October 31, 2012, 10:25 PM — In 2012, 55 percent of employees viewed work related data on their personal mobile devices, and the numbers are only rising. Consumerization is an unstoppable trend. The question is not whether or not to adopt it, but how to approach it. Here is what you need to know to get started.
What is IT consumerization?
How does IT consumerization work?
How much does IT consumerization cost?
What does the enterprise need to know about IT consumerization?
What are the benefits of IT consumerization?
What are some disadvantages of IT consumerization?
How do I get started with IT consumerization?
How do I ensure that my consumerization strategy is secure?
What do users need to know about IT consumerization?
What are some good resources for learning about IT consumerization?
IDG, “How Mobility is Disrupting Technology and Information Consumption,” 2012
ITworld, “ITworld consumerization of IT survey,” October 2011
Ann Bednarz, "Gartner predictions for 2012: More cloud, consumerization, loss of IT control," Network World, December 2011
Tom Kaneshige, "BYOD: If You Think You're Saving Money, Think Again," CIO, April 2012
IDC, “IDC Benchmark Study Examines Enterprise Mobile Device Policies,” June 2012
Many people define IT consumerization as using your personal mobile device at work, but more accurately, IT consumerization is the reverse trend of technology being designed for personal use making its way into the enterprise. Of course, this includes when employees use their personal smartphones or tablets in a business setting, referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). However, the consumer technology employees use at work is not limited to hardware. For instance, companies are increasingly using social media to reach their audience, are using Gmail as their email service, and are sharing information over Dropbox. All of these things are consumerization, and they are changing the way companies operate by taking control away IT.
Consumerization works in a number of ways. The most common form of IT consumerization is when people use consumer technology, such as smartphones and tablets, for work related activities. This can include checking a work email account, updating your calendar or reading work files on your personal device. Additionally, employees are reaching out to clients and each other using software made for personal use. They are chatting with consumers over Facebook and Twitter, posting how-to videos on YouTube, using Skype to speak with colleagues across the country or across the world and sharing files over Google Docs and Dropbox. A Forrester study has shown that employees are going to use these technologies with or without their company’s consent, so it is best to get IT involved to ensure that company data stays secure.
IT consumerization can cost a company more than you might think. An Aberdeen Group study found that an organization using 1,000 mobile devices spends an additional $170,000 annually when employees bring their own devices to work. This is partially due to the enterprise reimbursing employees on average $10 more for the wireless voice and data plans than the company would spend if it purchased the plans directly. Other costs include purchasing a mobile device management platform and the labor costs for IT to set up and manage employees’ personal devices to the company’s system. In fact, the annual cost for an IT department to manage smartphones is expected to rise 48 percent next year, from $229 in IT labor costs per user in 2011 to $339 in 2013.
The bottom line about the consumerization of IT is that there is no stopping it. Even though consumerization creates more work for IT professionals, the enterprise needs to find ways to support it to keep data secure and employees happy. Once IT has managed to get to risk of consumerization in check, the enterprise can start exploring the multitude of ways that consumerization can be used to the enterprise’s advantage, internally by keeping employees more connected to each other and to their work, and externally by keeping the enterprise connected to its customers. Despite its risks, the consumerization of IT can be a huge resource when used correctly.
The consumerization of IT has several benefits, including keeping mobile workers connected, keeping the enterprise in touch with consumers through social networking, keeping workers who prefer to have their personal devices with them at all times happier, and increasing productivity. Employees are more accessible with the increasing adoption of IT consumerization, blurring the lines between work time and home time, making employees more likely to work while out of the office. In fact, a Good Technology survey shows that some employees are working almost an entire day extra each week away from the office. Consumerization is also creating an environment of self-support among users. Instead of always going to IT for help, employees are turning to each other for assistance. Consumerization has outward advantages as well. Take Best Buy as an example: the company is effectively using Twitter as a customer care service. Twelpforce, its Twitter account manned with over 3,000 employees, acts as a real-time help desk. Consumers are on social media, and expect the companies they work with to be there, too.
The consumerization of IT is risky. Company data, shared over multiple forms of software and accessed on multiple devices, is less secure. Risk is also increased because IT is losing control over the technology employees are using. A Forrester report conducted last year found that 37 percent of employees are using consumer technology without the permission of their IT department. Examples include employees communicating with clients directly over Facebook, sharing information over Google Docs and posting videos to YouTube on ways customers can fix problems themselves. While all of this can be good, it opens to door to decreased security and bigger risks. Also, with all the information that is now stored on personal mobile devices, the enterprise faces substantial risks if those devices are lost or stolen. In fact, a recent study by Symantec found that 83 percent of people who found a lost smartphone would attempt to access sensitive corporate data on it. To mitigate these risks, IT has to be on board with consumerization so that it can secure and monitor employee activity and devices.
The first choice managers have to make is whether they want to purchase devices for their employees, provide employees with an allowance to purchase their own devices, or allow employees to use their personal devices at work. Next, businesses have to develop company policies regarding consumerization, which can include determining what apps employees can download on devices with sensitive company data. Without a clear plan on how a company will approach consumerization, IT will lose control over what employees do. An Osterman Research White Paper found that among companies with 1,000 or more employees, only 54% have a BYOD strategy, reducing IT’s ability to manage those devices. Next managers should decide upon a mobile device management (MDM) solution, one that will secure and manage employees’ devices, ensuring that mobile devices are password protected and can be wiped remotely if lost or stolen. Additionally, using a comprehensive MDM strategy ensures that organizations have a unified network that all devices work on, even when using multiple operating systems.
The best way to ensure that your consumerization strategy is secure is to employ a mobile device management (MDM) solution. These platforms allow organizations to secure, monitor, manage and support mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. A good MDM solution will require that mobile devices are password protected, that they can be wiped remotely if they are lost or stolen and, in some cases, will limit what apps employees can download onto their phones. IT also has to monitor the other ways in which employees are using consumer technology. That means having well thought out company policies regarding social media, cloud computing and other consumer technologies, and may include providing employees with company approved alternatives to consumer software. The key is finding a middle ground where company data is secure but where employees will also have the freedom to use technology effectively. To achieve this, educating employees about best practices for using consumer technology is key.
Consumerization has many advantages for users, but some distinct disadvantages that employees need to be aware of. Paramount among them is the loss of control. Since consumerization presents certain risk to the enterprise, employers are increasingly requiring that IT have access to user’s devices. This means that companies can dictate to users which apps can and cannot be downloaded onto their devices and that the enterprise can wipe the device remotely if it is lost or stolen, potentially removing all personal photos and data along with company data. This also results in a loss of privacy, since the enterprise can monitor what users are doing on their personal devices. While this is a concern for many users, the bottom line is that management doesn’t want to know everything you are doing on your mobile device, just that which relates to company data. And the benefits of consumerization for users are great. Users have the freedom to work on a device of their choosing and the flexibility to work away from the office.
There is no shortage of information out there on the consumerization of IT and it can be a hassle sifting through it all. Keep up to date with the latest consumerization news and advice on ITworld's Consumerization of IT topic page. Also, check out our new sister site, CITEworld, dedicated to bringing you the latest news about the consumerization of IT, or join them on Twitter at #citechat. And you can always ask specific consumerization related questions at ITworld’s Answers forum.