The Consumerisation of IT
A question of freedom versus control
First published: October 2011
By Dale Vile
The ‘consumerisation of IT’ is real, and it’s not just about ‘hot’ gadgets
Feedback from over 1,600 participants in a recent online study confirmed that many organisations are seeing ‘unofficial’ use of personal technology and consumer internet services for business purposes within their workforce. But it’s not just about shiny Apple kit as some would have us believe. Activity spans a range of different devices, the most prominent of which are home PCs and Windows based notebooks. Instant messaging and social media particularly stand out as services.
Many employers are wary of the trend, but their ability to control it is limited
Around half of organisations are not in favour of employees using personal equipment and services for work, primarily because of concerns around security, data protection, compliance, and support. This doesn’t prevent such behaviour, however, even when it is formally banned. One of the biggest impediments to control is the fact that senior managers are often the ones that are most interested in having the freedom to use what they want, and saying “No” to this group is hard.
Personal device use for business is more prevalent in highly mobile workforces
The more mobile workers you have, the more likely you are to see personal equipment being used for business. Those on the road or working nomadically can potentially benefit significantly from the use of smartphones and tablets, but these are often not supplied by the employer. Where they have been deployed, anecdotal feedback suggests a degree of frustration with older equipment that looks very limited alongside modern devices. These factors encourage the use of personal equipment.
Despite user enthusiasm, the business benefits are often hard to pin down
Top of the list of perceived consumerisation benefits is increased employee satisfaction, but few see this impacting the recruitment and retention of talent. Only one in five overall cite significant productivity benefits. This is put down to a combination of employee distraction, compatibility related challenges to do with non-standard devices, and increased downtime because of difficulties supporting unmanaged equipment – all of which offset the typical user perceived benefit.
A clear need exists for policy, process and better IT operations
Many organisations are lacking basic policy and process to define what is and isn’t permitted, and ground rules for the safe and productive use of personal equipment and services are frequently lacking. Such gaps need to be addressed for the potential value to be fully realised. From an IT perspective, ensuring that security, access, application and management infrastructure is up to the job is important, and techniques such as desktop virtualisation can have an important role to play.