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Consumerization and shadow IT didn’t begin under the watchful eyes of business, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Incorporating consumer products and BYOD will make for a better work-life balance for your employees, but to understand the risks and benefits of the change, you must first decipher what it really means to embrace this new reality.
Understand Consumerization in the Workplace
Consumerization is the blending of the personal and business use of technology, as well as individual applications and software on a general scale. In simpler terms, it’s a new tech or tool that’s greatly accepted and used across the board—so much so that businesses capitalize on the advancement, whether to reach out to customers or increase productivity.
Some obvious examples of consumerization in the workplace include instant messaging, iPhones, personal emails, Dropbox, and Skype. Consumerization is all around us, and millions of people profit from the flexibility it offers every day.
Acknowledge Millennial’s Digital Dependence
Like any group entering the workplace, the environment is molding this new generation—and that involves an amount of digital dependence we haven’t yet seen in business. Millennials have grown up alongside technology and expect their employers to have embraced the digital transformation, which is less a transformation for them and more a lifestyle. Accordingly, our increasingly mobile existence must expand to our businesses.
Our comfort and skill with technology gave us things like social media and text messaging, which combine a faster and easier method of communication with our inherent desire to socialize in a digital space. When an application or tool becomes so wildly popular, it’s only natural that your company rides the wave, so to speak, and leverages it to your advantage.
Embrace Shadow IT
Shadow IT sounds a bit more ominous than it actually is. It’s simply hardware or software within an enterprise that is unsupported by the central IT department. The “shadow” implies that it’s likely against a company’s will or is used without its knowledge, but that may just be a holdover from early fears. The truth is that shadow IT is less something to fear and more something to leverage to your company’s advantage.
Shadow IT is an extension of consumerization. Items like non-issue USB drives and personal cell phones both fit into the category; since they aren’t company-issued, there’s no way for IT departments to monitor their security. Third-party email services like Gmail and sharing software such as Skype also fit the bill. It’s easy to see their dangers; without proper security in place, crucial and private data may be at risk.
Prepare Smart Cyber Security Measures
Technology has permanently altered our lives. As advancements continue, getting ahead of the game regarding consumerization and shadow IT is more than smart—it’s your only option. I’ve mentioned before: your employees are going to use personal devices at work or on the go, regardless of whether you give them permission. If you have a policy in place for such use, your cyber security will be much stronger. To eliminate IT issues, you would need to remove technology all together, which is impossible for any modern business.
Instead of resisting the changes, you should implement smart cyber security measures with BYOD policies in mind and train your employees in company policies with clear boundaries to help keep sensitive data more secure. Most people are so used to technology across platforms that a policy or safety infraction because of consumerization may not even occur to them. Keep everyone on the same page—not just your managers and executives.
The challenges of consumerization and shadow IT are impossible to escape. While potential problems exist, the benefits far outweigh the risks. We can’t (and shouldn’t!) try to make technology undo its advancements, but rather learn from the endless possibilities and implement policies to protect us. The digital transformation can take businesses to new heights—when we use them well.