The Consumerization of IT: Hype Strikes Again!

By | Apr 2, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

The consumerization of IT is once again being hyped as the greatest thing since the Internet. And yes, a lot of consumer apps and devices are nifty. No doubt, there are lessons that IT shops and enterprise application designers can learn from the consumer market and consumer technology.

But IT has to be an information creator, not just a data consumer. Creation requires a much deeper level of interactivity. Often it calls for much more processing horsepower. Don't hesitate to draw inspiration from consumer apps, but don't be taken in by the hype.

Paradigm Shifts?

At TechCrunch, CRM entrepreneur Uzi Shmilovici makes three predictions about the future of business technology: New types of enterprise software will emerge; the channels by which we learn information will change; and many established vendors will fail to adapt.

But really these come down to one prediction: Consumerization of IT is the wave of the future. The predictions offered above follow three "paradigm shifts" (buzz phrase alert!) that are said to be driving this trend. These are changes in the devices we use, in our ways of working, and in how we interact with software.

Yes, all of these things have been changing steadily, and continue to change. But the examples given for these trends do raise questions. To take one such example, changes in the devices we use, the author asks whether you would rather use a Dell desktop or an iPad? But asking the question in the abstract provides no context. Setting aside for the moment that Dell is not the only place to buy a desktop, the real answer is surely "to do what?"

The Right Tools for the Job

Consider a similar question: Would you rather drive a panel truck or a Lexus? Most of us would opt for the Lexus. But which would you rather use to launch a furniture delivery business? Suddenly that panel truck looks a whole lot more convenient and practical.

The new generation of consumer technology is designed specifically for consuming information. This is what distinguishes it from earlier generations of home computers, which were simply lighter-duty versions of business computers. (The same applied to consumer versions of, say, Windows and the Office apps.)

But the new consumer devices are very limited in their ability to create content. They're fine for Tweets, Facebook updates, and the occasional email. But is a tiny touchscreen keyboard really the most convenient interface for writing a strategy proposal?

Much business software is admittedly clunky. And large IT organizations may be reluctant to invest in new systems after spending heavily on the previous ones. But cloud computing and other technologies are allowing IT shops to be more agile, and much consumer-ware is finding a place in the enterprise. All the same, business puts much heavier demands on technology and especially interfaces than most consumer products do. And IT's need for enterprise-class technology horsepower is not going to change.

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