The Consumerization of IT – Understanding a Global Phenomenon

Gartner predicted in 2005 that the consumerization of IT is going to be the biggest trend of the coming decade. Seeing as we don’t carry around Blackberrys for work anymore, it’s evident that the prediction has come true.

With employees preferring to use personal devices, and organizations worried about security, let’s unpack the various aspects of consumerization of IT by asking some critical questions:

What is the consumerization of IT?

What are the reasons for the consumerization of IT?

What are the challenges with the consumerization of IT?

What are the benefits of the consumerization of IT?

How can organizations address the consumerization of IT?

(Short answer: Start using consumer-centric business software)

Let’s begin…

What is the consumerization of IT?

Consumerization of IT is the cycle of users adopting consumer technology in their personal lives, which then extends into usage for work, and organizations finally adopting these technologies.

This can be seen clearly in consumer technology makers forking their products and services into business-centric variants. Here are some examples:

GmailG Suite
SkypeSkype for Business
WhatsAppWhatsApp Business
DropboxDropbox Business
Microsoft Office 365Microsoft Office 365 Business
Microsoft Surface LaptopMicrosoft Surface Studio

Obviously, consumerization of IT is a global, pervasive phenomenon, and businesses have taken note of it. Let’s understand why it’s taking place:

What are the reasons for the consumerization of IT?

Consumerization of IT is not a new phenomenon, although, in recent years, it has gained critical mass and can’t be ignored anymore. Let’s understand the reasons for it:

  • BYOD trend: The “Bring-Your-Own-Device” trend exploded over the past decade. With the development of high-performance consumer technology, an evolving workforce prefers to use their own devices for work. These devices are often at par (or even better) than work devices, customized with apps of the individual’s preferences, are easy to use and gets the job done. This makes the choice to use personal devices for work, an easy one for users.


  • Slow innovation in business technology: Let’s be honest. Innovation in business technology is sluggish — at best. The decade-old enterprise project management tool will only see a tweak here and an update there, never revamping user experience. On the other hand, consumer technology is always innovating, with a lazer focus on customer experience. Trello offers a new, intuitive experience, simple functionalities, without requiring you to memorize a textbook. And you can sign up with just an email address.


  • Convenience over convention: Users enjoy a seamless experience across devices with cloud platforms like Gmail, Netflix and Facebook. You can start writing a document on a desktop, walk out of your house, and continue working on the same document using your phone, even share it and collaborate with your friends. Conventional business solutions don’t have this flexibility and push users towards using their personal, cloud-based accounts for work.


  • Bureaucratic processes: IT departments are notorious for having bureaucratic processes. A user requesting for an app has to go through multiple levels of requisition forms and approvals before their request is processed. A corporate credit-card empowered manager will side-step IT and buy the app online.

These reasons, of course, compel us to ask…

What are the challenges with the consumerization of IT?

I’m fairly certain when I say this, that, IT departments don’t want employees using unapproved technology for their work. Consumerization of IT flies in the face of this idea and brings its own set of challenges:

  • Untimely support: Given an instance that a person is using their personal device with their choice of software to produce a body of work. They won’t be able to get timely support from IT because IT will have to first learn about the technology, the potential pitfalls and the resolutions before offering support for it. This is part of a larger problem called Shadow IT and may cause disruption in operations.


  • Security Risk: With the consumerization of IT, the practice of BYOD is ubiquitous. This poses security challenges for organizations in the form of: 
    • Network security: Employees connecting personal devices to enterprise networks may be potential vehicles for malware.
    • User data: Employees working with user data on personal devices and accounts may violate data regulation policies.


  • Discontinuous, incompatible tech: We have all been there. “This won’t work on my Windows PC” or “I can’t do that on my iPhone”. This issue will inevitably present itself with users using their preference of devices and software, and make collaboration difficult…unless they are using cloud-based software (I’ll come back to this).

After looking at these challenges, naturally, you would wonder…


What are the benefits of the consumerization of IT?

No trend gains this much popularity unless it has pronounced benefits that are noticed by organization leaders. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Reduced costs: Arguably the most important benefit is reduced costs. With users using their own hardware and their own software, organizations save on hardware and software provisioning costs. An added benefit is that of reduced training costs since users already know their way around the technology.


  • Increased productivity: Employee productivity is an important metric for any organization. With employees using technology that is familiar to them, they are obviously going to be more productive, and satisfied. Organizations gain business agility with the operational overhead of retraining taken away.


  • Always-connected workforce: Using consumer applications, like Gmail, for their work, employees are always connected with each other. If an employee vacationing in Sandals, Jamaica is needed for an urgent project meeting she can be present in the meeting room with Skype and a screen. This is also a huge benefit for organizations with a remote presence that needs to collaborate with a central hub.

As we can see, the benefits from the consumerization of IT are significant, compared to the challenges. But this doesn’t mean organizations should throw out their current systems and replace them with consumer technology right away. We should first ask…

How should organizations address the consumerization of IT?

In short, by embracing it. But if we give it more than a second’s thought, organizations can leverage the consumerization of IT to their advantage, if dealt with strategically. They can do so by:

  • Investing in consumer-centric business software: Business software doesn’t need to be ugly, clunky and restrictive. Consumer-centric business software power successful businesses across the globe. Other businesses should take note and seriously consider adopting it. Hallmarks of consumer-centric business software are:
    • Security 
    • Scalability
    • Mobility
    • Ease-of-use
    • Democratic design


  • Reducing bureaucratic processes: IT departments should reduce their processes by: 


  • Getting consensus before adopting new technology: Survey the end-users of the technology the organization is planning to adopt, ask them what they would like to use. Reach an org-wide consensus before rolling out the new technology. Remember, consumer technology like WordPress and iPad are powerful business tools if utilized correctly. 


  • Educating employees on security risks: Educate employees on the security risks associated with using personal devices. This information can be rolled out in the form of mandatory seminars, courses, tests or any combination of these. Educating employees about security risks associated with using personal devices is better than banning personal devices altogether.


  • Adopting an open-door policy: The IT org can adopt an open-door policy on the usage of personal devices. Any personal laptop can then be brought to IT, get partitioned, and be used on the company VPN. This will minimize the security risks associated with using personal devices on the company network while giving users a virtually new laptop to work with.



After analyzing the various aspects of the consumerization of IT, we can see that the benefits far outweigh the risks. For organizations, it is an opportunity in disguise, to save costs and future-proof their IT org. For users, it presents the freedom to work with their choice of tools. 

It is evident that the consumerization of IT is the way of the future. Organizations will greatly benefit from adapting to it. Why not get started right now? Try our consumer-centric business software.

Do you agree with my take on the consumerization of IT? Let me know at

Blog Cover Design by Prasanna