There is quite a bit of confusion between CoIT (Consumerization of IT) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). While these two subjects are related, they are not the same. To make things more confusing, the two terms are often interchanged. Yet, they have very different contexts and definitions. And the impact for IT organizations is significant. Read on…
Consumerization of IT (CoIT)
The consumerization of IT refers to a fundamental change in ‘how’ people use technology. It does not specifically refer to the devices they use, but rather how they work.
As people become more familiar with technology, they tend to use it in everyday life. The reciprocal is true too. Two common examples CoIT are Mobile and Social. In the mobile space, just about everyone has a mobile device. It could be a cell phone, tablet or laptop. Over the past 10 years alone, the number of mobile devices has increased astronomically. Today, there are over 5 billion mobile phones in the world and more than 80% of the world’s population has a mobile phone. Two factors contribute to this change: 1) The cost of the device has reached a point where many more people can afford to own them. 2) Devices are much easier to use. In the past, an IT person would need to configure the device and perform training for the user. No longer is that the case. Even a 4-year-old can operate a device today. In the social space, everyone is using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Users do not need an instruction manual to reach the site or operate the service. In fact, Facebook has over 800 million users today. It would take a large army of IT professionals to train 800 million users using the traditional model.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
On the other hand, BYOD is all about the device. Everyday users are more likely to use these devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) today. The combination of price drops and ease of use contribute to the change. Due to the familiarity with these devices, users prefer to use them in their everyday work environment. The trend to use personal devices in a corporate environment started several years ago with the mobile phone. People preferred to use their own mobile phone rather than carry one for personal and one for work. With the advent of smartphones that evolved to checking email, surfing the web and the plethora of other applications available today. Tablets and laptops followed in the wake of smartphones.
Today, some corporate entities have fully embraced the concept by providing employees a stipend for their device(s) rather than issue a company-owned device. In other cases, companies pay the bill for the smartphone voice and data plans. The expectation is that the user is checking the device more frequently than they would a company issued device.
From the CIO perspective, I wrote about BYOD in: What the CIO Needs to Know About BYOD
Changes in How We Work
There is another factor that directly affects this evolutionary change. The organizations and people that belong to them are changing. There are two fundamental drivers: 1) The new workforce and 2) Changes in the technology solutions. By new workforce, I mean the employees that are entering the workplace today. Employees entering the workplace in the past couple of years are the first ones that grew up with a computer from birth to adult. Prior generations picked up computing somewhere along their upbringing or career. That single change provides a workforce that is far more comfortable with computers and electronic devices. They are much more adept at technology change and evolutionary shifts than prior generations too. This milestone is not one to underestimate.
Changes to the IT Paradigm
The general user base is not the only group that is changing. With the changes to CoIT and BYOD, the IT Paradigm needs a significant overhaul. The days of ‘command and control’ are over. The technology paradigm has reached a point where it can no longer be ‘controlled’. But it can be managed! That is where the paradigm changes. Today’s technology world is about setting boundaries, guidelines and frameworks. It is less important to create walls and fortresses. This applies to both the culture we set within the organization and the technology solutions we put in place. One example might be how to protect data rather than the device itself. If you can’t control the device, what are you going to do? You can’t just throw your hands up and give up. There are solutions.
Interestingly, this fundamental change to the way IT operates has significant ramifications beyond just CoIT and BYOD. Yes, making the shift is hard. We have spent 30 years building the methodologies and paradigms we work within today. Change is hard and takes time. But the opportunities for those that make the change are significant.
Bottom Line: CoIT and BYOD are different, but related. Both require changes to the fundamental operations of the IT organization. Those changes, while challenging, can provide significant value moving forward.