On a recent trip to Australia and Malaysia I was struck by how many tablet devices, the vast majority of which were iPads, I saw being used. Given the amount of press coverage being given to the ‘post-PC era’ which will see the PC being replaced by mobile devices accessing cloud-based services, and the spectacular performance of Apple, which has just announced that it sold 35m iPhones and 12m iPads in the last quarter, I perhaps shouldn’t be surprised to see so many of these devices being used.
However, it’s one thing to read about the growth of mobile devices and Apple’s impressive sales figures but to actually see it in real life, in three different countries spread across half the world really brings it home. And it wasn’t just business people in the main cities that were using these devices either. People from 5 years old to 65+ were using iPads in airport lounges, on aircraft, in coffee shops, restaurants and bars, in hotel receptions, in shopping malls, around hotel swimming pools, on beaches, at popular tourist attractions such as Sydney Harbour and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and in smaller towns such as Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast.
And they were using their devices for playing games, surfing the web, e-mail, blogging, taking and uploading photos, using Facebook and Twitter, reviewing spreadsheets and running a host of different apps. The iPad is becoming ubiquitous; it is part of everyday life for people of all ages and backgrounds and in a way that the PC could never have achieved.
And this is why the Consumerisation of IT (CoIT) and its subset, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), are not only inevitable but also a positive change for business. People are using mobile devices, iPhones and iPads in particular, in every aspect of their lives. So it’s not hard to see how enabling employees to use these devices at work may, for example, lead to improvements in morale and productivity. And how in the future why BYOD may become a criterion upon which people choose their employer. Even if BYOD doesn’t turn out to be the ‘next big thing’ due to the myriad of technical, security or legal issues or if employees just don’t want to use their own device for work there is still a clear message to businesses about the types of devices they should be providing to their staff.
In terms of the wider principle of the CoIT, which is about delivering a universal consumer-based experience in the work place, i.e. providing staff and customers with systems that look, feel and work in the same way as the apps they download at home, it is easy to see how this may lead to a range of benefits for businesses. The iPad users I saw were confident and comfortable with the apps they were using, moving effortlessly between functions and tasks. This is what CIOs should be aiming for in the workplace; high levels of satisfaction with consumer style front-ends to corporate systems and intuitive apps that can be used whilst on the move or in the office.
For employees this should lead to productivity improvements as a result of more flexible working, better design and accessibility of apps and higher levels of employee engagement. And for customers the CoIT will bring new or enhanced products and services, better access to their own data or accounts and an improved customer experience.
CIOs and their organisations should embrace the CoIT in the same way as people all over the world are embracing the iPad and incorporating it into their day-to-day lives. These people are voluntarily transforming the way in which they do things and are ‘more productive’ in their personal lives as a result. The challenge for CIOs is how to achieve the same results in the workplace.