (54 percent).

The Avanade survey also debunks several commonly cited "facts" about the use of personal devices and the pressure to support consumerization strategies such as BYOD:

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