Consumerization of IT Is a Huge Issue

Carl Weinschenk

The consumerization of IT-the subject of this interesting post at InformationWeek-is a "meta issue," for lack of a better description.

The topic is best described this way because it cuts across so many areas and has influence over so much that is run by IT departments and the people who rely on them. The use of consumer devices at work affects security, regulatory compliance, hiring and firing practices, how communications is paid for on an ongoing basis (opex), how devices and systems initially are paid for (capex), the training required by IT departments and, no doubt, a variety of other areas.

In the even bigger picture, the reality is that, like it or not, the iron-fisted control exercised by IT departments is fading. Nothing can reverse this tide, and IT executives are far better off accepting that reality than living in denial. In some cases, denial is not dangerous. In this case, it can lead to reduced security, inefficiencies and other serious problems.

The phrase "the consumerization of IT" suggests offering devices and platforms to which employees have access in their non-work lives. In a strict sense, this doesn't necessarily mean that they will be invited to bring their own devices to work, though it often works out that way. In other words, organizations can hand out Android-based devices, iPhones and iPads and establish corporate social networks. In practice, however, companies' consumerization of IT more often than not relies on workers using their personal devices. So the two trends -- the consumerization of IT and use of personal devices -- are deeply related but non-synonymous.

The InformationWeek piece relates a survey conducted during a webcast the author helped run. The results, which were culled from the opinions of 100 IT folks from companies with more than 1,000 users, is more illustrative than scientific. Top-line results are that more than half have a consumerization policy in place or in the works and that the trend has added to the workload of about half of responding IT departments. The level of pressure on IT from executives to allow consumer devices is moderate but leans slightly toward the high side.

The complexity of these issues is reflected in a UK survey from managed service provider Timico. The report, which likely is representative of attitudes here as well as in England, focuses on small- and medium-sized companies. About 81 percent say that they would set up a "bring your own device" (BYOD) program if they had a service to manage it. At the same time, 31 percent have no BYOD policy. Overall, the survey suggests security concerns and a good deal of confusion. Decisions must be made: 42.5 percent of respondents reported that as many as 20 devices go missing annually, and 30.5 percent put the number at between 20 and 100.

The other major area is expense. In essence, the confluence of mobility, whether it is brought into the enterprise by traditional corporate funding methods or BYOD, with the Byzantine world of rate plans, discounts and carrier footprints makes mobility an area where great amounts of money can be saved or squandered. Here is a good two part-part primer by Kevin Dunetz at Spend Matters on telecom expense management (TEM), the discipline aimed at building efficiencies in an organization's mobile endeavors.


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Sep 19, 2011 6:39 AM Spencer Parkinson Spencer Parkinson  says:

The company I work for, Symantec, recently did its own survey on the consumerization of IT. Instead of looking at it from the IT perspective, though, we asked end users to provide us with some of their thoughts around this trend. We came up with some interesting results that augment the UK survey referenced above. For example, we found that the end users we surveyed clearly see the productivity and satisfaction benefits of allowing employees to use the smartphones of their choice for work, but don€™t fully comprehend the extent of the security challenges this also creates. In fact, 75 percent think letting employees use the smartphone of their choice for work-related activities has no impact on or only somewhat decreases the overall security of company networks and information. For anyone interested, the full survey results can be found here:

Oct 31, 2011 6:21 AM HongwenZhangWedge HongwenZhangWedge  says:

Love the blog Carl! The use of consumer devices at work certainly does impact security. With the increasing use of mobile devices on internal networks, they are at risk of data breaches. One of the ways they can protect themselves is by ensuring network layer Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) to prevent the outflow of user data. Our company, Wedge Networks continues to lead the efforts through Deep Content Inspection to prevent the good things from flowing out and the bad things from flowing in.


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