Opinion: Harnessing consumer tech

... for enterprise gain
Written by Luke Mellors, Contributor

... for enterprise gain

Don't allow your organisation to lose out. Employees outside the IT department with their iPods, PSPs and 3G phones could do as much for productivity advances as traditional IT suppliers, says the Dorchester Hotel's Luke Mellors.

Been feeling the shift in the technology paradigm? The whispers of change are not only upon us but the dawn of a new breed of technologists, technologies and most importantly venture capitalists is here.

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) each year in Las Vegas is one of the biggest exhibitions in the world. It sells out Las Vegas, attracting more than 250,000 people. It used to be all about electronics but the name is now as obsolete as many of the 1990s electronics we once had in our homes.

It should be called the Consumer Technology Show as the focus is now solely on technology and with Apple, Google, Intel and Microsoft all spinning major announcements around the event you can see how important it has become to them and other major tech companies.

The innovation and development of business-driven technology seems to be slowing. Fewer and fewer truly new and innovative approaches seem to be available and businesses seem to be anchored by their technology platforms instead of liberated by them. This results in slow take-up of newer technologies, if at all, which slows the innovation and development cycle as companies need to sell their developments in order to innovate further.

Consumer technology, on the other hand, has seen a growth unrivalled in the history of retail. Fashionable trends on high streets are now almost exclusively technology-driven with mobile phones and iPods and other portable devices racking up consumer sales that almost defy logic, if we consider how quickly these areas are evolving.

This trend means businesses, both young and old, that deal with technology developments will increasingly look towards the consumer sector and not to the business sector to develop their software application and hardware devices. This shift should be deeply concerning for enterprise users as products will less often be focused towards their needs.

What will the future of business technology in a consumer-obsessed society look like? Will development grind to a halt? Will legacy become the status quo? Will new technology adoption become so costly that businesses will no longer be able to innovate? Businesses will still operate but have we considered some of the impact of these trends?

There is, however, another possibility. In short: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Let's face it, rather than getting pessimistic about how business may now be hard done by, by the trend toward consumer-driven tech, CIOs should look towards taking advantage of these trends.

How do we utilise these devices and the underlying technologies within our organisations? How do we incorporate the skills of the public in using these devices and programs into our own workforce? After all, if consumers are being trained on operating equipment by virtue of their device preference let's utilise this expertise and these skill-sets in our environments.

Take gaming, the largest growing technology sector over the last few years. If we could manage to harness the skills and interaction of gaming within the work environment we would not only appeal to a new audience of employees but also seize a skills base that can be exploited.

In addition, the fast-paced environment around game simulation and control could breed a new type of application for businesses especially in logistics, transport and other real-time environments and systems.

Organisations must be creative in applying consumer trends and technology to businesses - including mobile, digital, interactive and gaming initiatives - into their environments. The time to think about this is now.

If you believe, like me, that consumer-driven technology will only grow then get on board and start making this growth and innovation mean something to businesses. Make it mean something to your organisation and to your IT strategy.

Luke Mellors is IT director at the Dorchester Hotel and a member of silicon.com's CIO Jury.

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