Monday, September 10, 2012  The Financial Express

The most damning indictment of sophisticated technology comes in a recent blog posted by a US tech watcher when she talks about receiving a sophisticated new phone introduced by a marquee Silicon Valley Tech firm a couple of years ago. After struggling with the configuration or ports and settings to get it connected to the host mail service of the provider and then spending an additional 20 minutes looking up information and inputting data, she gave up. Apple’s iPhone by contrast required nothing more than providing an e-mail address and password and she was ready to go. Just goes to show that today’s user preference for most people except the geeks and nerds is all about simplicity and ease of access. Welcome to the consumerisation of IT!

The miraculous world of Apple Computer does not need the endorsement of this column to proclaim its superiority. The adoration of millions of fans of the i-Series and the climb to the top of the charts in the value of the company are the surest sign of a company which has captured imagination and wallet share as no other technology company has ever done. However even the great Apple has not been infallible. As a diehard user of the Android with the iPhone coming a poor second in my preference list, I, along with quite a few others could not resist a smirk of satisfaction when Apple recognised the superiority of the Android pull-down notification system by adopting it in the latest version of iOS replacing the previous screen-based notification system. However there is no denying the fact that Steve Jobs and his worthy band have brought products to the market, not once but many times, for which there was no known demand and still managed to create an amazing pull within months and sometimes weeks or days of their launch. Surely a great endorsement for the value of extensive consumerisation!

The importance of consumerisation has also been accentuated by the schisms that are beginning to emerge in terms of people preferences and behavioural styles on various social media – Facebook and Twitter being the most visible! A recent discussion on one of these forums on the psychological profile of those who have more friends on Facebook than followers on Twitter came up with the hypothesis that such people are likely to be less opinionated and more accepting of differences and hence may be easier to woo with technology. The converse could be argued as well that the recognised names who tweet incessantly and have a large following are the folks who would expect, nay demand ease of use from the multiple devices they are accessible on. While these could be purely speculative, it does open enormous possibilities for market segmentation and the development of innovative new designs of products and services as well as radically new ways of reaching out to customers based on analysis of their utterances on social media.

The importance of consumerisation lies in the fact that not only is technology becoming ubiquitous for personal usage but also becoming increasingly personalised and individual in its use in employees of corporations. The trend of the future is clearly BYOD and the Bring Your Own Device movement will create opportunities for extensive personalisation of access devices and also increase the nightmares for corporate IT administrators as they struggle with security and information distribution issues raised by the plethora of devices in the organisation.

While IT does get more than its fair share of attention given the rapid evolution of hardware and software in this industry, we should not forget the ex
tent of consumerisation that has happened in all aspects of ICE—Information Communications and Entertainment. A case in point is video-conferencing which has truly been transformed in the last few years. From jerky movement of images to PC and desktop video conferencing, the range today from video-conferencing anywhere on an iPad to lifelike multi location video conferencing using tools like Cisco’s awesome telepresence equipment, travel is fast becoming a luxury for most busy business persons.

Having been extensive users of telepresence in our own organisation since the time it was first introduced, it is still not unusual for some of us, at the end of a long discussion with three people in the same room and three more sitting across a virtual conference table and participating from London San Jose and Holland, to reach out and try to shake a hand which is physically many thousands of miles away!
Today it is possible to connect large screens in major offices to smaller screens in regional offices and also have individuals connected through their iPads or iPhones, thereby creating an end to end video enabled communication environment.
In similar vein, the options for digital entertainment are so many that television sets will soon be switched on only by a few survivors of an earlier generation. In this context, the consumerisation move is an inexorable one and both individuals and enterprises will have the opportunity to design their information interfaces to their exact preference and hopefully create the base for much higher productivity in the enterprise.

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