The IT Consumerization Challenge – and Opportunity

The “consumerization of IT” – or the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend – has emerged front and center, and a lot of CIOs aren’t very happy.  A recent article in Computerworld calls it a “thorn in the side” of most IT departments, and cites complexity, support, and security concerns.

Like it or not, employees are purchasing iPads, Blackberries, iPhones, and other devices and using them for work-related purposes.  One question CIOs need to ask themselves is, “When do I start caring?” Specifically, what policies should be defined and enforced around who can use what kind of device for what kind of activity – be it messaging or collaborating, accessing corporate networks, etc.?

Another set of considerations revolves around the basic question: “How do I support these devices?” If they haven’t been already, CIOs will be tasked with providing mobile access to company information. If you have character-based legacy applications rather than browser-based applications, it will be a lot more difficult to support mobile devices. Meanwhile, telling the folks in the Boardroom that they can’t access sales figures on their “executive jewelry” devices isn’t a viable option.

The consumerization issue also affects infrastructure: how good is your network’s perimeter security? The influx of mobile devices could impact your entire network strategy. Consider the question in the context of how will you manage “data in motion;” in other words, your companies IP, client data, etc.

While discussions around IT consumerization tend to focus on the various headaches it causes IT, it also provides an opportunity.  I’m having more and more conversations with CIOs who are concerned about building their operational defense plan, about managing their legacy applications and rationalizing their portfolios.  They’re looking for a good understanding of overall staffing and support costs, and how to pull together their shared services and sourcing strategies.  Ultimately, they need to understand what they’re spending and what they’re getting.

In this larger context, the IT consumerization challenge can help you take on these big picture tasks of IT operational strategy.  So, rather than a putting-out-the-fire exercise, the imperative to effectively support mobile devices can become part of your strategic plan to transition the enterprise from where is now to where you know it needs to be.

What do you think? Is IT consumerization keeping you awake at night? How are you dealing with it?

By John Lytle, Consulting Director, Compass

Still quiet here.sas

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