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Why Consumerization of IT Is Happening Now

We all know that rate of change of technology has been accelerating

Has the world changed more between now (2012) and 1962 that is the last 50 years or the 50 years prior to that (1962-1912)?

Wait a minute! What does this have to do with “Consumerization of IT”?

Believe me, there is a connection – just hold your skepticism – humor me – and read on!

What we had in 1962 that we did not have in 1912?

  1. Nuclear bomb and nuclear power
  2. Theory relativity and quantum physics
  3. Transistor
  4. Road transport network
  5. Jet airliner
  6. Man in space
  7. Talking and color motion picture
  8. Television
  9. Microwave oven
  10. Computer and programming
  11. Credit card

Apart from this we have fought two world wars, have witnessed the independence of most of the former colonies and the rise of communism.

What we have now that we did not have in 1962?

  1. Landing on moon
  2. Communication satellite
  3. ATM
  4. Microprocessor
  5. Mobile phone
  6. Internet, hyperlinking, browser and search
  7. Email
  8. GPS
  9. Social Networking

We have also seen the fall of soviet block and the tragic event of 9/11.

So, which of these periods have seen more change?

I am sure you will dispute this list and add / subtract items from them. However, I am fairly certain that after some consideration you will agree that there has been more technological breakthrough between 1912 and 1962 then in last 50 years.

But isn’t this counterintuitive?
We all know that rate of change of technology has been accelerating. Then how is it possible that we have seen less technology breakthrough in last 50 years? It feels so illogical and counter intuitive.

However, if you look closely at those lists, two interesting facts start emerging.

First interesting fact is…

Augmenting our Capabilities vs. Interconnecting us

The technologies can broadly be classified into two categories. Technologies which…

  1. Augment our Capabilities: For example Jetliners allow us to fly and travel quickly from one place to another.
  2. Help us Interconnect with each other: Obvious example is internet and social networking, but technologies like communication satellite and mobile also falls into this category.

The first class of technologies increase individual capability but the second class of technologies makes us collectively more intelligent.

Take the case of human brain. Our brain reaches 90% of its full size by early childhood and most of the brain neurons are already in place.

But our real knowledge accumulation starts after that. We start growing synapse which connects the neurons. It is the interconnectedness inside the brain which makes us intelligent.

The technologies that we created in the period 1912-1962 have made us individually more capable but the technologies that we have created in last 50 years are what have made us collectively more intelligent.

Second interesting fact is…

Initial Breakthrough vs. Incremental Improvement
If you look at the technologies listed under 1912-1962, most of them did not reach their full maturity till much later. Each of those technologies has been incrementally improved over the last 50 years. The process has worked like evolution. Many alternatives have been created and only the most appropriate ones has survived.  Overall rate of change has depended on the rate at which new alternatives could be delivered to the market and feedback obtained.

So, when we talk about acceleration of rate of change of technology we are really talking about speed with which we place variants of an existing technology in the market and let it succeed or fail.

Increased pace of incremental improvement has been made possible by…

Shift away from “One Way Communication” to “Instant Two Way Dialog”
In pre-internet days, you had very limited opportunity to communicating with the author of a book which you might have liked or disliked. Apart from you friend circle you would not have any clue of what others feel about the book. Today, there are multiple methods to communicate with the author and other fellow readers.

Same is true for organizations trying to reach out to you. Previously, it would be one way marketing messages through printed ads and TV commercials. You did not have any power to let the world know about your experience with a product or service – good or bad. Today, you have so many different way of expressing your opinion and connect with strangers who share your interest.

Here is an interesting fact about the evolution of the size of our brain. In about past 30,000 years the size of our brain has shrunk by 10%. There have been several studies but no satisfactory explanation has emerged. We associate our intelligence with the size of our brain in proportion to body size. But, this reduction in brain size is not caused by decrease in body size. Does this make us less intelligent compared to what we were 30,000 years back?

We had the hardware in place without the necessary software. The software which we put into our brain has evolved over the last 30,000 years. We can call it the collective intelligence of our civilization and this intelligence is critically dependent of communication.

This “collective knowledge of our civilization” is much more than the sum of what we know individually and instant bidirectional communication is the key to our collective intelligence.

Advent of the process of two-way dialog has forced organizations to look…

Beyond “Inside the Fence” application to “Outside the Fence” application
Traditionally, IT was about payroll, general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales order processing, materials management, production planning etc.

From there we evolved into ERP and other integrated packages whose primary objective was to improve operational efficiency and reduce cost. We can classify all these as “Inside the Fence” application which sit inside the boundary of your organization with minimal direct contact to the outside world.

Now, the focus has shifted. Though efficiency is important, it is more important to be able to create a unique product or service which will resonate with your customer. Only way to do it is to reach out to the customer and listen and opening up of the two-way communication channel has made this possible. Therefore, the focus of the current generation of applications and technologies is “Outside the Fence” which means reaching outside the boundary of your organization.

Current applications and technologies are about how to reach out to your customers and engage them in a two-way dialog.

This is both a cause and effect of shifting technology focus…

From “Improving Efficiency” to “Enhancing and Leveraging Connectedness”
If you go through the list of “hot” technologies, they are either about enhancing your ability to reach out and interact with your customer or it is about extracting meaning out of the connections you have established and the interactions you have had with your customers. In fact it is more than just your interaction – it is also about all interactions around you, your product and the behavior of your customer.

You had complete control of the earlier generation technologies which focused on efficiency improvement. You could decide when and how to adopt it. You could choose the flavor and the variant.

The trouble with the technologies which deals with connection is that there is always another party involved who has an independent opinion about which flavor and variant of technology to use. So, when you have to deal with hundreds, thousands or millions of such parties then you have practically no control on the technology that you need to adopt.

You have to adopt the technologies which your customers have chosen – you have to adopt them at the pace your customer base has decided to.

And, that is what we call…

Consumerization of IT

And, it is happening now because the channels of two-way communication have opened up.

Next >> Impact on Enterprise Technology Life-cycle Management

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More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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