Occasionally, I take a look back at my research and see what we got right, and what we got wrong. In 2008, we wrote "Embrace The Risks And Rewards Of Technology Populism" to describe what we saw as the inevitable acceleration of technology change at the edges of organizations. Think mobile, social, and cloud technologies, and the influence they were having on corporate IT. We of course got the name wrong: Technology Populism never really stuck. But four years later, the phenomenon itself is all around us, wrapped up in the more accepted term "Consumerization of IT" (and corporations' defensive response, "Bring-your-own IT"). Every day, we're reminded of the incredible growth of social networks that now influence all aspects of society from traditional media, corporate brands, and even the direction of politics and governments. Every day, we see people around us glued to personal mobile devices — texting with friends and colleagues, reading news, and checking in on Facebook. And sadly, every day, people walk into their employers and sense the technology they use at work looks older, and runs slower than what they have at home. In fact, it's become hard to remember a world when this wasn’t the case.
But besides the name, we also got other things wrong:
1.) We underestimated the speed. In 2008, Enterprise IT shops we spoke to were still saying consumer devices "weren't ready for the enterprise." Most were still gripping their familiar corporate-issued BlackBerry device with white knuckles. Now, we find over half of the devices people use for work are no longer BlackBerry. IT has let go.
2.) We underestimated how global this trend is. We surmised that the consumer- and enterprise-expectations gap was isolated to developed, affluent economies. It's not. Now it's global. Over half of information workers Forrester surveys around the world now agree that the technology they have at home is better than what they have at work. Places like Latin America and Russia over-index on this attitude at 60% and 72% respectively. Globally, consumerization has changed expectations.
3.) We thought it was all about our kids. Our hypothesis at the time was this was all about young people and their penchant for new technology. Yet today, our data shows that two-thirds of Older Boomers and Seniors now choose the smartphone they use for work without considering what their company officially supports. Eighty-four percent of Gen Yers do so. And while 57% of Gen Yers say their tech is better at home, so do 37% of the 55 and older crowd. So yes, we see correlation with age. But consumerization, and the impact it has on expectations, is touching all generations.
Sadly, CIOs and their teams have largely failed to keep pace with this change. Not a big surprise. IT shops continue to face what I call an "impedance mismatch" with the consumer world. Comparatively, consumer technologies face far fewer barriers to widespread diffusion than does enterprise IT gear. Also consider the mind-bending financial resources amassed by giants like Apple, Google, and others contrasted against the unbending pressure businesses put on CIOs to cut costs annually. Keeping up with consumerization is an unfair, unwinnable battle, when using conventional enterprise IT approaches.
So what's the path forward? On May 3rd we're hosting Forrester's CIO Forum: From Collaboration To Co-Creation in Las Vegas and then in Paris on June 19. A line-up of Forrester analysts and outside speakers will address how IT can move beyond alignment to start co-creating Business Technology strategies that are built for speed. We'll look at both real and perceived barriers to IT adaptability through the lenses of Strategic Planning, Organization, Innovation, and the impacts of future technologies. I hope to see you there.