Information technology is filled with examples of ideas and catch phrases that quickly become platitudes -- meaningless terms that is "often presented as if it were significant and original." (Wikipedia) Society tends to overuse this terminology -- and it is especially common within the Information Worker space, yet when it comes down to the meaning of the terms people use and how they may or may not impact our organizations, the definitions are largely unknown. The increasingly popular phrase being used within most "future of productivity" presentations is the idea of the "consumerization of IT." But what does it mean, and why should you care? What is the impact this "consumerization" on your organization in the near term?
The reality is that it is probably already impacting you.
The social informatics of the workplace are changing rapidly. Look at any recent college graduate, and you will see a person who was raised on technology -- someone who, in many cases, is more comfortable communicating digitally than in person. This didn't happen overnight, and it is not the result of Facebook, Twitter, or any other new online community or communication platform. It began with the introduction of the personal computer, gained speed with the commercialization of the internet, and accelerated even more as collaborative and knowledge management platforms moved from complex, transactional platforms with multi-million dollar entry points to freemium cloud-based products that anyone could download and try in seconds.
So what are the components of this consumerization? Here are my thoughts:
- It means you have access to your data anytime, anywhere. It's under my desk, it's across town, it's across the planet - and it doesn't matter.
- It means you can select the tools you want to use, which may be different tools than other on your team or within your company, and yet you're all working toward the same goals.
- It means that you can bring your own device to meet these business goals. Some will prefer a laptop or desktop, others a tablet, and others may find themselves most productive through some kind of mobile or embedded device.
- It means federated authentication and a single sign-on experience, with all of your tools recognizing your profile as you move between them.
- It means you can connect to your team, your partners, and your customers through ubiquitous social capabilities that run like a fabric across your tools and devices, allowing you to strike up conversations in real time or asynchronously, as needed.
- It means these tools are designed with the business user in mind, and not just for the consumer. That means security and governance concerns are being met on the back-end, so you can rest assured that critical data and intellectual property is not being lost.
- It means all of these things are provided with self-service in mind, so that information workers can get what they need, when they need it, and how they need it without having to rely on a centralized IT team to do everything on their behalf.
In short, the "consumerization of IT" is all about personalization and individualization, and its where the information technology world is rapidly moving. It’s time for all of us to get on the train.