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Consumerisation and client computing

More than just executive desktop bling?

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Workshop The Apple Mac is an appropriate candidate for the ‘I want one of those because he’s got one’ poster child. However, the creep of consumerism and its impact on the range of computing devices which find themselves inside organisations goes beyond mere executive envy.

The consumerisation phenomenon is a little tricky to pin down, but may slowly be driving the evolution of client computing in the business. Lots of reasons exist as to why people are inspired to go against the flow and do their own thing when it comes to the kit they use in their jobs.

There is the consumer in all of us, the jackdaw attracted by the glint of a shiny new toy, the rebel who just wants to use his or her own stuff regardless, the show off, the digital native used to having it all technology/connectivity wise, and being frustrated with what’s on offer at work, and so on and so on. None of these individual examples explain the gradual creep of consumerisation around business computing devices outright, but all of them contribute to it.

So what’s the impact of this at work? Firstly, experiences gained in our consumer lives can highlight how far short the experience of using corporate tools often falls against those in use outside work. For many, expectations may not be satisfied. We should not ignore the services that people access on their devices either. iTunes, Amazon, Facebook etc do not rely on ‘consumer kit’ to deliver the user experience, but they do drive ‘consumery behaviour’ - ie out of work behaviour.

Hence, what do we do about it? We could think about this in several ways. We could ask people to "grow up because its work and we’re about getting the job done not providing fun experiences". But we could also consider how employee performance might be enhanced by incorporating elements of commonly used consumer services or devices into applications or processes, whether that's simple things like instant messaging or more complex stuff like touch screen technologies.

Whether we’re talking about physical kit or services accessed from it, the perception of control in the corporate environment is usually the biggest influencer of acceptance or prohibition. As often as not, the knee-jerk reaction is to impose blanket bans, backed up with inflexible policies. However, this may simply push users into the realm of insecure, unmanaged and risky practices if and when they do bring their own kit and preferred services into the working environment.

The bottom line is that there is no use sticking heads in sand. If ‘consumer behaviour’ is starting to emerge, then companies need to be prepared to secure and manage non-standard devices, be they iPads, Macs or other such things. How many companies today stick their fingers in their ears, go “La, la, la, I can’t hear you...” and think ignoring the problem or making life a bit difficult for consumers will be sufficient strategy?

With that in mind, we’d expect to find differences between organisations which engage with the broader consumery IT user base versus those which ignore it or try to suppress it, in terms of how consumerisation is driving or influencing client computing. We may also expect differences to manifest themselves through the way software applications and business processes are designed and developed in the future. All in all, this topic is much deeper and broader than board level bling envy, and of course, as usual, we’re keen to hear about your own experiences in this area. ®

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