CIOs divided on the consumerisation of IT

3 Jun 2011

With the pace of technological change accelerating and platforms like cloud computing and tablet devices entering the workplace, CIOs are divided on whether these are challenges or opportunities, the CEO of global recruitment firm Harvey Nash, told

Albert Ellis (pictured), CEO of Harvey Nash plc, who will be in Dublin on 14 June next to unveil the company’s CIO Survey 2011, was responding to a question of whether CIOs are truly comfortable with the growing consumerisation of IT.

“No they are not,” he said. “We’ve been holding meetings all over Europe and I’ve been asking questions around the subjects of social media, mobile apps, cloud computing and the arrival of handheld devices as work tools and it’s really a mixed reaction.”

The consumerisation of IT which is seeing consumer-friendly devices like Android smartphones, Apple iPhones and iPads and other tools enter the workplace, is being accelerated by the rise and rise of cloud computing and desktop virtualisation.

In most cases workers are discovering that the technology they have at home is often superior to technology proscribed in the workplace.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for CIOs and IT managers. An opportunity because it means that IT budget that would have gone on new PCs could be directed elsewhere and new apps can be created to improve information flow. A challenge because of the security implications of data being accessed anywhere, at any time.

“The purists and traditionalists are quite negative about the impact of all this new stuff on the organisation. The visionary free-thinkers are embracing it and see all this cool stuff as an entre to have a conversations with senior people in the business about new projects.

“The real answer is somewhere in the middle. Certainly the potential for abuse of social media is there. If productivity is impacted by non-productive use of social networks, for example. That’s one of the biggest problems and fears that CIOs have. Of course, it uses bandwidth and that’s a real cost.

“The positive side to it is a lot of CIOs we’re meeting are saying they’ve got to embrace and get in step with social media and consumerisation and use it to actually make their services and functions better.

iPads become commonplace at board meetings

Ellis said one of the most interesting trends is some CIOs see consumerisation as a way to have direct communication with their board because many board members now carry iPads.

“Interestingly, thanks to the iPad, it’s the first time that one can really bring a device into a board meeting and nobody seems to argue. You were never permitted to bring a laptop in and be tapping away, because there’s a sense the screen separates you and sense of being rude or not engaging in the meeting.

“But on an iPad you could be quite happily be taking notes of the meeting. I’ve seen people use iPads and I bring mine into board meetings as well. I take minutes and copy them onto an email and send it off.

“Forward looking CIOs are looking at devices like the iPad and see them as a way for to enable their organisations provide them the equipment and services and then start an innovative discussion.”

Ellis continued: “In the middle of those two extreme points a lot of CIOs feel there is an impact on the bandwidth and cost base if you think about the cost of these things , the iPad and iPhone are expensive.

“But many visionaries especially those in businesses close to the internet do see it as a business opportunity,” Ellis said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years