Six ways to embrace IT consumerization

For consumerization to succeed, IT and end users must have a less adversarial relationship. IT pros share their tips for empowering users and increasing their business value.

CHICAGO -- Consumerization is a cat and mouse game between IT and end users, and neither side will really benefit until they change their approach.

Users need to realize the potential threats of circumventing IT's controls, but IT pros need to loosen the reins and stop doing the same things they've always done, said Matt Kosht, IT manager at SEMCO Energy Inc. in Port Huron, Mich.

"You're not going to be out of a job because you let somebody bring a Mac to work," Kosht said.

Kosht and other speakers here at BriForum 2012 this week shared their tips for embracing IT consumerization and using consumer technology to improve business, IT and the user experience.

IT consumerization: Stop trying to fight users

Consumerization irritates IT pros because end users adopt technology without concern for security or compliance, but the fact is, the users are just trying to get their work done -- and the tools IT gives them often don't cut it, Kosht said.

"Instead of worrying about how to stop it, we should be worrying about why they're doing it in the first place," he said.

IT consumerization: Provide alternatives

The best way to stop users from going around IT is to give them tools they'll like. Applications need to be fast, user-friendly and free of roadblocks. For example, users will turn to Gmail if IT's Microsoft Outlook mailbox and file-attachment size limits prevent them from sending or storing important messages, Kosht said. In this case, the organization can either increase its limits or move to Gmail.

"If you can't compete, then you have to capitulate," Kosht said.

IT consumerization: Avoid 'crapplications'

User-friendliness must also be top of mind when developing in-house apps. Enterprise mobile applications need to offer a simple user interface, an effective user experience and only the features that users need to perform a specific task, said Brian Katz, director of mobile engineering at pharmaceutical company Sanofi, based in Bridgewater, N.J.

Interested in learning more about consumerization at a live event? Find out more about TechTarget’s Consumerization of IT Seminar with Brian Madden, coming to multiple U.S. cities in 2013.

 

If users can't figure out how to use an app within 30 seconds, "they're going to close it and use something else."

Katz called these apps "crapplications."

IT consumerization: Involve the business

Consumerization isn't just a technology issue. It's a change in how people do their jobs, and as such it also affects purchasing, personnel and legal decisions. That means IT should work with human resources, legal and finance -- especially when it comes to any bring your own device (BYOD) initiative, said Claudio Rodrigues, CEO of WTSLabs Inc., an IT consulting firm in Nepean, Ont.

"BYOD is not really an IT effort," he said. "It's a company-wide effort. If you want to be successful, you have to engage every single department in your company."

IT consumerization: Focus IT's role

Kosht lamented how, over the years, IT has taken on several responsibilities that aren't part of its core function.

"IT somehow is the Internet police," he said. "I don't know how this happened."

One example is most IT departments are responsible for blocking access to certain websites, which is really a personnel issue. Kosht's organization allows a user to override those blocks, but software automatically notifies the user's manager, who can then handle the situation.

By offloading these tasks -- and not trying to lock down every single consumer device and cloud service -- IT can free itself up to do more strategic work.

IT consumerization: Manage data, not devices

By not locking down every device, that doesn't mean IT has given up on management and security. Instead, IT should focus on managing data. Encrypting and applying policies to corporate data can keep it protected regardless of where it resides, Katz said.

"Data can actually exist anywhere, because the keys aren't anywhere," he said. "That's what we can control."

The problem with this approach, however, is that the technology to make it happen doesn't really exist today.

"Good [mobile information management] is two years off," Katz said.

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