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IT consumerization: Hindering adoption of enterprise-grade UC tools

At Enterprise Connect 2012 experts said IT consumerization can slow adoption of enterprise-grade UC and collaboration tools if enterprises fail to adjust their strategy.

Employees prefer their familiar, consumer social-networking and communication platforms over the technologies that IT organizations give them, a trend that could hinder user acceptance of enterprise-grade unified communications (UC) tools. IT consumerization and its effect on UC adoption was a hot topic during Enterprise Connect 2012.

While there are many good enterprise UC and collaboration tools on the market today, "many tools are actually just wasting our time," said Brett Shockley, senior vice president and general manager of applications and emerging technologies at Avaya, during his keynote speech at Enterprise Connect 2012. "The reality is [the tools] still require the user to tie them together in order for them to be unified."

Vendors may be the only ones drinking the enterprise UC Kool-Aid. During a UC mobility session at Enterprise Connect 2012, many attendees raised their hands when panelist Michael Finneran, principal at consulting firm dBrn Associates, asked who was currently using an enterprise UC platform or application built by a vendor. Finneran followed up by asking how many worked for a UC vendor; all but two hands went down.

IT consumerization and the emerging demands of employees are slowing adoption of enterprise UC tools. "Microsoft Lync is good, but [employees] are using LinkedIn instead," Finneran said.

And IT consumerization among users cannot be ignored. The trend has driven management consultant firm A.T. Kearney to build a "Facebook-like interface," which leverages Microsoft SharePoint and Lync as an internal UC tool for its employees, said Kevin Rice, global network architect for A.T. Kearney, during a session at Enterprise Connect 2012.

Vendors have also begun to catch on to the IT consumerization trend. Microsoft acquired Skype last year for $8 billion, a deal that the behaviors and demands of enterprise users may have driven, noted Russell Bennett, principal analyst for UC insights, during a session at Enterprise Connect 2012.

"There are plenty of wonderful toys in the consumer world, and we need to figure out how to take advantage of them in the enterprise."

Brett Shockley, senior vice president and general manager of applications and emerging technologies at Avaya

IT consumerization demands devices, not just software

IT consumerization reflects more sophisticated users looking for a more consolidated answer to UC, said David Lowe, vice president of enterprise sales for Samsung Telecommunications America. They want to consolidate their UC platforms and their devices. Many people now carry more than one device, but this trend is dying out, he said.

"It's more about functionality, and users are more carefully inspecting devices to determine whether it will help them consolidate the applications they enjoy using as consumers (like Facebook), as well as offer the security their IT department wants in order to allow them to use the device for work," Lowe said.

"It's all about consumerization moving forward," said Avaya's Shockley. "There are plenty of wonderful toys in the consumer world, and we need to figure out how to take advantage of them in the enterprise."

More on IT consumerization:

Slide show: mobility, IT consumerization reshape the WAN

Content management, collaboration contend with IT consumerization

Consumerization of IT drives security changes

Enterprise app stores: reining in IT consumerization

IT consumerization: IT is still in charge

The IT organization's job is still all about delivering applications and services efficiently and securely in order to make employees productive. IT consumerization doesn't abdicate IT of that responsibility. When integrating smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices and applications into a UC strategy, IT must still establish certain policies and rules, Finneran said. "If you can’t beat them, join them -- responsibly."

While the bring your own device (BYOD) trend cannot be ignored, neither should security concerns. The responsibilities of IT will remain the same despite consumerization.

"[Enterprises] can't turn their backs to security considerations just because [employees] want to use their own devices and consumer-type applications," Finneran said. "[IT consumerization] is a major change for IT, and also a losing battle. The IT department's responsibilities are the same, with perhaps a different set of tools."

Policies regarding BYOD and social platforms and applications for UC must be put in place prior to an enterprise formally supporting the devices or tools, Finneran said.

"Allocating the right tools and ensuring security and support across those tools without breaking the bank is important," he added.

Enterprises can start embracing IT consumerization after the proper use policies and security measures have been put in place. And if done correctly, consumerization can offer productivity benefits for the enterprise, Finneran noted. By granting employees access to consumer hardware and applications they are familiar with, the right people are more likely to be accessible at critical times. 

"The goal should be to enable business transactions based on the tools we have available," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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