Any blog worth its salt has to have a “3-part series” at some point. So here we go. This is the first post of three on the topic of the Consumerization of IT – a macro-level business trend that includes many topics. So, let’s start with a definition: The Consumerization of IT refers to the introduction of consumer-oriented technology and behaviors into the realm of Enterprise IT. The first part of that definition refers to workers integrating technologies like iPhones, Flip Video cameras, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and other originally consumer-targeted technologies into their workplace and workflow. While that’s certainly a major trend (and the one everyone is talking about), it’s the latter part of the definition – consumer behavior in the enterprise - that might influence business the most, and in my opinion, will redefine the way technology is built, deployed and used within IT.
What consumer behaviors have changed in the past 15 years that have the power to reshape the way enterprise IT works? I say it all starts with the action verb that has most defined the internet era: search (and its sibling word, research).
The power to index and search web-sites has driven a virtuous cycle of user search and vendor publishing that has totally changed the way people find solutions to problems. Today, you are just as likely to search for a solution to a problem at your office, as you are to search for the digital camera that best fits your needs. Seeking out solutions and researching purchases is now a basic skill that all, well most, technology buyers possess. But, 20 years ago, the flow of information about work-related technology was controlled by the individuals who sold the technology – and if those sales people only engaged the CIO and his direct reports, then he’s the one who got educated.
Today, most tech vendors are pretty transparent with product info, either by choice or by force. There are pictures, community sites, and user ratings and review sites for almost all consumer products – and an increasing number of enterprise products. Some vendors (SolarWinds, to be sure) have even redesigned their selling and marketing model to focus on users who are searching out solutions, instead of trying to convince them of a problem they didn’t know they had. You can tell the vendors who don’t like this change – just try to get a screenshot, feature info, or pricing for a software product from one of the traditional enterprise software vendors. Good luck.
So, the foundation of the Consumerization of IT is the power end users have obtained by searching for solutions and researching their options. That‘s a tectonic shift that changes the relationship between vendor and consumer, no matter whether it’s at home or work. I’ll cover that relationship next.