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With the onset of consumerisation now impossible to ignore, Vodafone Global Enterprise pulled together a panel of experts to discuss the burgeoning trend. This article explores the themes and issues discussed at the event.

Analysts and senior executives from end users and providers shared their insight on consumerisation at the round table event in London. The trend was described by Nick McQuire, research director at IDC, as representing a “tectonic shift” in the industry.

Chairing the debate, Andy McFarlane, marketing director, Vodafone Global Enterprise, opened by acknowledging consumerisation as a relatively new concept, “yet one which everyone is talking about.”

McFarlane highlighted the reality that CIOs are facing an explosion of popular devices and applications in the workplace. McFarlane conceded that many were struggling to control it, from a technological, policy and cultural perspective, but pointed out how consumerisation fundamentally supports the growing mobilisation of the workforce. This offers a real opportunity to improve productivity, increase uptime and enhance employees’ work/life balance.

The panellists were then invited to examine what a best-practice strategy should look like, in overcoming the hurdles and realising the benefits of consumerisation.

Why does consumerisation matter?

The panellists agreed that we are witnessing a disruptive period, reflected in the proliferation of smart devices, in which for the first time technology changes in the consumer market were preceding, and driving, change in the enterprise. The launch of the tablet 12 months ago accelerated change yet early adopters were already well down the road. Paul Domnick confirmed that his law firm had been involved with consumerisation for two years. He said: “The PC is no longer dominant in our business and the challenge is to get maximum value from the new devices”. Starting the consumerisation journey was “daunting” he said, as companies figure out where to start from, with ‘no one size fits all’ solution.

Cost control and cost allocation

The slow adoption of consumerisation was in part due to the difficulty of putting together a sound business case – and for many the cost case was not in itself a decisive factor, as businesses looked to balance hard costs with key softer benefits such as staff morale. As Paul Domnick said: “There is a finite pool of talent out there. If we are to attract and engage the best staff, we must not put barriers in the way of enabling personal devices in the work environment.”

Security and compliance

Gill, argued the advent of the tablet is driving a “paradigm shift” in which the question was no longer who do we give access to, but how do we do it? Yet he was concerned that, “in doing so, many remain oblivious to the issue of risk.” The panel was unanimous in the view that a decisive shift was now taking place from controlling access to the device to controlling access to the data.

From an end-user standpoint, the situation was clear-cut. On an untrusted device, there are only two options: either protect the data or do not put the data there. Anything that’s not managed is compromised.

The biggest risk remains that of the organisation’s public image. The risk of reputational damage as a result of intentional or unintentional data loss is the most important thing to the enterprise.

The role of apps

It is now essential to address the issue of enterprise applications which in development terms continued to fall way behind that of consumer apps, according to Gill: “In a commercial environment, we should now be enabling applications, not simply re-writing them,” he said.

To make the most of an expanding opportunity, it was agreed that it is now time to segment both the organisation’s apps and its user base, by understanding the individual user experience. Shoe-horning the technology results in a poor experience. This alienates the user, with inevitable outcome. As a result, enterprise users are starting to develop bespoke apps with clear, practical relevance to the business.

How to start?

McQuire, “sees the adoption of consumerisation as a step-by-step process.” The enterprise must decide where it wants to be in three years’ time and align the strategy with the broader business and IT goals. Define your user base – who should get what – and define critical security management in terms of the information, not the device. And finally, don’t go big-bang but start small by looking at non-core user groups, where there is less risk.”

Download the Podcast

Listen to highlights of the round table courtesy of the Financial Times

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