One of the major shifts in the last five years has been the “consumerisation” of technology. Consumerisation is a swanky word for technology moving outside of the office/professional life into personal lives, and then moving back into the office in a different guise.
The shift started with broadband Internet. Once staff had broadband installed at home, they checked their email from home. They stopped taking laptops home with them and used their home computer.
Smartphones have accelerated the amount of consumerisation. You definitely know some people who have been provided a mobile phone from their employer, and the same individuals also have a smartphone on a personal contract. They will then use their personal phone to check their work email because they prefer their personal device.
This grey area of using personally-paid-for devices is a real issue for IT departments at the moment because of lack of standardisation (having to support iPhones, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc.) and security risks.
Consumerisation isn’t limited to hardware either. I use Outlook 2010 at work, and mainly Google Mail for personal email. New features on Google Mail are appearing regularly. One of my favourites is if you type “I have attached the document” inside a GMail email and press send before attaching a file, Google gives you an alert to ask if you want to attach a document. Brilliant. I wish Microsoft had built the same functionality to prevent me forgetting to attach a file in Outlook.
In fact Google understands consumerisation on a new level. GMail and Google Docs started their lives as consumer tools and then became available as white labeled enterprise tools (a matter of opinion) for businesses. And there’s recently been a lot of commentary about Google refusing to let businesses on to their new social networks – they want end users on there first.
Technology is continuing to become more consumer-focussed, which means we’ll use more of our personally-paid-for technology in our working lives. As my post earlier this week demonstrated, once we start checking our work calendar on our bathroom sink as soon as we wake up, the grey line will been very broad indeed.