Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about a lot of different ways to explain the consumerization of IT (because I've been speaking at TechTarget's consumerization events and writing a book!) The realization that I had was that while we do live in a new era of consumerization, the hard part—which was making the transition from the pre consumerization era into our current era—is over, and life should be easier for us now.
Let me explain in more detail:
We know what consumerization is now
We've come up with a lot of ideas about what consumerization is. Here are some of the ways that Brian, Gabe, and I have talked about it:
- Users can do whatever they want. (Not that we’ll let them do whatever they want, but rather they have the ability to run amok however they want.) Not only is IT powerless to stop the Users, often IT doesn’t even know that it’s going on. (Here's an early, great article on this subject from Brian)
- IT is in competition with every website, app, and service in the world.
- FUIT - The Latin term for he or she was, as in, "IT was in control of the users. Now they are not." We also use FUIT (spell it out... F.U.I.T... get it?) to describe users in the act of using consumer technologies to get around corporate IT.
What is the root cause of this? It’s essentially that employees now have access to consumer technologies that are way more powerful and awesome than the technology provided by corporate IT departments. This is the reality that we face today.
So the thing is, I think the hard part is over now, and dealing with consumerization is going to be easier from here on out.
Why? You might think that it's because we have new tools like MDM or MAM, or because companies are handing out iPads, or because more companies are using more cloud services, or becuase VDI means we can deliver desktops as a service, or because we're or... or... any one of the huge range of new tools and tactics that IT departments are using to embrace consumerization. And it's true, all of these are important, they do make it much easier to deal with consumerization of IT.
However, the real reason why consumerization is easier to deal with today is that the inversion—the point in time when consumer tech surpassed corporate IT—was a one-time event, and we're past it now.
The initial consumerization chaos was a one-time event
For many years, the technology employees used at work was way more powerful than technology at home. Many people used a PC, the internet, email, and smartphones at work before they did any of these things on their own. My favorite example of this is the idea of Cyber Monday: This is the idea that employees would do their online holiday shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving when they returned to the office (having done their shopping at brick and mortars store on Black Friday) because their offices had broadband internet connections
This is the way everything was before consumerization, illustrated here in Figure 1a:
But then then consumerization of IT happened, and the relationship between consumer technology and corporate IT was inverted. This didn't happen all at once—in fact, we can point to different events over the last decade to see where this inversion happened. Some examples are Gmail in 2004, ubiquitous home broadband, the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, Dropbox, Salesforce... the list goes on and on.
All of these technologies came and completely took IT by surprise, because nothing like this had ever happened before. That's when we got all the FUIT horror stories about employees running amok, illustrated in Figure 1b:
The thing is that this inversion was a one-time event. Yes, most people in IT were taken by surprise, and things might have been pretty crazy for a while, but we can be excused. Something like this had never happened before.
Sure, there will be surprises when the next hot consumer technology comes along, but however disruptive they are, we know where we stand now. That inversion will never happen again and we can breath a sigh of relief that we got through it.
Mind the gap
We’re never going to catch up to or surpass consumer technologies (there are exceptions here—there are thousands of important things that enterprise apps do that no consumer app will ever do). And let's face it, to surpass or stay even with what the users are doing on their own would require an enormous amount of effort (and money!)
What we can do is make sure that we at least stay reasonably close to what the consumer technology is doing. This means supporting iOS and Android, implementing modern file syncing, giving users reasonable mailbox size limits, and so on... This is illustrated here in Figure 2a:
Because if ignore what's going on in the consumer world and fall too far behind, (like what happened the first time when consumerization took us by surprise) then that's when FUIT will happen again, as illustrated in Figure 2b:
Ever since the consumer technology / corporate IT inversion, we've been living in a different world. For a while we didn't know what to make of things. Today, even though users still have the ability to say FUIT, we can rest assured because we know where we stand, and that the inversion was a one-time event that won't happen again. And so to avoid FUIT from here on out, we need simply to mind the gap between consumer technology and the technology provided by corporate IT.