Consumerisation – It’s one of those trending words which seems to be everywhere right now and has been the topic of many a managerial conversation, but what is Consumerisation and how can we in IT adopt a strategy which ensures we are prepared and prosper from this trend?

Just last week we saw the announcement that IBM will allow its 200,000 staff to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to work and connect to their internal systems. “The employees will pay for their own devices and monthly service plans, but they will receive IBM’s guidance and technical support. Users will also be required to load IBM’s agent software on their gear for secure access to IBM’s systems, email and other functions”.

This announcement epitomises the Consumerisation trend whereby consumer orientated devices are brought into the enterprise and are then used for work purposes, in many ways Apple and their devices are seen as the poster child for Consumerisation. Forrester recently discovered two prevailing trends within IT;

  • more workers than ever are bringing consumer-focused devices, to use for work, and more companies are supporting those devices
  • IT shops are not realising that even if they require that employees use one device at work, those same workers often bring in a second phone of their own to do other kinds of work-related tasks with applications that are not supported on the company-required phone

What this really says to me is that BYOD is here, and is here to stay so we better make the most of it. I have put together my 4 top tips for coping with Consumerisation.

  1.  Set out a clear and defined policy when it comes to devices

Be clear BYOD brings with it increased security risks, a clearly defined policy is a must. You must, from the very outset, set out minimum security standards Louise Taylor from Taylor Wessling recently commented on the risks and challenges in Computing magazine noting that “any policy also needs to cover maintenance and support, and stipulate, for example, whether the user is responsible for upgrades”.

It is also key to have a policy for what will happen if a user loses a device, the enterprise may be quick to wipe the device but what happens to the user’s personal data? Without a clearly defined policy enterprise could find themselves embroiled in a whole new world of lawsuits

  1.  The expectations of employees are changing

The Consumerisation trend has meant that those within the enterprise expect more and more from their mobile every day. The proliferation of “apps” has meant that the workforce and management have now begin to demand that they can do almost anything from their mobile device, getting the laptop out is now seen to be cumbersome and time consuming. Enterprise must keep up with the functionality of the consumer applications as failing to do so could result in business matters and decisions taking place in the public domain (Facebook, Twitter etc) rather than safely under Enterprise control.

To prevent this the enterprise must begin to develop their own bespoke mobile applications which allow users to access only the data they need where and when they need it on their mobiles. This is where the re-engineering of business processes through mobile mash up comes in, these enterprise apps must be able to draw data from and write data to any enterprise applications used whether in house, on cloud or desktop.

  1.  One size does not fit all

BYOD may seem like a cost saving exercise but one must realise that the number of devices used within the employee base may be vast, ranging from Apple to Nokia, and in turn users will have different devices and Operating system levels within the range. Supporting all these varying devices and OS levels for traditional enterprise mobile apps can be a costly exercise and at best a logistical nightmare.

This is where the new breed of mobile application platform’s come into play, this allows the enterprise to develop their solution once and then present to any device, to me I would suggest that this is the only way to make BYOD feasible.

  1.  Embrace mobile

Consumerisation and BYOD can seem like a daunting prospect for many but I would argue if you are clear on your goals and choose an application platform which allows you to make business decisions irrespective of mobile hardware or software BYOD and Consumerisation, in the same way as mobility in general, can present significant competitive advantage and should be something that’s embraced rather than feared.

Obviously Consumerisation is a huge topic right now, here I have only really touched on the tip of a very large iceberg. There are numerous other areas to consider not least, how we can design enterprise apps to ensure the user experience matches their experience with the apps they use every day, how we can re-engineer the steps in a business process for use via a mobile application to maximise efficiency, and how we can communicate data and knowledge between existing enterprise applications to then present a mash up to bespoke mobile application.

Having scratched the surface here I will continue to cover Consumerisation over a series of follow up blogs so watch this space!