The Diffusion of the Consumerization of IT

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

On a previous post about the consumerization of IT, Paul Calento commented: “Clearly, it’s time to move IT out of a discrete, defined department and out into the field, even more than already.  Likewise, solutions used to power an organization need to do the same thing.  Problem is, though, that it’s easy to say that embedding IT makes sense (it does), but there’s little experience with managing it (like reporting and measurement).  Services integration is a goal, but cross-department, cross-business-unit integration remains a thorn in the side of many attempts.”

Embedding IT does make sense, and not only is it easier said than done, let alone done well, but part of the problem within many organizations is that IT became partially self-embedded within some business units while the IT department was resisting the consumerization of IT because they treated it like a fad and not an innovation.  And now those business units are resisting the efforts of the redefined IT department because they fear losing the IT capabilities that consumerization has already given them.

This growing IT challenge brings to mind the Diffusion of Innovations theory developed by Everett Rogers for describing the five stages for the rate at which innovations (e.g., new ideas or technology trends) spread within cultures, such as organizations, starting with the Innovators and Early Adopters, progressing through the Early and Late Majority, and trailed by the Laggards.

A related concept called Crossing the Chasm was developed by Geoffrey Moore to describe the critical phenomenon occurring when enough of the Early Adopters have embraced the innovation so that the beginning of the Early Majority becomes an almost certainty even though mainstream adoption of the innovation is still far from guaranteed.

From my perspective, traditional IT departments are just now crossing the chasm of the diffusion of the consumerization of IT, and are conflicting with the business units that crossed the chasm long ago with their direct adoption of cloud computingSaaS, and mobility solutions not provided by the IT department.  This divergence caused by the IT department and some business units being on different sides of the chasm has damaged, and potentially irreparably, some aspects of the IT-Business partnership.

The longer the duration of this divergence, the more difficult it will be for an IT department, that has finally crossed the chasm, to redefine their role and remain relevant partners with those business units that, perhaps for the first time in the organization’s history, were ahead of the information technology adoption curve.  Additionally, even the communication and collaboration across business units is negatively affected by different business units crossing the IT consumerization chasm at different times, which often, as Paul Calento noted, complicates the organization’s attempts to integrate cross-business-unit IT services.

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.


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