It’s well established that people increasingly want to use their personal devices for work. It’s the primary force driving this Consumerization of IT trend everyone is talking about. The impact of this trend on everything from back-end infrastructure to employee work habits is definitely huge, but also not fully understood. So I thought it would be worth taking a step back to consider why this is happening in the first place.
First of all, everyone is getting a smartphone. OK, it’s not everyone yet, but I’ve seen research that says 60% of the U.S. mobile phone market (27% globally) has already converted. IDC reported that the worldwide smartphone market will grow 49.2% in 2011. That’s staggering considering how fast it’s happened! The term smartphone was coined sometime in the mid 2000s, but it took Apple’s reinvention of the category in 2007 to catapult it from niche to necessary. A short four years later and I can’t think of an aspect of my life that hasn’t been enhanced by the presence of the world’s knowledge and resources in my pocket.
Devices like smartphones and laptops have become integral to our professional and personal lives. As a result, employees have naturally developed the ability to choose what technology fits them best and makes them happiest (aka productive). It’s worth remembering there was a time, not that long ago, when digital technology itself was optional in most professions, and it was provided to employees only when necessary.
I like the self-supplied vs. provided analogy because we’ve seen this happen in other domains. A construction worker might bring his own boots or hardhat even though the employer will supply them. An office worker might use her own fancy pen rather than the supplied one. And, just the other day my girlfriend brought her own lamp to work even though I’m pretty sure there were already lights in her office. These personal choices make us happier, they allow comforts from our personal lives to be carried over into our professional, and that usually results in higher productivity.
Of course, as any responsible IT manager will point out, a lost or stolen pen does not expose every confidential piece of company information that may have passed through it. Nor does your favorite lamp leave traces of everything it illuminates. Not to mention, the lamp just uses the standard power outlet, while properly supporting the latest smartphone could require some serious infrastructure investments. Clearly, there are some unique aspects to supporting digital devices. It’s easy to understand the fear and resistance coming from companies as employees introduce ‘unmanaged’ devices to corporate networks. The horror!
To be fair, there are some very real and valid concerns to be tackled, and we will be covering some of those in more detail on this blog. However, it can be too easy to focus on the risks and attempt to write off consumerization as a fad rather than as a natural and inevitable shift in the way we all work going forward. Harnessed properly, the consumerization of IT will reduce costs, raise employee satisfaction and increase productivity.
For more, here’s my take on what’s driving the widespread proliferation of consumer devices: