Even Microsoft knows it - consumer tech is taking over the IT department

If you have read Cliff Saran’s analysis of the prospects for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, you may have seen a short but significant quote: “The world has changed through the consumerisation of IT,” said the marketing man from the software giant.

It may seem a statement of the blatantly obvious now, but Microsoft realised that, despite all the benefits to business of mobile phone software designed for integration with corporate applications, nobody buys business phones any more. If you want to crack the enterprise mobile market, you need a sexy consumer-focused device.

Whether Phone 7 is such a product remains to be seen, but there is a wider significance of such a move. Most observers have been predicting this for some time, but the balance of power in IT development has now shifted from business to consumer, and it isn’t coming back.

Historically technology was produced first for the corporate world, and later adapted to home use. Now, consumer expectations are driving a rapidly-growing proportion of technology research and development spending, and those same expectations carried by employees are increasingly influencing what happens in the IT department.

What is the model for future corporate collaboration and information sharing systems? It’s Facebook. What is the biggest potential security headache? All those users saying, “Why can’t I use my iPhone?” How will you access business applications? The same way you access Google, eBay or Amazon.

The consumerisation of IT is a challenge for the locked-down, controlled, process-oriented nature of traditional IT departments. The new watchwords are transparency, openness and flexibility. “We have to make this happen – whether we like it or not,” one CIO told Computer Weekly recently.

As IT managers you can tighten the screws and be the person who says no, or you can embrace the change – and the risks that come with it – and transform the perception of IT throughout the organisation.