Coming Together

— April 10, 2007

Prosumer devices are infiltrating the workplace. What perhaps started with cable-bound workers bringing "rogue" access points from home has escalated to smartphones, IM, Skype and more. Gene Signorini, VP of Yankee Group's Enterprise Research group, recently framed it for me another way: "It used to be that people were first exposed to the most advanced technologies at their offices. But today the most innovative technologies are finding their way to the home first. Consumers are bringing these technologies to work for personal use ... and businesses are finding it difficult to keep up."

These "unofficial" technologies have IT mangers panicking over security vulnerabilities and scrambling to shut them out. But while security is of course a top priority, the latter scenario has got to change. End users and IT must find a working middle ground. Because while turning away non-corporate-issue technology does keep a company safer, in too many instances it also hinders productivity.

If one trend stood out most clearly to me at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona last month, it was the blurring line between the enterprise and the consumer. Consumer technologies are driving enterprise technology adoption. There could hardly be a greater coup for a business than having a fleet of workers already comfortable navigating a mobile operating system. People are becoming more technology-adept at home, and these skills are serving them (and their employers) well at work.

Mobile messaging is a perfect example. What started as a hugely consumer application is today (when IT concedes to support it) a low-cost, high-reward business tool whose potential has hardly been tapped. I suspect near-field communications will also fall into this category. It's a quick jump from getting people comfortable paying for subway fare or groceries by touching their phone to a payment box, to soon an explosion of B2B opportunities--in government, retail, transporation and a handful of other industries.

The future of business is, literally and more than ever, in the hands of employees. You'd be smart to make the best use of both.

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