You only have to look around a modern work environment today, or sit on a busy commuter train to see that we are witnessing a rapid shift in the way employees are using personal technology in the workplace. Smartphones, tablets and laptops, as well as social networks and online services that employees typically use outside the workplace are increasingly finding their way into the business environment, whether businesses like it or not. 

This so-called ‘consumerisation of IT’ poses lots of questions for business leaders as they are forced to rethink the roles and responsibilities of IT within their companies, and grapple with what can seem like quite a daunting and risky trend to handle.

Recently, a study of over 600 senior executives across the globe to research trends surrounding the use of personal computing technologies in the enterprise. Interestingly, what we found ran contrary to a large number of the prevailing myths circulating in the business community. From executive-level resolve and available resources, to preferred brands and the driving force behind the trend, the results told a very different story to the one painted by the industry and by the media in particular.

Perhaps the most important and striking finding for us concerned the global perception that companies and IT leaders are hesitant to embrace the consumerisation of IT. This, according to some media reports, comes from a fear of somehow losing control of the organisation’s IT or opening the company to increased security risks. The results instead suggest that companies are in fact embracing the change and it is high level executives who are leading the way.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the executives surveyed reported that the growing use of employee-owned technology is a top priority in their business. From large enterprises to small companies across industries, the research found sweeping adoption rates of personal computing technology in the workplace – a huge 88% of executives globally state that employees are using their personal computing technologies for business purposes today.

In support of this wide spread adoption, 60% of companies said they are now adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employee’s personal devices, rather that restricting employee use. Despite perceptions that companies are struggling to align resources with the new challenges and demands created by the consumerisation of IT, the report indicates that companies do in fact have many of the resources they need.

When it comes to IT infrastructure and support, 91% of C-level executives and 75% of IT decision makers said their IT department today has the staff and resources needed to manage the use of consumer technologies. Companies also seem to be making significant monetary investments, either allocating on average 25% of their overall IT budgets to manage some aspect of the consumerisation of IT already or planning to make new investments to support personal computing technologies in the workplace within the next 12 months.

Other key findings included the fact that consumerisation of IT is not a strong recruitment or retention tool among younger employees, but is instead viewed as a way in which to change the working habits and increase the productivity of the current workforce.

The overall impression left by the survey was that as the consumersation of IT becomes more widespread, business leaders are rethinking some of their long-held beliefs associated with the trend. These include the return on their technology investments, security needs and the impact of these decisions on improving productivity, recruiting and retaining employees and reducing operating costs.

It is my point of view that progressive CIOs and IT organisations have already moved from being gatekeepers of consumer technology to becoming enablers of these innovative devices, applications and services. The lesson for enterprises is that they have an opportunity to transform the role of IT from a reactive, risk-mitigation function into a strategic enabler that leverages the breadth of today’s powerful consumer technologies to drive business productivity.

Leaders who want consumerisation of IT to succeed in their business must first evaluate how consumer technologies are impacting their company today and then build a roadmap that enables the organisation to capitalise on the benefits this fast growing trend can bring to the workplace.