Living on the Web gains enterprise momentum

I’ve been involved for several years with CSC’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF) on a theme which we initially called “Consumerisation of IT” and, more recently, “Living on the Web”. LEF’s been in the vanguard of this movement. Researcher Doug Neal identified the trend before most other commentators, and LEF has been actively supporting it through research, study tours, an ongoing working group, and a great deal of active sharing of knowledge and experience. Where most insight services are still identifying the trend, LEF has already multiple reports out and a workbook in active development.

What’s new is that the major analysts are now working on the trend, and mainstream press people have picked it up too. Gartner, after much scepticism about its value, now claim to have invented the term. Forrester’s Matt Brown and colleagues have just published a new report: Forrester’s term is “Technology Populism”. In the UK, The Guardian recently published a piece quoting a user in BP’s flagship programme: “Feels like I just got out of IT prison!”. In the US, members of the group have had various interactions with the media. The idea is out there!

BP’s experiment, embedded now and widely talked about, was to educate users in the bits that home IT doesn’t teach (like intellectual property protection, and other enterprise risks). All connectivity – even in the office – is via raw internet and VPN. Really sensitive information is totally fenced off from the Internet. Then BP provides participants with a budget to self-provision.

What may not be so well known is the number of other large enterprises which are adopting their own consumerisation formulas to increase the acceptability and adaptability of enterprise IT. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, these approaches have one thing in common. The auditors agree that it reduces enterprise risk. Abolishing largely discredited perimeter security saves costs, but it also focusses attention on protecting data effectively at source. And provisioning of access can be more granular too.

We’ve seen two key components to the consumerisation trend. First, enterprise business people are using a range of consumer-oriented and web-based services from Salesforce.com to LinkedIn to Gmail to Skype to SecondLife, to get their jobs done. If their access is blocked at work, they’ll use their home kit. And that links to the second trend: users have high capability kit at home, and bring those expectations to the workplace with questions like “Why can’t I have desktop video?”. It’s no longer a case of home IT catching up with enterprise provision. The two have diverged, but home kit has higher capability in the overlap. And, remember: personal computing started in the home, with the Sinclair and BBC machines, not in the office. Full circle. People forget that.

Forrester have contributory research going back a number of years. A key part of it is analysis of changes in attitudes as today’s “technology natives” enter the workforce. It’s not just younger people. Have a look now many of your colleagues are using web based services. Take LinkedIn, for example. You may have excellent support for interpersonal networking within your enterprise boundary, but a colleague put it succinctly when he commented that he learns more from contacts outside his own organisation than inside. Hence LinkedIn or, perhaps, Facebook though Facebook seems to be losing its cool these days.

But the point of this post isn’t to (re-)rehearse the components, benefits and balances of consumerised approaches to enterprise IT. Just to point out that the idea is going mainstream, as the world at large catches up on what LEF has been saying for the best part of four years!

Links:
Embrace The Risks And Rewards Of Technology Populism (Forrester Research, 22 Feb 2008)
A Workbook for Putting Consumerization to Work (current LEF project, and links to previous work)
Why a worker says ‘it feels like I just got out of IT prison’ (The Guardian, 6 Mar 2008)
• This Google search returns press coverage of the BP initiative
To Deal With Consumerization, CIOs Should Ask ‘Why?’ Not Just Say ‘No’ (Gartner, 10 Mar 2008

External references are provided in good faith, but InformationSpan does not take responsibility for the content of linked third party sites. Insight service content generally requires a subscription. Most news services archive material after a short while; use the site’s search engine if a link doesn’t work.

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