FRAMINGHAM, 1 MARCH 2011 - The last 24 months have brought an explosion of new devices, web applications, and social media platforms. With every new product release or social network launch, CIOs are getting pressure from their employees, including senior executives, to open the corporate network to consumer devices and allow access to more of the Web. This migration of consumer devices like smartphones and tablets into enterprise computing is making CIOs very nervous.
The risks to data security are obvious and real, and the loss of control compared to the days when IT departments could pick and choose technologies is distressing. Some CIOs are reacting with bans on the use of employee-owned devices, but this can be counterproductive. The consumerization of IT is inevitable and likely good for business, even if it has caused some heartburn.
Why inevitable? There are five trends that have brought us to what I see as a point of no return on consumerization.
1. The rise of social media as a business application. This phenomenon is the traditional enterprise IT killer, not just the killer app. For knowledge workers, social networks have become necessary and ideal tools for building work relationships and conducting business. For example, Dell employed Salesforce.com's Chatter to our more than 90,000 Dell employees. Being able to follow opportunities is a key feature of this application, so social connections literally mean sales connections. Employers need to facilitate this types of social collaboration, not be threatened by it.
2. The blurring of work and home. According to a telecommuting forecast by Forrester, 41% of employers plan to implement telecommuting options this year and 43% of the American workforce — more than 63 million workers — will telecommute occasionally by 2016. Flexible work arrangements that encourage employees to work from home — or any location — make it difficult to control employee technology usage. IT departments need to develop policies to deliver and secure sensitive data on both IT-owned and employee-owned devices.
3. The emergence of new mobile devices. The mobile era has arrived; by next year global smartphone shipments will exceed personal computer shipments for the first time in history. In the wake of such a seismic shift, employees are showing up to work with their personal devices with increasing frequency. The pressure on IT departments to provide service and support for the employees' devices and applications of choice will be enormous.
4. Shifting business models require tech-savvy employees. Put the rise of social media together with ecommerce and mobile devices, and you get a marketplace in which word of mouth influences buying decisions as much as half the time. According to McKinsey and Company, "word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions." As the control of corporate brands shifts to online conversations outside of the company's purview, organizations will increasingly value employees who can navigate the ecosystem and are influencers in their social networks.
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