Yesterday afternoon, I took part in a panel discussion on the evolution of consumerisation as part of a Dell Technology Camp and in advance of the publication of the third part of Dell/TNS Global’s Evolving Workforce research. It was the first time I’ve taken part in an event like this and I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it was also an enjoyable experience – particularly given the wonderful surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery in south-west London. I only wish I’d been able to tweet during the event (I did scribble some notes but was focusing so much on the conversation that tweeting would have been a step to far for this Gen-Xer who isn’t so great at “partial attention”!)
Chaired by Stephen O’Donnell (@stephenodonnell), the discussion examined a number of topics related to consumerisation, including: the generational divide myth; recruiting and retaining talent; new working practices; technology choices; security;controlling costs and driving profit; and the impacts of geography and market sector on progress.
Dell have produced a Storify story about the whole day (not just the panel discussion) – and you can catch the recording of the live stream - but, for those who don’t have a couple of hours to spare, I thought I’d blog the highlights… I guess you could think of them as the tweets that never were:
- Stephen Yap, TNS UK: It’s a myth that only generation Y gets “social” and consumerisation; TNS’ research finds that older generations are more accepting of IT as a transformation agent (and younger people are more sceptical). [Something that one of my Baby Boomer colleagues, Vin Hughes, suggested over a year ago in a blog post about the digital world and generational labels.]
- Alexis Lane, The Head Partnership: Organisations need a element of control to stay within the law, including open communication of policies.
- Stephen Yap: IT is not just a utility – get it right and it can be a motivator for employees.
- Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonIT): The IT department is just a provider of “stuff” in our personal clouds – just like our bank, supermarket, email provider, etc. [Credit is due to Joe Baguley (@JoeBaguley) for that one... also see my post on the rise of the personal cloud, inspired by David Gentle (@DaveGentle).]
- Helen Calthrop-Owen, Axicom: Consumerisation is part of a bigger change regarding how people work together.
- Tim Weber (@Tim_Weber), BBC: Policies alone are not enough – citing Joshua Klein (@JoshuaKlein) he says that we need to “hack our work“, noting that it could get you fired, or you could be a big winner.
- Bryan Jones (@BryanAtDell), Dell: It’s not “lazy IT” that holds us back so much as cultural challenges – the key is to create “competitive differentiation”.
- Mathias Knöfel (@MathiasContext): Consider the cost factors and end user benefit – given a choice users will pay for flexibility.
- Mark Wilson: Get under the surface of BYO and you’ll find it’s more about choice – giving users the ability to trade up to a “sexier” device [credit due to Garry Martin (@GarryMartin).]
- Stephen Yap: Emerging markets see employer-provided devices as attractive (they tend not to have PCs at home); meanwhile in the US/Canada it’s about Bring Your Own Cloud [what I called the personal cloud] – questioning the need for corporate IT. Not so much about the choice of device but working in the way in which we have become accustomed to.
- Alexis Lane: Increasingly difficult to draw lines of ownership (intellectual property and corporate data vs. life) – often old questions arise in a new context (e.g. the ownership of a contact database cf. LinkedIn profile).
- Stuart Collingwood, Nivio: Enterprise-grade social media does exist; devices are more emotional and entitlement can create friction (i.e. who is entitled to what); light touch integration is required for end users to access corporate IT.
- Bryan Jones: There is no silver bullet (in terms of technology); what’s required is a “portfolio discussion” about on premise IT; extrenal service provision (e.g. cloud) and how to bridge the gap.
- Stuart Collingwood: Employee expectations for IT performance are “brutal”; tolerance of “corporate lethargy” and inflexible applications has dropped.
- Tim Weber: Users tend to blame devices or applications but may be other issues; legacy holds us back (e.g. network performance).
- Mark Wilson: Returning to issues of cost – tax implications with benefits in kind – need clearer advice from government.
- Bryan Jones: The consumer knows what is possible – consumerisation is not solely an IT issue but raises business functional questions. The trick is to simplify IT, to become more responsive – and innovation is occurring whether we like it or not – there’s an opportunity to embrace it and to listen across the organisation, not just to IT.
- Stephen Yap: There’s a shift towards outcome-based working with an unspoken contract between freedom and blurred boundaries [i.e. no more 9-5] and digital natives find this easier to understand.
- PJ Dwyer, Dell: Flexible working is popular, but some employees dislike the remoteness/don’t feel part of the team.
- Tim Weber: In addition to recognition issues, some roles require collaborative working and presence; interesting to see that Twitter (distributed by nature) has triggered Tweet-Ups – the Human Being is a social animal and companies are social organisations; consider team dynamics (e.g. in a large team, others suspicious that they are carrying the load) – management becomes a task of ensuring everyone knows what their colleagues are doing.
