Microsoft's thorny challenge: Saving face with IT Pros while acknowledging Consumerization of IT

For the past twenty years, Microsoft has provided IT professionals and enterprises with the software they need to manage, control, and lock down their end user computing environment. The consumerization of IT, on the other hand, is pretty much the exact opposite of that.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place! For the past twenty years, Microsoft has provided IT professionals and enterprises with the software they need to manage, control, and lock down their end user computing environment. The consumerization of IT, on the other hand, is pretty much the exact opposite of that. Unfortunately consumerization is taking hold, and most of us agree that the next twenty years of corporate IT aren't going to look anything like the previous twenty.

In addition to this being a challenge for Microsoft in terms of them building products that people want (since users now have a choice), it's also a problem for Microsoft in terms of the message they send to IT pros.

How can Microsoft balance the "you trust us to deliver your enterprise computing needs to control your users" with "today's reality is that no matter what you do, users can still do whatever they want."

The latest example of this wacky dichotomy was seen earlier this week in Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's annual open letter to shareholders, partners, customers, and employees.

In the section on "services for the enterprise," the first line talks about the consumerization of IT. "Yay!" I thought, "Microsoft gets it!"

But then it continues, "Enterprise IT departments are tasked with deploying technology that drives the business strategy forward. They decide what solutions will make employees more productive, collaborative and satisfied." (emphasis mine)

Ooooohhhhh….. So close!

The consumerization of IT intrinsically is the fact that enterprise IT departments do NOT decide what solutions will make employees more productive, collaborative, and satisfied. Of course Microsoft can't exactly embrace this since it's tantamount to them saying, "Sorry our software isn't good enough for you to have full control anymore!"

The irony is that it seems that Microsoft is actually making the right moves to address the consumerization trend. (They're not making all the right moves yet, but assuming they release Office for iOS and Android and that they let customers plug their own enterprise clouds into Windows 8, they'll be in really good shape.) So maybe the challenge is just marketing? Is there a way for them to address the fact that end users can do whatever they want without pissing off IT pros who will just blame them?

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