It’s the customer, stupid!

by Brian Katz on February 21, 2012 · 1 comment

This is the first of a two parter talking about the Consumerization of IT (CoIT), starting with what is CoIT versus the second part, where does IT go next and do we need them

I recently had a nice twitter chat with Jeff Sussna where we were going back and forth over some of my recent blog posts and my highly opinionated tweets and we ended up in a great place. The crux of what Jeff was pulling out of many of my posts and something that he wholeheartedly believes in; “I believe treating people as customers instead of ‘users’ is the most fundamental transformation IT must make.”

Let’s break this down very simply. For the past 40 years, the IT department has seen anyone who does anything with technology in the Enterprise as a User. You will use the tools that IT provides to accomplish the tasks that you have set out for yourself and if it’s difficult so be it. Technology is this mystical thing that is way too complicated for a simple end-user like you to understand. You are the end-user, so by definition you sit at the receiving end of the tool and if you were lucky enough to get half of what you asked for you should be grateful.

If you have ever worked a help desk you know about such users who were the 20 inch problem (or 48cm for my European counterparts. You had users who had ID 10 T issues (push those terms together) and you groused about how you knew better what they needed and did they have any idea how long it took to get their device to even work on the network. In every situation, they are not treated as partners but rather the users who deserve the short end of the stick.

In this new era, which started with the price battle fought by the desktop PC manufacturers and then sped up by the not so subtle introduction of the Smart Phone and then the tablet, being the user is no longer acceptable. It is no longer the case where the technology sitting on your desk at work is better than what you have at home. You no longer have to be one of those lucky enough people at work to get email on your corporate provided blackberry. You now have laptops that are probably newer than the one sitting on your work desk (who hasn’t moved from the 3 year replacement plan to the 5 year replacement plan at work) and you have a smartphone and maybe even a tablet upon which you get your home email, watch movies, do your banking on the move and 25 other assorted things. You know how to set up your home DVR to work through your iPad and you let your kids do their schoolwork from wherever they happen to be, and don’t forget video conferencing with grandma.

This is where the new expression the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) comes in. You are no longer the end user without any idea of how technology works. You are a knowledgeable consumer who can participate in the process of setting up technology to help you be more efficient with you job and allow you to work from almost anywhere to get the job done. The enterprises that are being successful today are starting to embrace the fact that they have consumers now who can assist in handling many of their own IT issues because they have already waded through them in the home environ.

This is the vital transformation that IT must go through with in order to continue to help their enterprises be successful. If they decide to keep treating their employees as users and not as the focus of their processes, or customers, they will end up stuck in their legacy thinking that values process over partnership with their own internal customers. This is what has led to the exodus of talent from many large enterprises that don’t see the morale boosting, efficiency granting value in the Consumerization of IT.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one } February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

There’s a second part to your “If they decide to keep treating their employees as users and not as the focus of their processes, or customers” section in the last paragraph:

If they decide to keep treating their employees as users and not as the focus of their processes, or customers, the employees will use their own technical knowledge to find better, easier-to-use tools to do their jobs. IT will have little to no control over these tools, and no visibility into what data they are storing and processing. And the problems that result from this approach will be greater for IT in the long run that it would be to just start embracing consumerization now.

Colin Steele
(Disqus signed me in with the wrong Twitter account and I can’t seem to undo it)


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