Top 7 truths about consumerization of IT

The phenomenon is only growing stronger. Here's what IT and business leaders need to know

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The brave new world of consumerization

Users are no longer ignorant about technology. Many are both passionate and knowledgeable. And consumer-grade tools are more and more capable for business usage -- and sometimes even superior than traditional business tools. Whether it's mobile, cloud, social, or apps, chances are your company's employees are using "consumer" tools, with both good and bad implications for productivity, responsiveness, governance, and security. Here are the top 7 realities about the consumerization trend that you need to know.

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1. You can't stop it (and shouldn't want to)

No matter what IT's reasons are for maintaining control of technology, it doesn't matter. Users are choosing and using their own technology, and not because they are fanboys who can't help themselves. The trend to consumerization is unstoppable and grounded in business needs. So the question isn't "how do I stop it?" but "how do I work in this reality?"

Here are three good resources explaining the why and how of the trend itself:

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2. Consumerization is really a management issue

Consumerization of IT fundamentally trusting employees, not trying to program them into fixed behaviors through technology restrictions. Knowing whom to trust for what is ultimately a management issue that exploits the passion and abilities of people, and limits and weeds out those who demonstrate poor judgment and trust. Likewise, learning to be more thoughtful about allowable risks and flexibility is a management issue that technology can't do for you. Consumerization affects business and IT management alike.

Here are three good resources on the management issues:

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3. Device management is a good first step

Although consumerization covers cloud services, desktop apps, and social networking in addition to mobile, it's good to start with mobile devices as the most popular platforms come with management and security hooks you can use to actually deploy a policy-based approach to access and information management with. Plus, the primary initial use case of these devices is email access, which makes tying into your permissions systems such as Active Directory a natural gatekeeper. Of course, mobile management should include device management, network management, application management, access management, and information management -- issues for non-mobile situations as well.

Here are three good resources on mobile device management (MDM):

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4. The legal issues around information ownership are unsettled

Although you can be certain that information transmitted through email and other accounts you provide belong to your company, the laws are less clear on information transmitted through employee accounts and social networks, even when at work. That's just a fact of life today that you need to follow closely as laws and court decisions start to give better shape to what the rules are.

Here are two good resources on the legal issues surrounding information ownership:

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5. Social networking can't be forced

Many companies see the success of Twitter and Facebook in encouraging dialog and community-building, then try to duplicate that inside the company by implementing a tool. Problem is, top-down approaches don't encourage constructive communities. Nor do one-size-fits-all technologies. Social networking needs to be nurtured in its many forms -- and you have to really trust people if you want the to create vibrant, visible communities and have them be your ambassadors.

Here are two good resources on business social networking:

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6. User experience can't be shortchanged any more

Internal applications and even many commercial enterprise applications have poor user interfaces and lack good user experience. That won't cut it any longer, SAP CIO Oliver Bussman has told InfoWorld, because users now have consumer apps and services that make them expect better. IT and enterprise developers need to get savvy about UI and UX, as users will gravitate to outside apps and devices if the corporate-provisioned technologies fall short. IT should expect to spend more time and effort on user experience issues -- or get bypassed even more.

Here are three good resources on user experience considerations:

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7. Your competitors are already figuring this out

Despite legitimate concerns over security and information management, many companies see great potential in enabling employees through mobile devices, cloud computing, social media, and specialty desktop apps. So they're forging ahead with consumerization efforts, learning how to balance security with business enablement.

Here are two good resources on what these leaders are doing: