Twitter is such an amazing tool/phenomenon. There was even a recent study that argued that it (along with other social media platforms like Facebook) can be as, if not more addicting than illegal drugs. It does however have some very useful applications. One such application are the TweetChats (is that even what they’re called?). I participated in one today as a prelude to the CITE event in San Francisco in the beginning of March (4-6 to be precise). I participated in the chat because I’ll be speaking there on a couple of different enterprise mobility sessions.
One interesting conversation that percolated during the TweetChat was the ever popular topic of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the Consumerization of IT. A lot of people were using the terms interchangeably, and unfortunately, I can’t help but feel as if that does the two issues a disservice. It’s understandable though that the two terms would be used interchangeably given how they are so inter-related, but they are none the less two distinct issues. If you don’t mind, today, I ‘d like to share my take on what the two mean.
Let me start with the easy one. BYOD. That’s about as straight forward as it gets. People want to bring into the workplace the devices that they have purchased for their own use because they have made a conscientious choice in terms of product preference. Gone are the days where employees will quietly accept whatever the IT department has mandated they use as employees. Work is no longer 9 to 5 and given our never ending desire to be constantly connected, we are now working more and more during “off hours” (whatever the heck that means)…so why not use the devices we like most for both personal and professional use? OK…BYOD easily defined.
The next one is far more nuanced. The Consumerization of IT – and on this little spot on the Internet – the Consumerization of Enterprise Mobility, is technically NOT the same as BYOD. I’ve said it a thousand (million?) times that the Consumerization of Enterprise Mobility as manifested by BYOD is the radical departure. So what does Consumerization of IT mean? The short short version is that IT should not be complicated or complex to use. “Consumer” products are supposed to be “easy” to install and use (although some home gadgets still come with instruction manuals the size of War and Peace). “Consumer” devices are supposed to be intuitive and just work out of the box. It makes me think of the Ronco Rotisserie, where the guy would say “Set it and Forget it!”
This is why Apple has had so much success with its iOS devices. They just work….and for the most part, you can “Set it and Forget it!” (although you’re probably going to end up playing Angry Birds all day.
So today, every company is looking for ways to improve the usability (and the aesthetics) of their products. Why should you have to click or tap on four different buttons if you should be able to do it in one or two? That’s what Consumerization is all about (at least in my opinion). In fact, there’s a great irony. In the “old” days, we would always say that Consumer Grade was inferior to Enterprise Grade. My how things have changed. Nowadays, we expect even our Enterprise products to have great Consumer experiences. Part of that comes from the flip side of the Consumerization of IT.
The IT-ization of the Consumer.
We have all become more tech savvy (even my mom). We know how to use a laptop, we expect to find things in The Cloud (whatever the heck that is) and we also expect to be able to do the same things we do on our PCs on our mobile devices. When we have our IT departments say “you can’t do that” or “we’ll have that in about six months,” we now call BS and say, “Oh please, there’s a new (almost) free service that lets me do this in five minutes….why can’t I just use that? (I could go on an ITSM tangent but I won’t today).
So back to BYOD vs. Consumerization. Take the following example. Your company was a 100% corporate liable BlackBerry shop and then decided to allow employees to order whatever device they want….but still purchased by the company. That’s clearly a scenario where the Consumerization of IT has impacted IT’s decision making process. What if every employee in this scenario chose BlackBerry devices (I know, I know…)? That’s still Consumerization…but obviously not BYOD.
So in closing, BYOD and Consumerization of IT are two very important trends that will definitely have an impact on the workplace for years to come. It’s important to understand that they are distinct concepts with some overlap, and an equal amount of mutual exclusivity.