Mine works better than yours: why IT departments are drowning in consumerization

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P 2 COMPUTERS.gifEmployees using consumer technology devices to manage their workloads are exerting an increasing influence on corporate IT departments. Earlier this year, Gartner claimed that the consumerisation of IT had progressed from a macrotrend within technology to become a broader business force.

It is now such an overwhelming phenomenon that the once-dominant IT department, which used to have the monopoly of control over access devices, is slowly being asked to bend to the will of end users. A recent Forrester survey found that 30% of information workers in the UK, France and Germany were undertaking at least one IT activity for work without the support of IT, such as downloading and regularly using applications on a work computer or paying for a smartphone used for work.

Employees are able to pick from a vast range of consumer technologies to be more productive at work. That newer, cheaper and faster devices are being thrown out into the market every year has only compounded their adoption in the enterprise.

"Game-changing technology will always be available to employees first - IT will always be playing catch-up," said Ted Schadler, analyst at Forrester, adding that IT will have to work with human resources departments to educate employees about the risks of the technology they use.

According to a more recent Gartner report, the trend toward supporting corporate applications on employee-owned notebooks and smartphones is already underway in many organizations and will become commonplace within four years. The main factor in choosing a device will be individuals who prefer to use private consumer smartphones or notebooks for business, rather than using old-style limited enterprise devices.

The analyst claims IT is set to enter the next phase of the consumerization trend, in which the attention of users and IT organizations shifts from devices, infrastructure and applications to information and interaction with peers.

"Many CIOs have lost control in guiding how technology is used in the enterprise because the world of consumer technology has out-innovated enterprise class technologies," said Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research. "For example, when corporate email goes down, frustrated employees get around IT via Gmail, YouSend It or Skype. When business units seek new functionality in areas such as strategic HCM and email marketing, they flock to SaaS apps and IT discovers purchases after the fact.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.