Scot Finnie: The real CoIT

Have you noticed that the term BYOD is on the rise and has become virtually synonymous with the much broader and deeper term "consumerization of IT" (CoIT)?

It's a common misconception that CoIT is merely the trend

toward employees using their own smartphones, laptops and tablets for work tasks like accessing corporate email, contacts, calendars and apps. But while mobile hardware is the starting point of CoIT, there's far more to it.

Underlying CoIT is a trend some have called "m-business." It's a "work-style" shift involving businesspeople using mobile devices as their primary means of connecting to the Internet, accessing corporate data and communicating with colleagues. The new work-style, which mixes home and work activities through days, evenings and weekends, has profoundly changed the way people work and is beginning to affect the expectations that companies have of their employees. There are management and HR issues and very real concerns about work/life balance and how that might affect the productivity and well-being of employees. So CoIT is not merely about a different type of hardware; it's about a different way of working.

It's also a movement toward simpler interfaces, inspired by social media, mobile apps and cloud-based apps and services. The rise of app stores overflowing with free or inexpensive problem-solving tools is reshaping user expectations about what software is and what it does. Many IT departments are adopting single-purpose apps adapted to enterprise use. The look and feel of social media software, as well as its people-powered nature, has a huge influence on consumerization -- and it has nothing to do with businesspeople bringing their personal devices into the office.

Public clouds aimed at end users are another important aspect of CoIT. The syncing of email, calendars and user data across multiple devices is perhaps the best example of consumer-oriented cloud services used for business purposes.

Of course, CoIT raises security concerns. Most smartphones and tablets aren't built with enterprise-class security -- though that is starting to change. But it's not just about hardware security features; when you welcome all manner of devices, the potential for security snafus multiplies. It's also easy to lose a mobile device or have it stolen. All of these factors threaten corporate data. Public clouds and Web-based apps also create security risks.

The vaguely derogatory term BYOD probably started off as some IT person's joke, a takeoff on a similar acronym that rhymes with it. "Bring your own device" takes the end user's point of view, not IT's. But it defines a very narrow aspect of CoIT -- and misses some of its most important aspects.

And CoIT is very important. That's why Computerworld has been working hard to stay abreast of this fast-growing trend. We recently updated and augmented the topic centers on our website, adding, among others, new topic pages that track all the stories we publish about CoIT and BYOD. Computerworld's parent company, IDG Enterprise, (with some help from yours truly) just launched new online publication called CITEworld.com. "CITE" stands for "consumerization of IT in the Enterprise." CITEworld covers CoIT from the IT perspective. IDG Enterprise also launched the companion CITE Conference and Expo in March. Coming in October, the one-day CITE Forum will be held in New York.

It's all part of our commitment to keeping up with the things that really matter to IT today.

Scot Finnie is Computerworld's editor in chief. You can contact him at sfinnie@computerworld.com and follow him on Twitter (@ ScotFinnie).

Read more about consumerization of it in Computerworld's Consumerization of IT Topic Center.

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