What happens next in the consumerization of technology?

Consumerized enterprise IT started off as a device trend, but quickly spread to the software that users engage with.
21 August 2018

Enterprises are now making their devices as consumerized as possible. Source: Shutterstock

We’ve all heard of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). This culture, trend, movement (some would happily call it a ‘phenomenon’) surfaced sometime just after the millennium and described the act of individuals taking their own smartphones and other devices into the workplace.

Why did BYOD happen? Quite simply because people found that the kind of technology they were using at home very often outstripped the hardware and software they were being offered as corporate equipment.

Although BYOD caused security issues and a litany of other corporate control headaches, it had a profound and lasting impact upon the way enterprises would have to consider deploying technology.

BYOD legacy

The longer-term legacy of BYOD was a call to arms for enterprises who, over the last decade or so, have had to make their technology as consumerized as possible. But what does ‘consumerized’ really mean in this context?

Consumerized enterprise technology (take a Human Resources app for example) doesn’t come with an embedded video game option (although it might… and we’ll get to that in a moment), it’s about ease of use.

Enterprise tech is now more intuitive than ever before. Source: Shutterstock

A consumerized app is one that is intuitive. Now that’s an over-used term in tech, but it does mean something here. An intuitive app is one that needs no instruction manual. It’s easy-to-use. It’s an app that presents the user with familiar options through menus, buttons or some other type of ‘forms-based’ field or ‘dashboard’ panel.

“Enterprise technology has come a long way to meet the changing demands of users and is now more intuitive than ever before. It has the ability to pull data from multiple streams and channels into one platform to provide a seamless experience for consumers,” said Lindsay McEwan, Vice President and Managing Director of EMEA, for Tealium.

McEwan says that this shift is in part due to the extreme volumes of data that are collected from a plethora of devices. But it is also in part due to demands from consumers to receive instant – but personalized – communications, where and when they want them.

As already suggested above, consumerized apps might also feature an element of gaming, but not in the sense of space invaders. They will very often also encompass a degree of ‘gamification’ so that users are scored by performance in relation to prescribed goals and tasks. Whether this always makes jobs more fun is another question.

From hardware, to software

Without actually saying it, we have subtly moved from hardware to software. Consumerized enterprise IT started off as a device trend, but quickly spread to the software that users engage with… and that in and of itself has held a big lesson for all firms.

If enterprise users wanted enterprise software to work as intuitively as consumer software, then, logically, they would also start to want consumer-style apps for enterprise use. Of course we’re talking about social media… and most companies have by now realized that a vocal social channel is fundamental to surviving in the digital age.

Having a social media channel has become key for survival in this digital age.  Source: Shutterstock

Will it be easy for all firms to move towards these new trends and open up their policies and work practices to accommodate for tech consumerization? Obviously, it’s not.

“Taking a strict approach or attempting to define which technologies employees can and cannot use simply isn’t working. Most employees are either working around – or simply ignoring – these policies, choosing instead to use their own devices and install their own apps,” said Bradlee Allen, Product Marketing Manager EMEA at cloud-based Unified Communications-as-a-Service company Fuze.

Fuze’s Allen explains that while this approach obviously has security implications, the other drawback is that the sheer variety and volume of applications (the average organization has 12 different communications tools) actually reduces the opportunities for collaboration.

“In short, poorly managed BYOD policies can result in less, rather than more, communication,” said Allen.

Other defining aspects of enterprise IT consumerization include its ability to offer heavy personalization and all-encompassing customization – consumers want their apps the way they want them. Is that okay? Yes it is because it generally promotes greater productivity from any given employee.

A socially-charged positive

What happens next is also socially-charged. Enterprises are starting to realize that corporate support (for IT issues and indeed for any work issue) is all well and good, but human community-based self-help networks are even better.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, why not ask the group and see who else might know.

Obviously the connected nature of the web means that we can now ask people inside the office… and in the wider global network of an enterprise and its trusted partners as well.

“Everyone has higher expectations around customer experience today. But what does better really mean? For some companies, customers might expect near-instant response to their questions. For others, it’s about the depth of expertise being provided as quickly as possible. Actually delivering that experience can be difficult without the right approach – and the right customer engagement platform – in place,” said Simon Johnson, General Manager for UKI region at customer engagement software company Freshworks.

Future backlash?

So what will happen to BYOD and the consumerization of IT in the future? We are moving to massively deployed cloud-based platforms that rest on centralized servers residing in cloud datacenters.

This in many ways could be argued to be a throwback to the monolithic era of the past… except that it’s not.

Remember that personalization and all-encompassing customization aspect? If we engineer our next era of software carefully with enough modular-interchangeability, then we can preserve that aspect of front-end consumer-style ease-of-use, even when the software itself is running on heavyweight corporate enterprise back-end.

IT function wake up call

The more likely backlash effect caused by all the consumerization channels now penetrating enterprise technology will be the impact on customer service. Consumers in the outside world have come to expect great service, when and where they want it, delivered on time and all wrapped up with a cherry on top.

Enterprise IT departments don’t work like that – not yet they don’t.

The longer long impact of enterprise technology consumerization will see firms compelled to offer outstanding service from their IT functions.

“I’m sorry Mr/Ms New Employee, you’re not happy with your equipment… okay so what kind of laptop, remote Wi-Fi connectivity package and company hoverboard did you want? Oh… and in what color?”

That’s not a question you’ll hear yet, but it’s coming soon and it’s all down to the people who started taking their smartphones into the office around ten years ago. Thank you guys, you did good, purple and lime hoverboard to match my football team, please.