More on the consumerization of IT

Following on from yesterdays blog, I had a brief discussion with an individual who thought my efforts would be better spent focusing on more timely issues. In a lot of ways, he’s right – there are always imemdiate risks to contend with and project plans to update. We need to manage our time appropriately and make sure we’re going to meet objectives. That’s fundamental stuff. However, the world is changing and if we spend too much time with our heads down then we’re more likely to be hit by the next threat before we see it coming.

So, I wanted to continue on the same subject for a while longer because I know it’s not only me who has it in mind. Yesterday I mentioned my own opinion that “we should be enabling use of personal equipment and managing the risk” as well as a paper entitled “Zen and the Art of Rogue Employee Management” by Josh Holbrook.

Josh argues both sides of the fence. On the one hand he says that “consumerization creates a new burden that can potentially cripple already fragile IT organizations” while on the other he makes the point that “consumerization is already in motion, so how do corporate IT departments manage the new reality?”

Personally, I think it comes down to what value the consumerization is going to bring to the business, whether that value makes the associated risk worthwhile, and the degree that we can manage the risk. The reality is that this is not going to go away so rather than sticking our fingers in our ears and singing “la la la” we need to be thinking of the approach that we are going to take. Josh Holbrook recommends a number of ways forward:

  • highlight specific high value projects that could be funded as a result of cost savings
  • Implement an integrated suite of products not an amalgam of point applications.
  • Begin implementation on a small catalog of handheld devices.

    There’s plenty more written on the subject elsewhere – and it’s not a new subject by any means. I found the following diagram here with reference to an event being held a couple of years ago


    The accompanying article states that

    For many years, users have not been very capable and have not been entrusted either with responsibilities or with expectations for innovation. They were situated in the bottom left quadrant of the 2×2 table…However, now, due to the consumerization of information technology, large numbers of your users are headed north in that table …without any effort on your part – you can’t stop it. The only question on the table is – will they be in the upper left, where they are capable and frustrated, or will they be in the upper right where they are capable, trusted, responsible, and great things are expected of them?

    I know where I’d prefer them to be. If we can’t stop it then we have to control and manage it.

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    I agree that consumer IT applications and services can add real value in a business context, but only if the business owner's take into account the full range of costs that are associated with non-enterprise products. For example... Article 4.1 of Skype's End User License Agreement allows computers running Skype to be used to route third party traffic. The algorithm which Skype uses to select these so-called 'supernodes' appears to take account of bandwidth availability. You can bet that if your corporate network has a high capacity bandwidth then you'll become a 'supernode' in no time at all. This bandwidth leeching is probably just one hidden cost that isn't considered when the decision is made.