Buzzword Bingo: Consumerization of IT

5 11 2013

One of the most prominent buzzwords in the last years is "Consumerization of IT". I think it was invented, after more and more execs brought their IPhone or IPad to work and told the IT people: "I want to have my email and stuff on it, because it looks so cool." They were also rightfully amazed by the ease of installation of apps and thought: Everything should work like this!
Due to the fact that the Apple devices are consumer devices some smart analyst jumped on it and named it "Consumerization of IT" ( my take on it :-)).
While I agree with anybody who wants to make life easier for business users, the term consumerization is the worst choice. This is because it implicates, that any business IT device can be replaced by a cheap consumer device accessing some omnipresent available standard service that solves all problems. This saves cost – and hurray – we have a great efficiency win!

To make this even more compelling employees should bring their own devices to work to make CFOs even happier. The buzzword for this is called "Bring Your Own Device"  (BYOD) and I will dedicate the next blog post to it.

However, if not in the cozy environment of your living or a board meeting room, this approach has some nasty implications.
Consumer devices are not really designed for productive or heavy duty every day use. You normally do not even use them at the office for writing papers etc. because they do not have a great data input experience. They are mainly designed to consume content, right?
This criticism is not even taking into consideration different unfriendly environments that today’s professional IT devices endure in factory or field without complaint.
If you want to use consumer devices there, you will loose productivity, need to protect them and you should be prepared to replace them more frequently. This makes their use more expensive and I will leave it to you to calculate the breakeven point against a professional device in one of your own scenarios. 
We also need take into account that existing services might need to be adapted for the new devices, apps need to be written and certified by the device vendor or custom deployment strategies need to be implemented. This all has to be done, because the “One-Service-Solves-All” backend, of course, does not exist and never will.

As you can see, if you dig into it, the easy consumer stuff story is getting more and more complex! Why?
Because business processes are more demanding than a device game or a content app showing web pages. Wow, who would have thought this?
And it is exactly this, which will lead any consumerization attempt of business scenarios into a big dilemma – oversimplification.
Oversimplification leads to solutions offering processes that do not really fit the requirement scenarios and therefore these are going to fail.
I am really afraid, that a lot of customers jumping the consumerization train will realize this in a quite advanced state of their project and then it is going to cost them significant money.

This said, it must correctly be stated, that in certain end customer facing scenarios apps on consumer devices can be an interesting asset to a business solution, but I would leave them there, as one part of a professional solution.

To me “Consumerization of IT” is a dangerous, very misleading term.

Alexander


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