Not that long ago, corporations seemed to always have the technical advantage over consumers. Email, BlackBerrys, even the internet were first commercialised and adopted into the workplace before they gained widespread traction in the consumer market.
Company laptops and mobile devices were not only cutting edge, they were often seen as status symbols.
But the tide has turned. Today, many technologies designed for the consumer market far outstrip their business counterparts in terms of functionality and user experience.
As a result, many consumer technologies are rapidly being adopted into the corporate IT environment. Smart phones and tablet devices are driving productivity gains in mobile workforces.
Social networking sites are catalysing commercial developments and connecting disparate teams in collaborative settings. Touch interfaces are changing the way people interact with data.
Driving the call for change
In turn, many employees — from executives down — are increasingly demanding the same experience at the office as they have outside of it.
The next generation of graduate intakes, raised on social media, will see email as an increasingly foreign technology. CIOs would be wise to take notice.
The reality is that business users are already bringing these technologies into the office to enhance productivity and become more effective at their jobs.
So if the CIO is not able to quickly turn IT into a strategic enabler of this trend, they may find that the business has created workarounds of their own, and potentially opened up the organisation up to new security risks and incremental costs.
But rather than just facilitate the adoption of consumer devices, CIOs must find ways to embrace and capitalise on them.
Consider, for example, the enhanced responsiveness of an employee who — while surfing Facebook at home — notices an email alerting them to a work issue and can then instantly use the same device to access the systems and data required to respond effectively.