While it may be viewed with trepidation by many IT leaders, consumerisation is essentially a good thing for the workplace.
Up until quite recently, IT was a dark art for most of the business-line workforce, who had little understanding of what it could do for their organisation’s performance. This led to a lack of engagement with what was increasingly becoming a critical part of their working lives and many costly IT programmes failed to deliver business benefits as a result.
There is now a much better grasp of what IT is, as employees and consumers have become familiar with personal computing, mobile communications and the internet. They are no longer daunted by a keyboard a screen and a mouse and many even embrace the prospect of working more closely with technology at work. This trend is likely to continue, as old-guard paper shufflers are replaced by next-generation digital natives in all walks of life.
With so much more background technology knowledge at employees fingertips, it’s natural that they should start to drive the IT agenda in the workplace. There have been staggering advances in the power and reliability of computing devices designed for the consumer market which have not been matched by the more cautious enterprise application sector. Employees, from the CEO down have looked for ways of using their own devices to fill the enterprise application usability gap and have been delighted by the results.
Whereas, 10 years ago, being issued with a work laptop was considered a status symbol at work, it is the Apple iPad that now claims bragging rights in the boardroom today.
Aesthetics aside, employees have found using consumer hardware and software frees them to work in innovatively flexible ways. They can do their jobs wherever the work takes them and not be shackled to their desks in order to be hooked into the corporate network. Using social networking applications, they can collaborate with each other, forging new connections within the workplace that would not have been possible within the rigid, silo walls of the office. Organisations have benefited from this flexibility to become more reactive to their customers’ quickly changing demands.
This proactive approach to employees adapting consumer technology to their working needs has forced suppliers and in-house developers to focus on making applications as user-friendly as possible, cutting loss in productivity and costs in training as employees no longer struggle to get to grips with new systems. Often they adapt the user interfaces employees are already familiar with, in consumer devices and social media.
Corporate IT architectures have developed to become accessible to a greater number of people. Core applications are now delivered to branch offices and mobile teams, to people who may have little experience of IT so far.
Many companies have found that delivering corporate applications on these people’s own devices has helped them become proficient in using those applications quickly, without the cultural hostility that radical change to the working day sometimes brings.
There are considerations that need to be made around IT procurement, device compatibility and security. Policies need to be established to define how employees behave when they are using consumer devices and software for work purposes. But, all of these issues are not insurmountable.
Embracing the consumerisation of IT will lead to a more engaged, and perhaps more importantly, more flexible and productive workforce.
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