Consumerisation and other big words


A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the good folks of Digital Jersey to speak at an event sponsored by BrocklebankPenn partner agency MalletCrane.

Digital Jersey, “a community of like minded professionals in Jersey” arrange regular meetings for their members to share insights, stay informed and network, so I wanted to make sure I talked about something that would be interesting and relevant.

It turned out that a couple of hot topics on the island are an upcoming infrastructure upgrade to get the whole place on a fibre connection, and a drive to make Jersey a digital centre of excellence – applying a bit of thought to that and picking up on a topic that’s hot with several of our clients, I proposed a session on IT Consumerisation.

For those not in the know (and that’s most people after all), ‘consumerisation’ is the rather nasty neologism used to describe the increasing tendency for business IT use to be driven by the way people use IT in their personal lives.  A whole raft of separate buzzwords also get thrown into most discussions of the subject, including ‘webification’, ‘mobility’ ‘digital natives’, and most especially ‘BYOD – Bring Your Own Device’.

This last – the push by users to want to use their personal devices (smartphones, tablets, etc) within business networks and as business tools, is often seen as synonymous with consumerisation, but that seriously oversimplifies a quite complex, multi-faceted phenomenon.  A number of different trends and technology developments are contributing to this movement.

And this idea of a movement is one I developed in my Jersey session:  because to the extent that it is a movement, it’s one without a manifesto.  No one has laid out a set of demands that need to be met for consumerisation to have been achieved, and so no one will be able definitively to say “That’s it – we now have consumerisation”.

Which, to look at the focus of my presentation, gives switched-on organisations an opportunity to manage people’s expectations by setting them.  If the world at large just has a somewhat vague sense that they’d like everything to work easily and with the minimum fuss between home and work, then how, and to what extent, this is enabled is in the hands of the enablers.

There are solid business reasons to embrace this change: productivity, workforce satisfaction, and lower costs are frequently cited.  There are equally solid business and IT reasons to be concerned about it: alien, badly-protected devices connecting to the network, business material on people’s personal phones, an ever-increasing demand on network resources.

Balancing these two and defining the framework for a business, a location, or even a community, is where the setting and management of expectations can happen.  And businesses around the world are putting mechanisms in place to support it.  A Cisco survey I cited in my presentation noted that 84% of surveyed businesses offer some level of tech support for personal devices.

It’s tempting to see this (business) decision as one based in “if you can’t beat them, join them”, but I suspect it’s actually more a case of “if it’s going to happen anyway we may as well do our best to prevent a disaster happening”.

I could (and did) expound on this subject at length, but that’s better done in person.  For the moment I’ll just say that since consumerisation is happening, it’s better to be ahead of the curve and set up your business to accommodate it on your own terms before you suddenly discover it’s happened by stealth and you have no control of it.