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By now you’re probably aware of terms like ‘cloud computing’ and ‘BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)’. In our guest article from O2 Wholesale, Head of Partners and Strategy Dan Cunliffe looks at another – the ‘consumerisation of IT’. What challenges does this pose for the channel?

Dan Cunliffe, Head of Partners & Strategy, O2 Wholesale

Dan Cunliffe, Head of Partners & Strategy, O2 Wholesale

In just a few short years, consumers, not corporates, have found themselves in the driving seat of IT in the workplace and they’re breaking a new balance of power. In most instances, technology innovation is driven by the demands of the corporate and industrial world, with consumers benefitting further down the line. With the ‘consumerisation of IT’, this status quo has been turned on its head, causing pain for those responsible for managing corporate IT as they look to deliver what their users want without losing control altogether.

According to Michael Fauscette of IDC, the consumerisation of IT has been driven by two shifts – innovation in the technology and the expectations of employees. As technology becomes more accessible to people for their own use, their expectations are that what they use at work should be the same or as good as what they use at home.

The consumerisation of IT can also be characterised by the speed at which it has taken place. While user interfaces have improved steadily over the last few decades, the mass consumerisation of IT can be largely attributed to the last five years or so, most notably accelerated by the smartphone revolution brought about by the launch of the first iPhone. Touchscreen phones and tablets have made technology accessible and fun to millions of users quickly. People are now more ‘technology aware’ simply because it has become more usable. The devices we own are more than just productivity tools (for many people they’re not even that). They’re critical components of a digital world that spans both work and social activity, and where the boundary between each has become increasingly blurred.

These consumer expectations have brought significant new challenges to the corporate IT manager, who must now respond to a more savvy and demanding audience. Simply saying, “just use what we give you” simply won’t work; not because it’s the lazy option (which is debatable) but because these new tools are often better for business. They’re more productive precisely because they’re easier to use, so it would be a disservice to your company to prevent their use.

IT managers can help the transition by adopting a more platform-agnostic approach to their IT purchases, giving end users greater choice in the devices they use. If they prove too expensive (because everyone starts asking for the most expensive devices around), then employees could be given the option to bring in their own IT and adopt a self-service model of support by sharing tips and configurations on the company intranet.

However, while giving end users the freedom to choose which devices they use is helpful, it could expose the organisation to a configuration and software licensing nightmare. Supporting so many platforms and applications might be unworkable in the long-run, so a company should think about a move towards a device-neutral software environment. This is where the cloud comes in. Since most cloud applications are device-neutral and require a relatively low minimum specification to run, employees can use whichever device they want without causing issues for the IT department. They also gain the additional benefits that the cloud can offer – lower cost, simpler management, quicker deployment etc.

In order to take advantage of the cloud and deliver on the consumerisation of IT, your connectivity has to be up to the task. This requires it to meet a number of criteria beyond just download bandwidth – reliability, upload bandwidth, latency and data allowance are all critical in the cloud. Reliability and consistency are the most important factors and, with more business-critical applications in the cloud, you need the reassurance that your connection will stay up and deliver consistent performance throughout the day. Being out-of-action for any amount of time can be disastrous, but slowdown during peak time can also hold you back.

Upstream bandwidth is important because cloud applications are much more interactive than simple websites. As a result they tend to upload far more data than web browsing alone. Latency is the true measurement of the speed of your connection and dictates the delay you experience between pressing a key and the results appearing on screen. Lastly, with far more data being transmitted via cloud applications and people’s adoption of social media in business, having a sufficient or even unlimited data allowance is vital.

Entanet’s View

We agree with Dan that whilst the consumerisation of IT presents its challenges to IT professionals it also presents a number of opportunities, especially when the business considers cloud computing solutions. One thing that’s very clear though is that the underlying connectivity solution is enormously important. If not reliable and fit-for-purpose, the applications and devices using it will be useless. To find out more about Entanet’s view on this see our “Don’t get dizzy in the cloud…” article.

Have your say!

What do you think about the consumerisation of IT? Is it posing challenges or opportunities for your business? Do you agree that the underlying connectivity is key to its success? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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