How to Embrace the Consumerization of IT

Unfortunately, their employees really needed to take communicating and collaborating to the next level, and one way to do that is by using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected and solve tough challenges in real time. They simply needed to use the tool differently than how the kids used it. So I encouraged them to “bring it home” and create an internal, secure version of both Twitter and Facebook.

In the case of Twitter, we changed the question from “What’s happening?” to “What problem are you trying to solve?” We also had the engineers create an internal Facebook page for themselves listing their background, expertise, and experiences. By rethinking a consumer kids’ thing, that company was able to accelerate communication, collaboration, and innovation in a measured way with social media internally and create a big win.

Change your questions

While a CIO’s job does involve a lot of protect-and-defend, staying too rigid to that mindset can hurt innovation. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to see the opportunity that exists. This is often easier said than done, but realize that in the future, the consumerization of IT will happen more often and faster because the innovation envelope will continue to be pushed out in the consumer world. Innovative companies will be on the lookout for this trend and will use it to propel their company further.

This is important, because all companies needs to continually innovate to stay competitive. While innovation has always been vital, in the past innovation happened once in a while. Today, it’s imperative to always be innovating.

We live today in a unique context, an environment we’ve never seen or experienced before. We have never had this kind of processing power and bandwidth, this kind of runaway acceleration in technological capacity, and it has completely transformed our relationship to the concept of stability. In the past, stability and change were two contrasting states: when you achieved stability, you did so despite change. Today, change itself has become an integral part of stability: today you can achieve stability only by embracing change and innovation as a continuous and permanent state.

But, while it’s important to lead and innovate, you certainly don’t want to bleed. Being on the bleeding edge costs too much money. You want to be on the leading edge. The good news is that consumers are doing a lot of the testing and are getting the “bugs” worked out of the technologies for you. What’s left for you is to look at the technology with business eyes and to ask yourself better questions, such as:

  • Are our employees already using this technology and changing how they work faster than we are?
  • Are our customers already using this technology and changing how they seek information and buy products and services faster than we are?
  • How can we make this technology secure and use it for our benefit?
  • Are there some problems that are involved that we could skip?
  • What are the hidden opportunities yet to be discovered?

Remember, at first all we had was a public cloud until some companies starting thinking of ways to secure it and make a private cloud. Then we started seeing another version that’s a public/private cloud, meaning a hybrid cloud that has both public and private areas. This is just another example of something that came from the consumer world that businesses are working to adapt for their use. So instead of looking at things and immediately asking, “How can I block it and keep employees away from it?” your mindset should first ask, “How can we use this, change it, embrace it, or make it work for us?”

Take charge of tomorrow’s technology — today

Again, it’s easier to ride the horse in the direction it’s going. Today, the horse is continuing to change direction. All CIOs have to pay attention to it, because when your own employees are thinking differently, you’re going to see a disconnect between perception and reality.

If we go back in time decades ago, we see that IT was trying to bring the rest of the organization into the future, and they were coming kicking and screaming because they wanted innovation but they didn’t really want to change. They wanted new technology, but when IT gave it to them they fought it. Now the roles have reversed because of all the security threats and cyber security.

Today, many employees believe IT is trying to keep them from using the latest technology at work: the very technology they already use at home.

So it’s a fine balancing act for today’s CIOs. You have to be responsible and have IT security, but you also have to innovate. Your customers and employees are changing and learning fast.

If you are not already designing, providing the solutions, and using the newest tools that will help people work smarter and solve the problems they are going to have next week and next year, then you are behind a curve you cannot afford to be behind.

Thus, the final question is: “Will we let ourselves see the opportunities and become motivated by foresight, or wait until we are seeing the crises happen before our eyes, and become motivated by hindsight?”

It’s time to stop protecting what was and start embracing what’s possible.

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO ofBurrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including the national bestseller “Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible” as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. Be sure to check out Volume 2 of Daniel’s “Know What’s Next Magazine,” an annual publication on strategies for transforming your business and future.