The Consumerisation of IT and the business analyst

multitouchThe phrase “consumerisation of IT” originated in 2004 and refers to the then emerging and now obvious reality that the technology available OUTSIDE the enterprise is perceived as being more sophisticated, more user-friendly, less-hassle, delivered in a quicker time frame, better fit-for purpose, lower-cost and more integrated than the technology INSIDE of the enterprise (provided/by the central IT organisation).

To illustrate this effect, Malcolm Frank, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Marketing at Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation describes what he calls the Sunday/Monday divide:

“On Sunday evening, we open up our dazzling personal computing devices and enter an entirely different place, an online world that is virtual yet rich in understanding, global yet intimate and, while running on silicon and fiber, refreshingly human. It’s a place of friendship, ideas and commerce, the best and most obvious place for many genuine moments of engagement.
Monday morning arrives…As the PC hums through its bootup process, our eyes dart between the enterprise applications loading on the screen and the flashing red voicemail light on the phone. Yes, the standard-issue computer provides access to standardized systems of record yet offers precious little human engagement. The “dumb” phone won’t follow us past the length of its cord. It’s all so restrictive and confining. Work technology has become a limiter in our professional lives.”

Solving this is not as simple as allowing business users to use their iPads at work and integrating Linkedin or Yammer into the business. Historically the role of IT has been to shape, then satisfy, user demand for technology. With consumerisation, demand is increasingly shaped externally by the “best possible technology use experience.” People want to be able to use  technology that is easy and intuitive. Easy-to-use, high-design sites and tools in the consumer sector (e.g., Amazon, Google, various file-sharing tools, Apple) have changed expectations and raised the bar for enterprise IT.

Employees expect the technology they use at work to replicate the touch, feel, ease of-use and fit-for-purpose of the  technology they use in their personal lives.

Gartner estimates that by 2015, 35% of enterprise IT expenditures for most organisations will be managed outside the IT department’s budget. In addition, at 100 of the companies PwC ranks as “top performers” IT controls less than 50% of corporate technology expenditures.

Very soon, if we are not there already, the business is going to dictate which technology must be used and how it must be used. If IT cannot do that for them, they will go to someone else who can and there will be a shift of control over technology from IT to business.

My father gave me the book “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler to read when I was 17(yes, we are a strange family) and Toffler notes to very important attributes of technology change:

  • The pace of change is accelerating
  • The pace of change is not uniform

So, as business analysts, how do we keep up with this increasing, varying rate of change in technology? And how do we make sure that we still add value to the business community we are serving?

Stay ahead of the users

I know I’m repeating this message ad nausuem, but don’t stop learning, don’t stop reading. Look at consumer trends and find ways to incorporate them into the business. I’m now on my second project in a row where a large part of the requirements definition focus on the use of social media to interact with customers and in both cases the users understood social media better than I did – I’m only catching up with them now.
Personal technology has become more advanced than enterprise technology and those who have first access to advanced personal technology are normally the senior executives, simply because they are the ones that can afford those expensive devices first. Will you be ready when the first executive walks into a Monday morning meeting wearing his brand new Google Glass and asking when he can have his status reports displayed on his Glass? (It may be useful to know at that stage that Qlikview was the first BI tool to develop iPad and Android apps linked to real-time enterprise  reporting, so will probably develop the first Glass app!)

Know your mission

Using the latest technology is fun, but using technology that fits your organisation’s culture and goals is much better. A critical value provided by business analysts is to help the business leaders understand exactly what problem the business is trying to solve. Having a clear understanding of the business problem helps the business stay focused on what is needed and not on some sexy feature within a new tool. The new challenge BA’s face is that business users will often come to them having done their own research and believing they know what tool they want before they even initiate a project to implement it. Business Analysts will need to work with them on stepping back and defining the business problem and avoiding the tendency to being overly influenced by the hype of new technology.

Connect the dots

In today’s new social world, one of the business analyst’s greatest callings is to help make sure that information moves fast and efficiently from mega-sized databases to bite-sized tablets and smartphones and back.
New tools will provide new flexibility, and will be likely to make the software solution better support the business process rather than finding workarounds to the software to support the business process. Business analysts will need to have a thorough understanding of the business process to appropriately configure or customize the solution to meet the business needs.

We need to position ourselves to help the business solve problems using whatever means are the most rapid, cost-effective, and results in the best overall solution. We need to be involved in evaluation and selection of software before a decision has been made on what the solution is going to be. We need to help the business quickly and efficiently transition to the new solution. The wide range of solutions that are available provides us with great flexibility and increases the likelihood of being able to solve complex business problems given limited budget and time constraints. This is a wonderful opportunity for business analysts, and one that’s likely to also have an impact of elevating our profession as a whole.

If you ever decide to read “Future Shock”, read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley straight after that, hehe.

I’ll end off with a quote from novelist William Gibson:

“The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.”



*Large parst of this blog entry were based on the white paper by Thorton May, Executive director of the Kodak Leadership Academy, titled “The Impact of Consumerization on IT: Turning BYOD, the cloud and other trends to your advantage.” and the articleBusiness Analysts in the World of SaaS and Consumerizationby John Parker.


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