- Marie-Christine Pygott, Context: Communications occur in many ways – if employees are not present, they are not on the mind of others (you can’t walk over to their desk for a chat).
- Stephen O’Donnell: We need a virtual watercooler, do we need to use social media to highlight work milestones [or even, "I'm taking the kids to school, I'll be back in 20 mins"]?
- Stuart Collingwood: Expect to see that scenario become more common as future generations enter the workplace (and we’re already seeing changing literacy styles, such as use of “text speak” in written English).
- Carly Tatum, Dell: Communications work in different ways; bringing people into a group situation from social media context can induce a different dynamic [one that doesn't always work].
- Mathias Knöfel: Often, meeting people face to face changes the relationship from that point onwards.
- PJ Dwyer: Emerging markets have different perspectives, due to different stages of development.
- Stephen Yap: In BRIC, for example, skipping PCs and moving straight to smartphones; also leapfrogging legacy in the workplace - not as encumbered. It will be interesting to see the change as security, etc. become bigger issues in developing nations. Also cultural differences as in some geographies work and technology may act as motivators.
- Alexis Lane: When talking about the security of information, we need to understand what it is we are protecting. It’s not realistic to say “everything” – what can we be more relaxed about?
- Tim Weber: The “castle/moat model” makes less sense as we become more mobile and blast more holes in the walls – need to look at data level and see what can be done to protect it; requires clever thinking, supported by technology, to understand how to protect the things that are critical to your company.
- Stuart Collingwood: We have to think differently about how we build systems – it’s hard (and expensive) to retrofit so we need to re-architect from the ground up.
For those who find even that list too much to work through – here are the key takeaways from around the table:
- Stephen O’Donnell: Consumerisation is happening, it won’t stop – indeed it will accelerate; employees like it, it frees them up from coming to the office as well as from Victorian-style employment contracts; work is becoming more outcome-based; difficult to draw line between work and home; requires serious management – need to think, plan and come up with new ways of thinking.
- Tim Weber: There is no single solution; every company needs to look at legacy – not just productivity and happy employees but the underlying stategic business model – suss that out and have clarity of thinking to drive company forward; remain flexible as things will constantly change on the roadmap.
- Mathias Knöfel: BYOD gives opportunities for flexibiity with the right incentives but also risks that need to be thought through more carefully (e.g. legal/risk).
- Mark Wilson: From an end-user perspective, don’t just think about the “Digital Natives”, also consider “Digital Pioneers” who have seen previous waves of IT transformation and those with no time/inclination too (Digital Luddites); from a management standpoint we need to develop new attitudes to work – become more trusting and results oriented; and the IT department needs to address issues around legacy, removing barriers through innovation and avoiding stagnation; finally, we can’t close lid on this box!
- PJ Dwyer: It’s happening now; organisations need to be proactive and it affects not just IT but also HR, legal – indeed the whole business. Flexibility and choice are key to success and aspirations vary by market and geography.
- Marie-Christine Pygott: There are pros and cons to consumerisation – it changes the dynamic of an organisation – the way people work, their flexibility, work/life balance but also who teaches whom – employees suggest more about the technology used; there is no single solution and we need need integrated strategies; communication is vital; also differentiation in different parts of the world.
- Stuart Collingwood: Consider company culture – not just policy and structural issues – need to instil communications protocols, sensitivities and context within company culture – requires a top down approach. Culture is safety net and policy handbooks are not enough. People will use technology more responsibly than you might give them credit for.
- Alexis Lane: Embedding culture of the organisation and taking a decision as to what the company needs to be is important. It’s exciting to consider technology as a motivation – and from a legal perspective we need to get to heart of data issues.
- Bryan Jones: Not just a technology discussion – people and process too; competitive advantage downstream is enormous; culture is critical to changing the dynamic in a company; it permeates, into how we communicate internally and how we interact with customers.
- Stephen Yap: Enterprise IT has ever been more exciting than now; we’re at a tipping point, elevating the significance of IT within the organisation and to our lives; not just about IT professionals but it makes a difference to all – in how we work and how we live; not just happy and motivated workers but new business models, new ways of doing things. And the conversations that we’re having are more strategic than 10 years ago; IT is making a bigger difference than ever before.
Stephen O’Donnell’s summary: there is an enormous opportunity for businesses to adopt and drive the socialisation and consumerisation of IT; to really make a difference in driving down costs, improving agility and improving employee/customer communication. On the other side, there is a risk that we “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, that we don’t follow the processes because it’s all new, that we under manage employees, don’t deal with security appropriately, don’t invest in the underlying infrastructure and so don’t achieve the benefits.
Image credits – Dell’s Official Flickr Page, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Visual communication/storytelling by Creative Connection.