Some Thoughts on the Consumerisation of IT

I’ve been hearing a lot of news about the consumerisation of IT lately. I did a little bit of reading on the subject and have begun to gain some understanding on what it’s all about and develop and opinion about it. This post shows my thoughts so far.

What it’s all about

More people are tech savvy than ever before

The “digital natives” are growing up and are in the workplace more and more every year.

It’s very difficult to control what people do anymore

If I can’t access a site through the company wireless because of the proxy server I can use my 3G connection to get around it. If I can’t access my personal files from my work PC, personal laptop, and home PC I’ll install dropbox and copy my work files over to it. Also to access my work email from home I need to sign into a VPN connection, type in a confusing address. I’d rather just use my gmail account.

Motivations for own device or solution: more efficiency more convenience, and laziness

If I have a site that I can’t access through the company proxy and I need to access it to do my work it’s more convenient and efficient to jump onto my personal laptop with my 3G connection and access the site. There’s no way I’m going to log a helpdesk ticket and just wait for a resolution (my perceived perspective of a user doing this).

Less cost allocated to buying equipment

So here we are. We can’t control them, they seem to be doing their work more efficiently, they’re happier doing work their own way, and they’re paying for it. So why not jump on board? Below are some of the reasons why I think we shouldn’t jump on board…

Concerns on the consumerisation of IT

Higher total cost of ownership? Yes. Less standardised, less deterministic, more (and harder to) support

With everyone having their own device with it’s own software, hardware, warranty, and support you generate a lot of complexity with IT support. With this in mind it’s hard to guarantee the availability of these devices and create IT solutions that work with all the variables. Also how can you automate tedious tasks with scripts and the like?

I imagine testing will be a huge pain when rolling something new out too.

A users way of doing things isn’t necessarily the most efficient way

An excuse for bad management and monitoring?

So we can’t beat’em, lets join them? I’m not convinced this is the best attitude to have. A crappy business IT system probably need to be improved, or the employees need a good whack across the head more than anything. Having said this there are benefits to the consumerisation of IT that can be leveraged upon, but user solutions need to be restricted and approved.

Security and privacy concerns that aren’t considered by the end user

Solutions that users use (such as dropbox: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/06/dropbox/) aren’t necessarily very secure. You can’t guarantee that your files are private and confidential.

Build efficiency and convenience into your IT system

We can’t to bodge jobs. Staff won’t deal with it anymore and will just find a workaround. As IT professionals we will need to work closer with the user to create an experience their happy with.

Off the top of my head here are some things we should try to have present in an IT system:

  • Fast logins and boot ups
  • Customisation of desktop environments
  • Effcient roaming/hybrid profiles
  • Single Sign-On wherever possible
  • online secure web access to services (email etc)
  • self-service IT solutions (eg: SCCM, self password reset)
  • Wake on LAN computers 15 mins before staff come into work
  • a secure dropbox alternative

Some restrictions and standards will be needed.

Without a good set of restrictions on the consumerisation of IT or user solutions it will be chaos.

We need to educate users about certain things

We need to teach staff to become security conscious, why they should and should not do certain things, and to consult IT staff for solutions (rather than just break and fix issues).

Don’t get caught up with they hype. There’s no silver bullet.

A strategy, solution, or way of delivering IT should be considered on a case-by-case basis. I’m sure there are many businesses where offloading IT to the user will be successful to an extent.

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