A CIO’s survival guide to consumerization
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A CIO’s survival guide to consumerization

I-CIO editorial team – January 2013

How can the CIO balance the need to protect corporate data with employee interest in consumer IT? Forrester Research has some tips.

For years, it seems, IT leaders have been losing control of key parts of the digital environment within their organizations, with one of the clearest manifestations of this phenomenon – often characterized as ‘the consumerization of IT’ being the growing trend for employees to use privately owned equipment, most commonly a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or memory stick for work purposes.
A related trend

What’s more, in an era of commoditized, ‘freemium’ style cloud-hosted software, many staff are also self-selecting IT services to achieve their work goals rather than sticking with what is being offered by their IT department (if, of course, an appropriate solution is available). Indeed, analyst group Forrester estimates that at least 53% of global knowledge workers have used some form of self-selected IT in the workplace — either a device they paid for themselves or an application/web service that is not officially sanctioned by their organization.

“A major disconnect between what is really spurring BYOD on and what CIOs think.”

So what is the best response from the CIO to the phenomenon of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or even BYOS (Bring Your Own Service)? Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at the advisory group, says one of the key questions an IT leader must get an answer to before considering a BYOD program is exactly why employees are adopting their own IT solutions.

“People tend to harness new technology to accomplish a goal,” he told C-IO, pointing to recent research from his team showing that 56% of workers who have used their own IT for work purposes said they did so ‘because I needed it and the company didn’t provide an alternative.’ In other words, they couldn’t see any other way of doing it, he warns.

In fact, Schadler is worried about a major disconnect between what is really spurring BYOD on — that is, the fact that IT is not providing employees with suitable solutions — and what IT leaders think is driving BYOD. “This data should shock you,” he says.

For example, the analyst highlights a somewhat alarming figure: when the IT decision-makers instead were asked why they thought people brought their own IT into the workplace, only 26% believed it was “to get the job done” — whereas a whopping 76% thought it was simply “Because it’s something [the users] have at home so it’s convenient to use at work.”

“A successful BYOD policy can deliver even greater value to the enterprise: innovation.”

His advice to CIOs is that to really get on top of BYOD, they must seek to clearly understand what is happening in their workplace by consulting regularly with the workforce — and then fully embrace the phenomenon, whatever they find out is driving it.

“Don’t fight it, or you’re going to lose [the business],” he urges. “Instead, ask users questions about how you can help them take advantage of that new technology. BYOD requires a different mindset.”

Undoubtedly, many – perhaps the majority? – of CIOs feel they can’t embrace this idea until they have resolved a raft of key security and management issues. Nonetheless, experts like Schadler still recommend trying to engage with the reality of the situation, promising, for example, that a successful BYOD policy can go way beyond obvious cost savings or employee satisfaction to deliver even greater value to the enterprise: that it can be a key driver of agility and innovation.

“The most ‘BYOD-ish’ employees in an organization are also the most innovative,” concludes Schadler. “Empowered and resourceful employees, who can and will use technology to solve a problem, are very valuable. Your job as CIO is to prioritize and scale up their ideas — and sometimes even their technology choices.

“By doing so, you will help shift the fulcrum from control to agility.”

First published January 2013
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