The consumerization of IT: top-down, or bottom-up?

The consumerization of IT: top-down, or bottom-up?

Summary: The consumerization of IT: is it driven by a few Apple-loving top executives, or many workers below? A new report suggests that it's the former. We're not so sure.

TOPICS: CXO, Apple, Browser

The New York Times' Bits blog published an interesting post this morning about how Apple products are prevalent among the most affluent employees in the workplace. According to a recent Forrester survey, 43 percent of people who make more than $150,000 per year use Apple devices for work.

Nick Wingfield writes:

41 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as “directors” at their companies said they used an Apple product for work. For self-identified “managers” and “workers,” the figures were 27 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

But that wasn't what was shocking to me; after all, some of Apple's products are sold at a premium and the company still benefits from the perception that its products are somehow more elevated, more elite and more chic than their PC counterparts.

What was more interesting was the section toward the end, which suggested that Apple is benefitting from the consumerization of IT. That's true for the entire industry -- you know how we like our BYOD posts on ZDNet -- but Wingfield suggests that it's those affluent executives driving the change, rather than the masses below.

He writes:

It could also be that they have more leverage to persuade their information technology departments to support Apple products. Mr. Gillett says he believes the portion of people in lower-earning categories using Apple products will only increase over time.

“Someone influential walks into I.T. and says, ‘Hey, you gotta make e-mail work on my iPad,’ ” he said. “At some point, it gets very hard for I.T. to say, ‘No, you can’t have it.’ “

This struck me as odd. If consumerization of IT is about the greater population using technology more readily in their daily lives (then bringing it back to the office), wouldn't it be just as likely that it's the "managers" and "workers" driving that change as it is the "directors"?

Is it really fair to conclude that just because senior-level executives are more likely to use Apple products at work, they are therefore disproportionately driving the change?

What about the designers, sales reps and other employees? As a group aren't they just as likely to affect change?

I'd love to hear what's happening at your company. Where are the Apple products coming from: high, low or from all sides? And more importantly, is consumerization of IT at your company driven by a handful of top executives -- or by the many, many employees who no longer see fit to draw a line between home and work?

See also:

Topics: CXO, Apple, Browser

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Vocal minority

    Here (Fortune 100) it's a vocal minority (which happen to be Apple users). Out of 25k employees we have around 100 employees in the BYOD program.

    The majority of employees (non executive) really don't care about BYOD as to them it's an invasion of their privacy and they see there is additional cost and little incentive (outside of using their device of choice).

    BYOD success of failure will vary based on company, the culture and policies around the BYOD program.
  • RE: The consumerization of IT: top-down, or bottom-up?

    Thoreau said "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.". Most rank-and-file employees learned to endure "enterprise" (synonymous with "shoddy") tools, directors have less of a tolerance to pain, and the political power to impose change on entrenched IT bureaucracies.<br><br>In many cases, resistance to BYOD is caused by fear of the unknown or additional work, but I have seen Windows admins at a Fortune 1000 block iPhones over corporate Blackberries and make no bones that this was driven by concerns over job security. It's the same dynamic from a generation ago when the mainframe priesthood refused to allow PCs in, then attempted to coopt them once they went from Apple IIs to more acceptable IBM PCs.<br><br>I may or may not not be a representative data point. I am the CTO of a 17-employee startup, my second startup in fact. In my previous one, we were essentially a Windows shop, but developers could use Solaris or Linux on their x86 workstations if they wished.<br>My new company is Mac-only, I made sure of it, along with my CEO (who only got a Mac for his wife a couple of years ago, switched himself and now can't imagine ever going back to Windows).<br><br> We provide the Macs, but staffers are welcome to BYOD, usually iPads or iPhones. Our email is handled by Google Apps, CRM by Salesforce, we use various cloud app providers like MailChimp for various functions. All that is needed is a browser. We issue everyone a copy of Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, because the loss of productivity from OpenOffice's bugs outweighed the costs savings, but we go for individual retail boxed copies, not a volume license that would require administrative overhead to manage.<br><br>Oh, did I mention that we don't have an IT department?
  • Percieved Perception

    I think the whole consumerization of IT space consists of a lot of perceived perception in that the population of users who utilize equipment such as Apple don't really reflect the true workforce. What I mean by this is that while the CEO of Walmart may indeed use a MacBook Pro, the thousands of other workers who simply clock in at 9AM and clock out at 5 all use the same IBM equipment that they have always used.

    Another thing you have to ask is what do the users with the consumer-type devices actually do with them? Email; create documents and spreadsheets and probably not much more hence they can get away with using such devices. What you will find is that employees that require functionality from the equipment they use will still use equipment, which is suited to their role. A perfect example of this would be (highly paid) traders who require 6 monitors, a decade old terminal application and PC - phone links - you can bet that these people still use a Windows based PC.

    Does that mean consumerization of IT is a fad or phase? Not at all but you can't put the entire IT industry into a bucket. Sure, iPads will be used by force in some organizations but only in pockets in others and the real challenge that IT has is not how to switch its entire workforce to new and fancy devices, but how to manage an environment where new technology and old technology can co-exist in harmony.

    Jon Wallace
    Director, Emerging Technology & Strategy
  • RE: The consumerization of IT: top-down, or bottom-up?

    The Consumerization of IT and BYOD trend is only set to have a greater impact in 2012 . Like you have pointed out, this requires major changes in the way the IT department has typically viewed things. Starting from more access, increased security and better understanding of user needs ??? the task for the next few years is clearly set. Again, all these more and more point to aligning of IT with business objectives.
    Wipro Council for Industry Research