Consumerization of Information Technology
Enterprise IT architectures are being both pushed and pulled by the powerful impact of consumer-focused technology and its close relative, SOHO technology (small office/home office).
"Consumerization" is making computer literacy pervasive, which both pushes and pulls the enterprise. It pushes by raising expectations, while it pulls by reducing the training cost to the enterprise required to introduce new or improved technologies. Also, a further "pull" is that the production volumes found in consumer product manufacture reduces the unit costs of many new technologies, while crushing the economics of "enterprise-specific" technologies. Although change is most apparent at the"widget" level (e.g. handhelds), consumer adoption of Internet services has increased peoples' networking awareness and literacy.
As an example, comparatively few corporations have deployed 802.11b wireless networking or, if so, have only implemented a few pilots, even though thousands of consumers not only have deployed 802.11 wireless, but may have leapfrogged past 802.11b to 802.11g.
Clearly, the consumer has driven the instant messaging (IM) and blog environments, and consumer demand has shaped almost anything to do with multi-media. With respect to the eBusiness world, consumers perform hundreds of millions of eBusiness transactions, while growing proportion are using advanced online banking.
Many consumers have a better track record of keeping pace with the technology product cycles - i.e., will buy and run updated versions of hardware and software and will invest sufficiently to have ample disk space, response time, etc. In comparison, an enterprise running old platforms and undersized network pipes is not only going to appear backward, but demonstrably will be passing up productivity improvement. At almost every IT "layer" - desktop/laptop, local network, server environment, database management, directory management - IT organizations and those who govern them tend to be slow to decide, slow to execute and slow to communicate. The fault is in the ethos rather than the individuals, because IT people as consumers typically often are early adopters.
Already, it is not uncommon for people to prefer using their home offices and their cable or DSL connections rather than their "real" offices and company networks - sometimes to the despair of enterprise security managers. Although the author does not have a specific case in mind, it is likely that there are banking middle managers who wish that their internal reporting systems were as good as the online banking they offer to home and SOHO customers.
Consumers will become increasingly dissatisfied in doing business with low-tech merchants and suppliers. In some instances (e.g., a customer service clerk on the telephone with a customer), it is almost painful to listen to the customer service agent execute dozens of keystrokes for some very modest transaction. Some of the enterprise early adopters of advanced technology (e.g., reservation systems) have stayed with old platforms too long. In the inter-enterprise world, too often eBusiness implementation suffers because success requires the forced mating of dinosaurs.
Enterprise management and enterprise IT management need to recognize this "consumerization" trend and try to make it work for rather than against the enterprise shareholders' and stakeholders' interests. Successful enterprise IT architectures and infrastructure environments will need to mimic home and SOHO environments in order to achieve agility and stay competitive. It is certainly true that enterprise and inter-enterprise architectures will need some "special sauce" to address various unavoidable enterprise complexities, but in the main they need to take on consumerized qualities.
Although the connection may not be obvious, the fundamental notions behind the "Service Oriented Architecture" - modularity, loose coupling, agile networking, and "self-describing" data through XM -- may help in this regard. However, there is also the risk that the SOA will be used to modernize today's ponderous enterprise environments rather than breaking free of their restrictions.
Some enterprise management teams remain oriented toward the past, when large corporations and institutions were the leading-edge users of advanced IT offerings, with some eventual "trickle-down" to consumers and SOHO. Today, consumers' personal IT infrastructures and services often are equal to or better than even sophisticated enterprises, and this trend likely to accelerate as technology advances. The need is for the enterprise to improve and extend in a modular fashion, often using "consumer" technology, to avoid creating an architecture that requires massive, painful teardowns and rebuilds.