Business Brains

6 things to know about consumer IT's business role

Posting in Environment

A survey by Avanade, the IT services firm founded by Accenture and Microsoft, seeks to dispel misconceptions about the use of consumer technology in business environments.

As you might expect, every big company from the high-tech industry is super fascinated by the consumer information technology (IT) adoption phenomenon.

The latest research gauging consumer technology's impact on the business world comes this morning from Avanade, which is the business technology services firm that was founded 12 years ago by Accenture and Microsoft. The company employs roughly 15,000 IT professionals that specialize in Microsoft technology skills.

Because this company obviously cares about how it will need to manage and accommodate technologies inspired by the consumer world -- most notably mobile devices including smartphones and media tablets -- it decided to conduct a global survey (it hired Wakefield Research) about what it might expect.

That research gauged the opinions of approximately 600 executives who were just technology types; they included CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and CTOs along the business unit managers or leaders. These individuals were interviewed about the "bring your own device" movement during late October and early November. The survey set mainly represented smaller companies, but Avanade didn't provide the exactly number of employees.

Here is what the survey respondents think.

  1. Resistance is futile. Almost three-quarters of the executives surveyed said that figuring out how to embrace and support consumer IT was a top priority. In fact, 88 percent of them said that employees are already using consumer devices for business purposes, and 60 percent said they were seeking to support those devices rather than restrict them. The survey respondents saw consumer IT devices as positively affecting internal collaboration, customer service, employees access to information, employee productivity and employee satisfaction. "Progressive CIOs and IT organizations have moved from gatekeepers of consumer technology to enablers of these innovative devices, applications and services to meet employee needs and demands," said Tyson Hartman, global chief technology officer for Avanade.
  2. Integrating consumer IT isn't as difficult as is often reported. While there is a disparity between what business executives and IT decision-makers say, both sets agree that IT organizations have the resources to support incoming consumer technologies. More business executives believed this than the IT crowd. Approximately 75 percent of the latter said they they have the staff to accommodate, while 62 percent said it should be relatively simple to integrate consumer technology with enterprise IT solutions.
  3. This is a cross-generation phenomenon. Although many stories seem to tie the consumer IT movement to the need to accommodate younger workers, flexibility for the entire workforce is really the key. Only one-third of the survey respondents were embracing consumer IT to attract or recruit younger workers. Close to 60 percent said the most important employee culture impact was the fact that people could work from anywhere.
  4. It's isn't just about e-mail. A higher number of enterprise applications now have front ends for mobile client devices. E-mail is still the most common application, of course, but 45 percent of the respondents said they use personal devices for customer relationship management (CRM). Others use them for expense tracking (44 percent) and enterprise resource planning (38 percent).
  5. Android smartphones are the most popular devices. Among the Avanade survey respondents, the single most popular type of device was Android smartphones. BlackBerry devices and Apple notebooks also scored high. If all devices are considered together, Apple turns out to be the dominant vendor. (Avanade doesn't say anything about media tablets, which would also tend to skew the Apple results higher.)
  6. Built-in security doesn't cut it. Even though most of the devices being brought into enterprise workplaces by by individuals have some security measures built-in, they are not adequate for the business world, according to the Avanade respondents. Slightly more than half of the companies reported a security breach related to a personal device brought into the organization. Approximately 81 percent of the respondents in an IT role said that IT infrastructure needs improvement before these security concerns can be thoroughly addressed. Ironically, only 38 percent of the companies are investing in training to make employees more aware of the risks associated with the "consumerization" of IT.

Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure