Ignore consumer technology adoption at your peril [survey]

New Accenture survey of more than 4,000 workers finds that close to half believes consumer technologies and applications are far more useful than what is provided by their IT department.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Some advice for enterprise IT types: ban that smartphone or media tablet at your peril.

The potential of consumer technologies to change workplace habits, productivity and collaboration will increase exponentially over the next five years. Already, one in four people use at least one personal consumer device or application for work reasons regularly, and about 27 percent of them even say they would pay to use their own technology devices and applications at work.

These findings are part of a new survey by Accenture, published earlier this week, and detailed in the consulting firm's report, "Consumerization of Enterprise IT." The data covers the opinions of more than 4,000 people working for organizations with more than 100 employees. The respondents represented 16 different countries and five different industry sectors, Accenture said.

The movement that the survey describes is sometimes referred to as the "bring your own device" phenomenon. Close to half the respondents (45 percent) said they were inspired to use technology designed for consumer or individual purposes on the job because they found them more useful than the tools they were "provisioned" by their company's IT organization.

Notes Accenture research fellow Jeanne Harris:

"Employees feel increasingly empowered to make their own technology decisions and say that corporate IT is just not as flexible and convenient as the personal consumer devices and software applications they use in their personal lives. Employees are surprisingly willing to pay in order to use the technologies they love at work, and, as a result, they are going to use them -- with or without their company's approval."

As far as the specific technologies that the respondents are using, they fell into these categories:

  • Applications downloaded from the Internet that have specific pertinence to their job role
  • Web-based email applications to keep up-to-date on messages even when they are not at their desks

Indeed, about 14 percent of the respondents had found a way to get into corporate applications from a Web browser. Those doing so from a mobile Web browser will doubtless explode in the five-year timeframe that Accenture considers in its survey.

The Accenture data suggests that business managers are keenly aware of the consumer technology imperative: about 88 percent of respondents at that level said they believed consumer technology could help improve employee satisfaction.

But only 27 percent of the companies surveyed by Accenture had a corporate-wide policy for evaluating and embracing consumer technologies. Most businesses today tend to deal with it on a reactive, ad hoc basis.

There are all sorts of reasons that companies might be tempted to say "no" to consumer technologies like smartphones, tablets and (get ready!) ultrabooks. For one thing, they wreak havoc on IT standardization initiatives. They create support nightmares, although most of them are much easier to use than the average enterprise technology so this is kind of a non-starter as a real argument. Arguably, integrating consumer technologies into corporate networks also presents some serious security challenges, although there has been a corresponding explosion of remote access tools designed to enable secure access from smartphones and media tablets.

But there is one really good reason to figure out how to incorporate consumer technology into your organization's enterprise IT strategy as quickly as possible: it is what your employees want to use to do their jobs, and if they can't use it at your company they will find someplace else to do so.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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