There has been a lot of talk about the Consumerization of IT. Among this valuable chatter are several definitions which all have credence. My favorite is that this is a social movement which has seen the consumer tools to “get things done” move into the business world. This is not about technology or devices, but about people who are using tools of their choosing and foregoing formal organizational channels in the tools they use at work.
In July of 2013 eBay commissioned a survey asking 200 people to go without their mobile phones for four days. This was a deeply emotional experience for people with a third of participants unable to finish the challenge. When asked how they felt without their mobile devices responses along the themes of “powerless and uninformed,” “naked and unprotected,” and “lost”. When they had the devices returned to them, their attitudes changes immediately with people reporting that they felt “happier,” “more productive,” “calmer,” and “less frustrated.” People are clearly connecting with their devices on a deeply personal level.
Forrester brought an insight to the discussion with two observations. First, the immediacy afforded by the consumer tools which people are using at work fundamentally affects people’s behavior. Second, the ubiquity of the devices, connectivity, and ecosystem profoundly disrupts business models. This leads to natural discussion points that point to there being little argument that directionally the delivery of all information will be on a mobile platform of some sort, most likely on purpose fit devices. Implication to business and the IT organization that supports business is far reaching.
At it’s most fundamental level, the role of IT will undergo change. As more technology, related decisions, and budget move into business units without consideration or consultation with IT here will be a grounding question that will have to be answered, namely “what is the role IT should be playing in the organization”. IT organizations that get ahead of this question will be able to shape their future, as opposed to being shaped by it.
Now that “Bring your own device” (BYOD) has taken hold in some form in most organizations, and along with this has come bring your own network, apps, data, ISP, and infrastructure, it is important to know think about where this will go. The number and types of devices that are emerging are increasing, many of which are fit to a purpose. The traditional end-user refresh cycle is about to change as the laptops which will be provided next year will not be accepted as expectations have changed.
Today most organizations have been tinkering with this set of technologies, committing random acts of mobility. More often than not, this is a result of the budgetary process and the funding for mobile initiatives coming out of discretionary funds within operating budgets that have been overtaxed for too long. The long view as noted by Forrester is that mobility has the ability to change business models. The not quite so long view has mobility altering the future of work. How business is conducted, both within an organization and externally to suppliers and customers. Organizations that are thinking in this manner will gain strategic first mover advantages. Random acts of mobility need to move to thoughtful strategic intents supported by critical initiatives and an enabling funding model.
Given the realization that mobility and related technologies are here to stay, it begs the question “how are these new technologies going to be realized within an organization?” This is fundamentally a question that looks to a cross functional answer as Consumerization has accelerated mobile demand inside the business, and various business functions have adopted technologies, IT has historically owned the technology decisions, and still is charged with maintaining the data, legacy systems, security and protection of assets. How the organization defines it’s operating model to develop this organizational capability will determine its mobile trajectory and how soon the “future of work” will be realized and the gains that go along with this.
A part of the realization of the future of work will be recognition that we are entering a world of disposable apps. If at first an app doesn’t serve your needs, the next one is less than a dollar away. Investors such as Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers have established multi-$100M venture funds to seed business oriented apps. Companies are essentially crowd sourcing their innovation programs through multi-million dollar prize money that will create hundreds of millions of dollars of ideas. As organization look to build their capability, the world outside their organizational boundaries will play a much bigger part than in the past and will dictate more ecosystem thinking from its leaders.
An important early step most companies need to take is to take stock of the mobile assets they currently have. It is common at a high levels of organization a proclamation of “Go forth and be mobile!” was made and taken to heart by many parts of the organization that could download a development kit and begin to build apps. I have found that doing an inventory of what is in place is always eye-opening. There will be some valuable nuggets, some interesting ideas, some novel uses of the technology, and a lot of nice attempts, false starts, mismatched user interfaces, and lessons learned. Doing a device and mobile cost inventory will be important as well and you will find a surprising amount of waste in your mobile spend.
Finally, a road map of getting from today to tomorrow
needs to be created. A long view road map noted above looks at new business models and “way of working”. A somewhat easier task is building a shorter term road map which using the current inventory of mobile assets and guides direction to enable the current state along the lines of greater effectiveness and efficiency. This provides a catalyst and immediacy of action that generates organizational momentum. Tremendous value is realized with this as you will not have the organizational kinks worked out in tackling this political magnet and as an organization you will have to tack with the wind several times before you operate with speed, predictability, and control. Focused and demonstrable commitment will be necessary to both break the inertia and subdue the competing fires which will inevitable arise.
It is an exciting future we are building. This future is being driven from all areas of all companies. How are you shaping your future?