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3 ways to counter the side effects of IT consumerization

Emphasize the reality of cloud-based and mobile apps to the business, while encouraging your team to remain flexible to user demands.

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A CIO who taps into the social and psychological shifts underlying the consumerization of IT trend becomes part of the strategic fabric of the organization.

—PricewaterhouseCoopers

Whether you have wrestled with the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy at your company or been surprised by cloud applications implemented by "shadow IT," your IT department is feeling the side effects of the consumerization of IT. Thanks to smartphones, consumer applications, and cloud computing, users have almost unthinkably simple access to enterprise-grade applications.

This has dramatically altered employees’ expectations: If they can instantly obtain new applications on their personal devices, why can’t you instantly supply what is needed for the enterprise? Employees may actually believe IT is refusing to help them and isn’t responsive enough to their needs.

PricewaterhouseCoopers1 neatly outlines the new tension between users and IT: "Employees are likely to be naïve about the work that goes on behind the scenes to make consumer technologies so effortless to use. And fewer understand the implications of supporting personal technology choices in a networked, process-oriented environment or the issues involved with integrating them with existing applications and infrastructures."

Enterprise reality check

There are three key aspects of managing enterprise IT that run counter to consumerlike expectations of technology access:

  1. Personal vs. enterprise support: Consumers do not worry about the issues that keep CIOs up at night: information security, network scalability, service level agreements (SLAs), and resources required to support the numerous applications used by thousands of employees.
  2. Legacy infrastructures: Most large enterprises have legacy architectures that are brittle and complex, which means they cannot be changed on a whim. Just because cloud-based resources are readily available to the individual does not mean they will seamlessly fit into the existing enterprise.
  3. Unchecked cloud proliferation: The unmanaged adoption of cloud applications creates new problems for IT that are generally unknown to the departments that initiated the projects. IT has to integrate data across systems, ensure security and scalability, and manage ongoing maintenance. This process is more time-consuming than anyone, including IT, would like.

Part of your job is communicating these factors to your business partners. But you must do more than push back users’ expectations. You need to genuinely address these factors to keep up with the pace of change in business.

Do a self-assessment and look inward. Is your architecture built for scale and speed? Can you simplify your legacy infrastructure, and find a better way to ensure scalability, integration, and security without slowing down user adoption? Own up to your issues and let the business know how you plan to fix them.

You cannot turn your IT shop into the iTunes app store, granting everyone instant access to any application they want. But you can embrace the agility inherent in the consumerization of IT. As PricewaterhouseCoopers says, "A CIO who taps into the social and psychological shifts underlying the consumerization of IT trend becomes part of the strategic fabric of the organization."

For more on the challenges of BYOD policies, read “How do you enable mobility in the enterprise,” in the Informatica Perspectives blog.

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