All businesses with more than a handful of workers define work cultures and policies that make clear the primary responsibilities of their workers. Otherwise, workers pursuing their own interests risk bumping into each other, causing duplication, disorder, conflict and chaos. Even organizations that have clearly defined cultures and policies can find that their orderly work environments disrupted when unexpected forces challenge the status quo.
With the rapidly evolving nature of both technology and business, it should not be a surprise when individuals adopt consumer products and services that enable them to get work done better and faster, without waiting for formal approval, support, or funding from their organizations. One example of this is the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend that has led to nearly 95 million personal smartphones and tablets being used for business purposes globally in 2011. Another example is the widespread use of consumer instant and text messaging, file backup, blogs, micro blogs (e.g. Twitter), video sharing (e.g. YouTube), and social networking (e.g. Facebook) for work purposes. These services delivered from public clouds including telecommunications networks make it easy for workers to communicate and collaborate with fellow employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, partners and the press.
While some enterprises insist on trying to stop the use of consumer devices and services in the name of security and other corporate policies, most enterprises recognize immediately or over time the value of letting workers figure out for themselves what tools are most helpful to do their jobs. In the absence of are serious data security breaches, these enterprises have reaped the benefits of more productive and satisfied workforces.
During the past several years, individual workers have been given a lot of leeway in exploring the use of consumer devices and services. Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as Android and other consumer devices, often running free uncertified apps, have spread like wildfire, accessing email and internal websites over corporate networks despite minimal support for security. Picture a pendulum representing corporate vs. consumer interests that has swung far over to the side of the consumer.
There is no going or swinging back to the pre-consumerization era. That would be not only very difficult due to current employee practices and expectations but contrary to the businesses interests of the enterprise. At the same time, there is both the ability and the need to swing the pendulum back toward corporate.
IT staff whose applications, infrastructure and policies represent the security, compliance and legal interest of the enterprise must reassert themselves by buying or building solutions and designing policies to support and manage the use of consumer products and services while minimizing the risk to the enterprise. Inevitably, workers either with or without intention will misuse or leak information or will leave their jobs. Standing idly by without putting systems in place to protect the enterprise against the risks of such inevitabilities would be a dereliction of their duties.
This change in direction back toward corporate interests is expected in 2012 for two reasons. First, CIOs, CFOs and CEOs are recognizing that the cloud and social, local and mobile (“SoLoMo”) are important to business success because they offer the potential of reducing costs and increasing the engagement and loyalty of employees, customers, and other partners in the extended enterprise. Second, the marketplace offers a growing number of enterprise-ready hardware devices, software and services that can add security, management, and access to corporate information and systems when using consumer products and services or business offerings. Of course it will take time for these offerings to be evaluated, deployed, tested, fixed, improved and extended to address customer requirements. The year 2012 will mark the beginning of a multi-year process for finding a new equilibrium that reflects a healthier balance of corporate and consumer interests in the extended enterprise.