Since Gartner first identified a change in the way that technology enters the market, the consumerization of IT — the blending of personal and business computing — has profoundly impacted the way in which technology is viewed and used by consumers and by the companies that employee them.
After IT budgets dwindled in the wake of the dot-com bust, vendors moved their sights to consumers, a potentially larger and more lucrative audience. Today, it’s much more likely that consumers, powered by Millennials, now the largest generation in the workforce, will adopt new technology before an enterprise does. Whether it’s a CEO of a large enterprise or a family, people have learned to expect what they want, when they want it, how they want to buy it.
Companies have been forced to adapt. With either BYOD (bring your own device) or CYOD (choose your own device) policies, IT organizations have worked to feed employees’ desire for advanced, feature-rich devices that provide exceptional connectivity, performance and reliability with the mandate to ensure business-critical robustness, security and manageability.
So how can the channel not only keep up with but help direct this trend to enable enterprise customers to stay ahead of the curve and to guide consumer purchasing decisions? It’s not easy. The pace of innovation is so rapid that there is no ‘there’. Instead, it’s a constantly rising and shifting bar. Resellers and commercial providers alike need to adapt to effectively engage their constituents in context of the evolving consumerization of IT. The key is to intimately understand each audience’s drivers and help to cross-educate them about each other in order to sell at the intersection of consumer craving and business necessity.
Resellers are on the front lines with consumers, including digital natives like Millennials, who value experiences and view technology as a distinctive extension of who they are. Understanding what consumers want, how they use technology, and how they want to purchase it are critical. But equally important is to help inform them about what employers will require, so that what they buy will serve them well, both professionally and personally. Consumers will still want technology that looks good, is powerful enough to handle business apps, and becomes personalized; but they also need to consider reliability and security. The mobility trend means that devices and ecosystems must provide secure, seamless access to content from the home office to the subway to the coffee shop to the office to the soccer field. No hiccups, no excuses.
The purchasing experience is just as important. Accenture found that 68 percent of all millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the channel. As they move from smartphone to personal computer to physical store — and through social media — the experience needs to be effortless and consistent. In-store shopping is still important because it helps validate purchasing decisions. Millennials also prefer personalized, targeted promotions and discounts in return for their loyalty.
Commercial providers need to understand what’s important to the consumers that are also customer’s employees. Employees, especially those younger demographics, expect their employers to provide the latest technology or to support what they already own. PwC reports that 59 percent of millennials surveyed said that an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job. Devices need to look good and must be user-friendly from anywhere, with seamless, consistent user experience whether working or playing. Because product choice reinforces Millennials’ identity, technology brands that resonate with the values and aspirations of consumer’s matter, too. So, companies will want to offer products that meet the desires of consumers— sleek, flexible, powerful, easy-to-use, and value-aligned—while also meeting the companies’ criteria for security, performance, and keeping business and personal data separate.
To further a seamless experience, some companies are starting to replace BYOD with CYOD, where employees select from a list of approved devices, opening the door for a new segment of enterprise-class ‘3-in-1’ mobile devices that allow users to start a task on-the-go and finish at their desk without saving, synching, or restarting.
Security continues to be a principal concern in designing BYOD/CYOD policies; companies need greater stringency around compliance measures for devices, including printers, as more and more employees expect tasks to follow them as they work in public spaces and over unencrypted networks. At the same time, security systems to be discrete and unobtrusive to avoid alienating users. Of course, cloud computing helps to mitigate some risk by hosting sensitive data on the cloud instead of on devices.
As with any significant change, challenges and opportunities abound in the consumerization of IT. Often, they are one and the same; the difference lies in your perspective, attitude and approach. As we continue to advance into an experience-driven, users-decide world, resellers and commercial providers can capitalize on this trend to help educate consumers and employers about what’s important to each other.