Category Archives: Consumerization of IT

The Consumerization of IT Part I: Device Proliferation

Last week I started the first in a set of posts I’m writing on the tech mega-trend, the Consumerization of IT.  The basic set up of that introduction was that we are living in a Steve Jobs-oriented world.  By that I mean that a big leverage point that is and will continue to impact IT  is a function of the products, innovations and services  that consumers have experienced in improving their digital lifestyle.

To summarize: while our digital lifestyle is completely different than where we were 10 years ago (Facebook, YouTube, NetFlix, iPhone, etc., etc.), how we work as information users is basically the same.  The opportunity is high for our digital workstyle to change dramatically.   And that’s what the Consumerization of IT is all about at the highest level.

This series of posts will dig in more deeply on the Consumerization of IT, what are the implications of this, what will we see specifically.  I think there will be several implications.  The first that I want to discuss is the coming proliferation of devices.

I have a running bet with a good friend of mine around how many computing devices will we own  in 10 years.  We generally think about this in the context of how many devices we’ll carry on when we get onto a flight, but anyway, we’ll argue about that in 2021 when the time comes to pay out.

His idea is that he’ll own only 1 device, and the rest will basically be screens.  I tend to think that we’ll have literally dozens of devices, all that are smart.  Also, when I am carrying my bag luggage to a plane, I expect I’ll not have 1, but several devices, as I do today when I get on plane with an iPad, an iPhone, and a MacBook Pro.  (When I’m going on vacation btw, I add to this a Kindle.)

Bets aside, in either scenario, its apparent that device proliferation will continue to happen.  Furthermore, consumers will drive this proliferation–they will have different tastes and price points, and this will fuel a cornucopia of hardware devices that users can choose from.  Alfred P Sloan’s mantra for General Motors: ‘a car for every pocket and every purse’ will be the order of the day.

This device proliferation is an important factor in the Consumerization of IT trend.  Specifically, IT will continue to require control and security management capabilities over users, applications, data, and devices.   This is not a new problem, of course: security management and user provisioninig has been a headache for IT for over a decade, with the rise of users having Windows-based PCs and laptops.   To provide a sense of where we’ve come from, roughly 10 years ago, when IT analysts such as Gartner or IDC talked about an enterprise’s “Mobile Strategy,” it tended to focus on how to secure and manage laptops, not feature phones.  And to be sure, laptops being left behind did cause significant security and IT breaches: e.g., within the past few years, there’s been a highly publicized breech where a Fidelity employee left her laptop containing customer account data on hundreds of users in a taxi cab.

The consumer-led device explosion that we are now experiencing will make IT’s security management responsibilities even more challenging than they have historically been.  There will be more devices (phones, tablets, laptops, smartscreens, etc.), more platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) than were part of the past hegemony of Microsoft Windows on the desktop and RIM Blackberry on mobile.  In addition to device and platform proliferation, there will be a rising calls and demands from users to have their devices and platforms supported.  Unlike the past where IT could dictate reference PC devices and provide a standard “software image,” the future is one where users will expect and demand that their devices, applications and platforms are supported.  It will be IT’s very challenging job to figure out how to deliver that user flexibility while at the same time ensuring that the corporate data assets are protected and all regulatory and legal compliance responsibilities are met.  Truly, the demands on IT are increasing.

What this means for early stage companies and investing is that there are new opportunities around Mobile in the Enterprise.  Companies like MobileIron, Zenprise, and AppCentral (disclosure: I am on the board of AppCentral) arenew entrants into this field, aiming at helping IT deliver the kind of device and application management protection required while enabling users to maintain the flexibility they demand.

In  my next post, I will talk about a second element of the Consumerizaiton of IT trend, namely how consumierization could change the way we think about distributing and managing software applications in the future.


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The Consumerization of IT: an Introduction

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

A recent big theme in tech has been the Consumerization of IT.  It is a big topic, and its one that people often say without giving much more than lip service to what its meaning really is and what impacts will fall out as ar esult of it.  I think it’s a big topic, and I want to use this blog to collect and organize my thoughts, describe as best I can what this terrifically inelegant buzzphrase means, what’s happening in the marketplace, and where things are going.  This will be a series of posts, and this introduction frames the current situation as I see it. 

Its a Steve Jobs World


To unpack this Consumerization of IT trend, start with the rise and impact of the consumer in the technology world.  Over the last decade, the consumer has become king.  Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, to name just three, are all less than a decade old, all having have built massive franchises that have impacted fundamentally how people connect and interact. And its not just updating status and farming corn, consumers are gadget crazy.  Consumers adoption of new gadget technology has reached rates never before seen—last holiday season, Microsoft’s Kinect sold 8m units in its first 60 days of launch, setting a new world record, which will very likely be trounced by the Apple iPhone 4S, which sold 4m units in its first 3 days . And when arguing that the consumer is king, one must acknoledge the impact of Apple.  In short, we live in a Steve Jobs world.    When we think about how different our digital lifestyle is today versus in November 2001, its hard to overemphasize how much impact and innovation has occurred in the consumer space. 

While the digital lifestyle has changed dramatically, the impacts in the digital workstyle are less apparent.  I suspect that like me, you spend much of your time in email.  We schedule meetings, email attachments, fill out spreadsheets or powerpoints. For heaven’s sakes, Lotus Notes is still available!  Unlike my digital lifestyle which is massively changed, my digital workstyle is pretty similar to how I worked 10 years ago in November 2001.  To modify my heading: It’s a Steve Jobs World (not a Steve Ballmer world). 

Changes are certainly afoot in the digital workplace, and they should be.  Products like Salesforce’s Chatter, Yammer, and are growing quickly and show great promise.  Still, none has gotten anywhere near the ubiquity in usage and uptake that a Twitter or Facebook have.  This makes sense: the intertia of getting an entire organization to shift from an existing tool to a new one is hard and takes time. 

So in this Steve Jobs world, in which our digital lifestyle has been surging forward, where our digital workstyle has evolved much more incrementally, what does the Consumerization of IT mean and where are we going?  This is a big topic, that will cover shifts in the types of companies, business models, and sectors that will be interesting to watch (in my view), and I’ll look forward to working on collecting my thoughts in a series of posts. 

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