The rise of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs became common in the workplace, according to Gartner. Even so, one might note that since at least the 1990s, it has been commonplace for consumer PCs to be more powerful than the machines used at work.
And though mobility has over the last decade become a core concern for business information technology, even mobile innovation is now driven more by consumer markets than business markets, Gartner says.
But that’s only the latest evidence of the "consumerization" trend that has changed the way enterprise and business information technology gets adopted.
To a shocking degree, the historic process of technology diffusion has been stood on its head.
Decades ago, the pattern of technology diffusion was fairly straightforward. The latest new technology was purchased by large enterprises and large government entities.
Over time, medium-sized businesses and organizations started to buy the same technology. Later, small businesses and organizations adopted the tools. Finally, some consumers 'brought the technology home' and used it as well.
All of that has changed over the last two decades. These days, many enterprise tools actually were brought into the enterprise by consumers who already had adopted the technology for use at home. That has been true of social networking, e-mail, mobile devices, tablets, the Web, even broadband Internet access.
In part, that historical reversal is driven by technology affordability, which is putting very powerful technology in the hands of consumers, but those consumers are also upgrading at a much faster rate.
Gartner therefore argues that every business needs a clearly articulated position on BYOD, even if it chooses not to allow for it, say analysts at Gartner.
Workers now report using an average of four consumer devices and multiple third-party applications, such as social networking sites, in the course of their day, according to a study sponsored by Unisys.
Also, workers in the survey reported that they are using their own smartphones, laptops and mobile phones in the workplace at nearly twice the rate reported by employers.
In fact, 95 percent of respondents reported that they use at least one self-purchased device for work. Another big change is that where enterprise IT staffs used to assume they were responsible for training and supporting users on enterprise technology, these days many users simply will go ahead and train themselves to use tools they prefer. That also is a big change.
BYOD is an alternative strategy that allows employees, business partners and other users to use personally selected and purchased client devices to execute enterprise applications and access data. For most organizations, the program is currently limited to smartphones and tablets, but the strategy may also be used for PCs and may include subsidies for equipment or service fees.
"With the wide range of capabilities brought by mobile devices, and the myriad ways in which business processes are being reinvented as a result, we are entering a time of tremendous change," said David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman