Following his explanation of why commoditization in the consumer sector would wag the enterprise IT strategy dog, Gartner research chief and distinguished analyst Steve Prentice talked a bit about how software componentization and ease of user control over those software components might have a similar effect on IT strategy. When taken in the context of commoditized delivery vehicles (connectivity and devices), he called the trend consumerization. But overall, 'The consumer devices owned by our employees will become part of our extended IT infrastructure.' at least to me, it was about how the hardware commoditization he spoke of earlier in the keynote presentation will affect software too. With content sort of leading the way in terms of what it is that consumers are after and how it is they are increasingly using easily manipulated componentized software to arrive at a personalized user experience, the conclusion seems to be relatively the same as it was with the hardware: end-users have increasing amount of control over the user experience and IT had better learn to embrace that kind of a culture rather than resist it. Said Prentice:
The consumerization of IT is about the culmination of three things: Pipes, platform, and content.....Pipes is about the growing broadband penetration into our homes and increasingly ubiquitous wireless coverage. It's about easy availability of affordable broadband connectivity whether it's wired or wireless.
This point didn't resonate with me because where I live, I only have two choices for broadband connectivity at home and the price of both seems to be going up instead of down the way it should be. Ahh, such is life when right of way access to the curb outside of my house is only given to the privileged few and they can subconsciously collude (the way gas caddy-corner gas stations do) to keep prices high. Not only that, regarding the wireless connectivity, most places I go including Logan Airport in Massachusetts charge for airtime. I often hear about people that can move seamlessly about their local area always finding free connectivity. Not me. Maybe I should move.
Furthermore, if you're paying one price for connectivity (wired or wireless), we may soon be immersed in a Net Non-Neutral world where it doesn't matter how great the broadband connection is... if the ISP decides to restrict the services we have access to, they can just arbitrarily do that. The net net from where I sit is that these so called commoditizing forces are not having an impact on broadband connectivity. In fact, quite the opposite. The price is going up and the services appear as though they are becoming increasingly restricted (particularly when you may be using whatever on-ramp you're on to use services that compete with those provided by your ISP at a higher rate). Nevertheless, Prentice continued:
Platforms is about the increasing range of low cost easy to use consumer style devices that we hang off the end of those pipes. Not only our PCs. But also that huge variety of fixed and mobile portable media devices from digital video consoles, game consoles, smartphones, and even our iPods. The PC has become this nucleus for IT revolution in the home. With multiple devices populating an ecosystem of peripherals and even smart domestic appliances.
This largely seems like an extension of the earlier discussion of commoditization. In the interests of personalizing content and making delivery more efficient, consumers are already assembling hardware and software components into solutions that outstrip enterprise solutions in terms of efficiency, economics, and power.
Last [of the three: pipes, platforms, and content] but by no means least, we have content. Originally, this is just information like search results. But increasingly, we're seeing a much richer range of information, of vocation-based services, entertainment, downloadable multimedia news, personalizable content and an increasing range of services: services like word processing or storage and distribution sites for our digital photographs..... You have to be very careful. Although many individual technology components have already become commodities, or at least are heading in that direction, ... what you do with it, how you build, manage and operate it in an enterprise environment is definitely not a commodity. The consumer devices owned by our employees from the smartphones through to our laptops will become part of our extended IT infrastructure. And that is something that we will need to come to terms with.
So, the message here seems to be that that your mileage could vary depending on your approach and that just because the technology is commoditized doesn't mean it's just going to snap together in a way that best suits your enterprise without some planning. Much the same way different results are achieved from one consumer to the next based on implementation and skillsets, the same is true with enterprises. Of course, the stakes are a little bit higher. At the same time, the message should not be lost on enterprise IT architects that amongst employees who are used to manipulating, participating and even contributing to other techno-centric ecosystems, the expectation is that the same capabilities will be available at work. This is particularly so as the next generation of employees (our kids) who are really used to manipulating their environments as though it's child's play enters the workforce. If they feel confined in any way about the freedom to participate, collaborate, and manipulate (content that is), they will not work for you. And they will take those very important skills -- critical skills that will be the foundation of agility for future enterprises -- somewhere else.