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Is the time right for consumerization? Prepare your organization

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John Weathington

We all remember the old days when IT organizations vehemently resisted other business units using their own IT tools to get the job done -- better known today as IT consumerization. I didn't agree with that resistance then, and I don't agree with it now. IT should partner with the business, not be an adversary.

Over the last few years, however, there's been a sea change. With IT consumerization, there is a growing acceptance to adopt and adapt, based on what the business is bringing to IT. It's a good direction, but the best IT organizations can go a step further. Instead of simply accommodating the changes requested by the business, why not embrace them? The consumerization of IT should get you excited; this is the best stimulus for building and improving an awesome IT organization.

As the CIO of an IT organization, you should constantly think of improving by systematically refactoring your team. Refactoring refers to the practice of agile software development, where coders systematically improve their code base without altering functionality. As CIO, model your organization on refactoring -- using consumerization as a springboard.

Consumerization is a great way to get feedback for your IT organization. The problem with most feedback mechanisms is they encourage a negative bias on feedback. If you send out a survey to your business users on how effective your IT organization is, most responses will come from those who are frustrated or disappointed. If you conduct interviews or hold focus groups, the discussion eventually devolves into a compliant session. However, an open and accepting approach toward users' views on IT will invite a much more positive attitude for suggesting change. If your business users know you have an open attitude to the tools they want to use, they'll share their thoughts with you enthusiastically. This is the kind of win-win collaboration that fosters both a good working relationship with your users and a highly effective IT team.

Making consumerization work
For consumerization to work properly, you must be organized properly. This means having a decentralized divisional alignment. Once in place, build consumerization into your IT strategy. It shouldn't be difficult if the other parts of your strategy align with the corporate strategy. Then, build into your governance structure a policy that emphasizes an open and accepting attitude toward consumerization. Once in place, this serves as a good foundation for evangelism.

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You must evangelize your consumerization efforts. While the general attitude has shifted closer to acceptance, it's certainly not the rule for IT to embrace technology changes that business units initiate. Educate your business units so that they understand that you take a different approach. By launching an intentional public relations campaign -- wherein you tout your progressive ideas about consumerization of IT -- your business users will know you are serious about partnering with them. Explain that you expect them to be your eyes and ears for the best tools to get their job done and that you will work together to make sure the solution works for everyone.

If your public relations campaign is successful, you'll start getting enthusiastic feedback. At this point, have a process in place to make the solution work. You may need to hire some outside help to build, fine-tune or facilitate this process, but with a little diligence it shouldn't take long.

Once you've put in place the appropriate consumerization solution with the business, it's the CIO's job to make it work. Advocate for the business users -- you are on their side. Many IT organizations become overly concerned with security, redundancy and misalignment. This drives a wedge between the CIO and the business -- exactly the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. Instead, use this as an opportunity to build a strong working relationship with your business users. This is also an opportunity to look holistically at the business gap you uncovered as part of this process: See if there are any other ways you can improve your technology.

These benefits are lost without an open attitude toward consumerization of IT. Now's the time to adjust your current IT strategy to take advantage of these consumerization opportunities.

This was first published in August 2012

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