At the point that a trend becomes obvious and mainstream, it is no longer a trend. It is historical fact.
So it is with the consumerization of the enterprise, a buzzy phrase for the infiltration into workplaces of gadgets and services purchased on the sly or openly by employees.
These renegade tools arrived without the sanction of traditional IT departments, upending everything from the design of networks and security protocols to the very hierarchy of corporations. Also known as BYOD, or "bring your own device," it's less of a deliberate move than a belated acceptance of reality.
Now Shell, the energy giant, has announced it is allowing its 135,000 employees to bring their own devices to work, and offering them access to the tools and technologies they need over the Internet—the cloud, if you prefer.
Ken Mann, Shell's enterprise information security architect, explained this as a recruiting decision as much as a technology move—an acknowledgement of the inevitability of the consumerization movement.
“We’re going to have a lot of people turning over, and we want to be able to attract and retain talented and young staff," Mann said at the CA World conference in Las Vegas earlier this week, V3 reports. "They don’t want to come into a locked corporate environment.”
Shell has always been something of a future-forward organization, employing futurists long before many technology companies did. So consider it a harbinger of what will happen to other companies of its size. They will either embrace similar strategies or find themselves unable to compete for talent or customers.
The consumerization of the enterprise is no longer an open question. It's a fait accompli. Which makes it, for me, not a very interesting thing to think about.
What's next? I think it may be the flip side of this trend, what I call the enterprisification of the consumer. Business-class tools, gigantic "big-data" databases, and massive amounts of computing power will be in the reach of the smallest of businesses, sole proprietors, and ordinary technology users. Just as consumer tools are bleeding into the business world, technology that we've classically thought off as walled off in the enterprise world will become cheap, accessible, and widespread.
The consumerization trend will keep happening, and we'll note its progress from time to time. But we need to start thinking about what's next, not what's done. And with Shell's full embrace, the hard work for advocates of consumerization is done.
Photo by Flickr user Gerry Dincher, CC 2.0