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Could the IT department be the next Airbnb?

If you missed Thomas Friedman’s recent column on the “sharing economy,” it’s worth going back and taking a look. Friedman documents how a spark dubbed “airbed and breakfast” exploded into what most of us now refer to as Airbnb Inc., an online platform that matches travelers looking for short-term rentals with those who have the space to rent out.

I love sharing Friedman calls this the “sharing economy”; others have dubbed it “collaborative consumption.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s weaving its way into just about  every facet of life: From the home to the car to the office to the very clothes  you’re wearing.

“There’s this sea change and mind shift happening around the American dream,”  Brian Harrington, chief marketing officer for Zipcar Inc., said at a recent smarter  cities event. “It used to be ownership, but now it’s access and convenience.”

Could the IT department be next? Let’s be clear, the concept of platforms and services like these aren’t new: eBay, Craigslist and even Zipcar, a car share company that got its start in Boston, Mass., have all been around for more than a decade. But in the last few years there’s been an uptick in resources offered through peer-to-peer platforms which some have argued is directly related to the downturn of the economy.

The willingness to embrace a rent-rather-than-own mentality could be a real opportunity for CIOs and IT departments, according to Deloitte Consulting. Deloitte suggests CIOs think about collaborative consumption “in terms of ‘excess capacity.'” That can be computers, server space, unused office space — whatever’s on hand.

And then Deloitte says this: Enterprises can take advantage of collaborative consumption in two primary ways: They can generate revenue by selling their own excess capacity (directly to consumers or to other businesses), or they can save money by buying or renting another organization’s excess capacity at a lower cost.

Could the sharing economy come to IT departments? And if the answer is yes, would it really make a difference by providing additional revenue or cost savings? Leave a comment and weigh in.

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