What is different about today’s consumer-driven IT?
As I prepared for an upcoming CA World panel discussion on consumer-driven IT, my thoughts took a 90 degree turn. While I had primarily been thinking about the implications of consumer-driven IT, I had paused to consider that it is also a challenge IT teams have had to address “forever”. So I began to think about what might be different about the current change wave we are calling “consumerization” or “consumer-driven IT” and similar demands consumers made to their IT groups many years ago. Certainly there must be some differences. If not, would we not have addressed it many years ago? And if we understand those differences can we better respond to today’s consumer-driven IT challenges?
So, as the plane I was on while contemplating this began its descent, here are a few of the differences I was able to think of.
The few, the proud (and the broke)
In the past, cries for new technology came primarily from what we might refer to as technophiles. If you’ve ever owned a telephone that ran off a small car battery and that you carried in a bag, a $3,500 27″ LED television, or a Timex Sinclair computer… you may be one. (I won’t tell you which two of the three I owned.) These people were often interested in technology for technology’s sake, though likely always had a bias toward its use for the betterment of their personal and, perhaps, personal/business life. (We are still around, though when the term “consumerization” is used today it is not in this context.)
In the past the focus was largely the technology, and often there would be no direct benefit to a business by supporting these “newly requested” technologies, and there would likely have been significant cost in so doing. Or at least there would be no demonstration of the benefits in terms of value to the business.
In the past, these technology leaders were often fiercely brand loyal. (Alright, we still have a lot of that today.) What I am referring to in this case is that quite often the sole purpose of the consumer’s drive to have a specific technology was focused on bringing in something that was equal or less up to the task so they could use (or sometimes be seen using) their favorite (or “hipster”) technology. There was no betterment of the business and, again, likely a price to pay to support them. (This could be considered another manifestation of a pure technology focus.)
Of course there were exceptions. And now and again “magic” would happen and there would be success even when the above three factors were in play.
Turn the page…
So, what is different now? Technology is no longer the sole domain of the technophile. Businesspeople and consumers are taking advantage of technology as never before, and the role of “technology leader” and early adopter is no longer solely a “techie’s” role . Regardless of their background people have come to realize that technology can actually make both their personal and their business lives better. As a result, the lines that once defined those lives are fading and shifting. And those who are not technophiles nor IT personnel have learned just how powerful and valuable technology can be through their adoption of consumer technologies such as smartphones and what might now be called consumer cloud services.
Consumer-driven IT is business value focused. Where in the past a case to introduce a new technology might be made purely based upon its technical attributes, today businesspeople and consumers understand the business (and personal) value that application of these technologies can, and do, deliver. They do not think in terms of a purely technical case (or even technical elegance), they think in terms of a business case or business value statement. Most often this is a direct result of their own experience or the experience of a close acquaintance or colleague. A (business) value experience.
This context is compelling, especially to businesspeople. IT organizations that ignore this do so at their own peril, as their consumers now have options. Ironically, IT organizations often find themselves resisting consumer technology in the interest of maintaining security, control, and compliance. I started the previous sentence with “ironically” because the result of such action is often that the consumers go out on their own and acquire consumer cloud services which are nowhere near as secure as the business requires. So IT organizations cannot simply ignore consumer-driven IT as doing so likely puts the business directly in the path of the risk that action (or inaction) was attempting to avoid.
And the bar is higher. Much higher. The quality and ubiquity of consumer technology has raised the bar for all other technologies, and specifically for IT delivered services. Younger generations of consumers have taken it to an even higher level. Consumers are now aware how good things can be and they will expect all services they consume to be simple, to perform well, and to be more engaging. And because the discussions are more often business-value and personal-value focused the “magic” happens more often.
So, what is different? I believe we have moved from “caveat emptor” – buyer beware, to “emptor scire” – buyer aware.
Following our panel discussion I will share with you some of the participants’ thoughts and insights regarding what can be done to address them.
This blog is cross-posted at Cloud Storm Chasers.
Shopping bag image provided by stock.xchng.