The Forces Behind, and Against, Consumerization of the Enterprise

Geoff Cubitt

As the consumerization of the enteprise evolves, organizations have a unique opportunity to rethink how they manage IT.

It has traditionally been assumed that enterprise users are very transactional in focus and are either uninterested or ambivalent about superfluous experience features. However, what was once considered fluffy experience stuff isn't just fluff any longer. Enterprise users, even more than consumers, don't have time to waste. Forcing an enterprise customer to porpoise in and out of multiple systems through various interfaces and different logins to accomplish a simple, logical task flow is bad for them and bad for the business relationship with them. 

Enterprise users are legitimately asking why their business partners-organizations that may be benefitting from millions of dollars in spending-subject them to experiences so inferior to those they enjoy from consumer-oriented organizations for free. This paradox is the fundamental force behind the consumerization of the enterprise.

A Shift in Influence

In the traditional enterprise model, organizations dictated the tools and technologies employees could use. Oftentimes, enterprise-level investment from industry and government fueled both the demand and profit for cutting-edge technological innovations, and new developments trickled down to consumer usage.

Today, the enormous volume of the consumer market and rapid adoption cycles encourage new tech innovation efforts, and users are enjoying rich interactions online and via a growing range of networked devices. As people adapt to and embrace new technologies in their personal lives, there is a noticeable gap between consumer and enterprise experiences. Now, users are bringing their consumer expectations into their work environments and demanding more, thanks to the combination of three key economic, social and cultural forces.

First, vast consumer market growth and the rate of technological innovation in consumer products are creating significant economic opportunity. Savvy consumer organizations are emphasizing usability, personalization and customer intimacy. By leveraging the benefits of consumer technology usability and personalization, business providers could translate best practices into the enterprise environment and deliver improved productivity and speed of response.

Second, shifting social demographics of the workforce are impacting how we work, as incoming generations are bringing their native tech skills and expectations. Known as 'Digital Natives', today's younger workers expect to network and interact online; they are intolerant of poor intranet and extranet capabilities and experiences, and they are unimpressed with basic functionality.

Finally, employees expect mobile access to information anytime, anywhere and are exercising greater flexibility with telecommuting. This cultural shift in how individuals work is blurring work and personal boundaries, further compelling enterprises to leverage the best tools to enhance worker productivity rather than hinder it. 

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