By Rudi Greyling
The proliferation of powerful consumer devices, ubiquitous services and easy-to-use applications has created radical changes in business and workplace technology. Analysts and media commentators have called this trend the “consumerisation of IT,” for the way consumer technologies are exerting more influence on corporate IT departments. Like many hot technology trends however, certain misconceptions have also emerged.
An Avanade survey of 605 C-level executives, IT decision-makers and business unit leaders in 17 countries, found an unstoppable shift in the use of consumer technologies in the workplace and significant IT investments being made to manage this trend. The report challenges six commonly held myths regarding the consumerisation of IT that South African IT decision-makers need to factor into their thinking, especially given that we are a nation of early technology adopters.
Myth 1: Businesses are Resisting the Consumerisation of IT
Industry discussions regarding the consumerisation of IT often focus on security concerns, supposed difficulty of device integration, and extra demands placed on the IT department. Together, these discussions have created a misconception that companies are not embracing consumer technologies in the workplace.
However, Avanade’s survey revealed that 60 percent of companies are already adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate the influx of personal devices. That’s nearly two out of every three companies. In fact, most executives are leading the trend – with 73 percent of all C-level respondents noting the growing use of personal technology in the enterprise is a top priority for their organisation in 2012.
From large enterprises to small companies in every industry surveyed, the research found sweeping adoption rates of personal computing technologies in the workplace. Globally, 88 percent of executives report employees are using their personal computing technologies for business purposes today.
Myth 2: Companies Don’t Have the IT Resources They Need to Manage the Consumerisation of IT
Despite perceptions that companies are struggling to manage the consumerisation of IT, research shows businesses today have the staff and many of the resources they need.
With regards to IT infrastructure and support, 91 percent of C-level executives and 75 percent of IT decision makers said they have the IT staff and resources needed to manage the use of consumer technologies. Not only did IT decision-makers affirm the relative ease of integrating employee-owned devices, applications and online services into the enterprise system, but companies also report they are making significant monetary investments to manage such technologies.
On average, executives are allocating 25 percent of their IT budgets to manage some aspect of the consumerisation of IT, and 79 percent plan to make new investments within the next 12 months.
Myth 3: The Need to Attract and Keep Millennials is Driving the Consumerisation of IT
As the Millennial generation floods the workforce, much has been made of the need for companies to adjust corporate policy to accommodate this younger, technologically savvy generation. However, according to executives, the consumerisation of IT has less to do with a specific employee demographic and more to do with the changes in the way employees work.
Less than one-third of executives have changed company policy to meet the “demands” of younger employees and just 20 percent of executives believe that allowing personal computing technologies in the workplace will benefit recruitment and retention efforts. Rather, executives prioritised the productivity and anywhere access benefits of the consumerisation of IT over improved employee morale and providing greater responsibilities to younger employees.
Myth 4: Personal Devices in the Workplace Are Used for Checking E-mail and Browsing Facebook
We have witnessed a dramatic shift in the way in which employees are using personal devices at work. Secretly browsing Facebook and personal e-mail accounts are becoming behaviours of the past. While browsing e-mail and social networking sites are still the primary uses for personal devices, employees are now accessing mission-critical enterprise applications as well.
When asked which applications and services employees were using on their personal devices, executives cited customer relationship management (45 percent), time and expense tracking applications (44 percent) and enterprise resource planning (38 percent).
Myth 5: Apple = Consumerisation of IT
Across media and industry discussions, iPhones and iPads have become synonymous with the consumerisation of IT. While research shows Apple is indeed a factor, it is far from alone in driving the trend. In fact, the most popular consumer device employees are bringing into the enterprise is not an Apple product.
Global research indicates the Android phone is the single most popular device inhabiting the workplace today. The research also found diversity of choice is paramount for employees, and many businesses are embracing employees’ right to choose.
Nearly 40 percent of global respondents say they allow employees to bring any smartphone into the workplace, and nearly 30 percent allow employees to bring any tablet they choose. Additionally, more than one-third of companies cover the entire cost of these smartphones and tablets.
Myth 6: Consumer Technologies with Built-In Security Measures are Safe for Use in the Enterprise
It is no surprise that executives and IT are still working to put the right security policies, procedures, training and technology in place, given the rapid expansion of the consumerisation of IT. However, security measures have not kept pace with the trend.
In fact, more than half of global companies report they have already experienced a security breach due to the flood of personal technologies. IT decision makers are particularly concerned with these risks, and 81 percent cite the need for improvements in IT infrastructure to mitigate the threat.
Despite this concern, the majority of companies are not investing in training for their employees or IT staff to ensure their organisations are aware of – and better able to manage – the risks associated with the consumerisation of IT.
Just over one-third (38 percent) of companies are investing in training their employees and even fewer (35 percent) reported they will invest in training IT staff responsible for protecting and managing critical IT infrastructures.
Changing the Way We Work
As the consumerisation of IT becomes increasingly widespread, business leaders across the world -and South Africa is no exception – are rethinking their long-held beliefs about the return on their technology investments, security needs and the impact of these decisions on improving productivity, recruiting and retaining employees and reducing operating costs.
Just like any technology trend, the consumerisation of IT requires a combination of people, processes and tools to ensure new technologies are safe and secure for a business environment. Enterprises have an opportunity to transform the role of IT from a reactive, risk-mitigation function into a strategic enabler that leverages the breadth of today’s powerful consumer technologies to drive business productivity.
Rudi Greyling is Chief Technology Officer and Innovation Lead at Avanade South Africa