Rumours of the death of IT consumerisation have been greatly exaggerated

If you follow anyone IT-related on Twitter, or even the mainstream media, it’s difficult to have missed Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s news that it is planning to discontinue the production of WebOS devices and is considering a full or partial separation of its personal systems group.

I’m not entirely comfortable with commenting on a competitor’s business strategy on a Fujitsu blog (so I won’t) but I was more than a little surprised this morning when I saw CloudPro’s article suggesting that “HP’s cloud bet could kill consumerisation in IT“. Really?

Yes, all that glitters is not gold and, undoubtedly, there are some challenges for device manufacturers to overcome but, as Joe Baguley (EMEA Chief Cloud Technologist at VMware) has presented on a number of occasions, the consumerisation of IT is nothing to do with iPads, TouchPads (or even Stylistic Q550s…). It’s not about any device!

Put simply, the consumerisation of enterprise IT is about providing IT as-a-service.

Prior to the emergence of the world-wide web, users did what they were told to – making use of the hardware and software that the IT department provided. Now the dynamic has changed: the boundaries between work and play have eroded and, for many knowledge workers, there is no clear separation between business and personal tasks. Work has become something we do, not a place where we go, and those “users” have become consumers.

Consumers want to feel empowered – they desire flexibility, personalisation and immediate gratification. Our information workers want IT to work for them, in the way that they need it to work. They desire a portable, device independent, always-on (and instant-on) modern working environment that provides access to information from any device (including data synchronisation), with self-service subscriptions to provide access to application stores/portals and personal/professional persona management. If that sounds challenging, they are used to this in the consumer space – now they want it in business and a sizable proportion of employees are circumventing IT policies to self-provision at least a part of their IT toolkit.

Just like our banks, social networks, recreational websites and email, the organisational IT department has become a service provider. Furthermore, if the IT department can’t provide a service, consumers are happy to go elsewhere – leading to the emergence of what has become known as shadow IT.

Sometimes this shadow IT grows out of the need to do something that’s not possible on the corporate infrastructure (like using Dropbox to share a file with a colleague in another part of the world); and sometimes it’s officially sanctioned (for example, a business unit director deciding that salesforce.com is a more appropriate CRM solution than the IT-provided line of business application).

Regardless of the source of the shadow IT, it takes a brave CIO to try and fight it. Whether the approach is to embrace, contain, block or ignore, consumerisation is a trend that’s increasingly difficult to avoid.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

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