What is consumerization, and why should you care?

man solving jigsaw puzzle pieces
Credit: CarbonNYC via Flickr

CITEworld launched today with a single goal: to be the absolute best resource in the world about consumerization.

But what does that mean?

For those of you who don't work in the tech industry, here's a simple answer: "consumerization" is what happens when the technology you use in your personal life comes to work.

The term has been around for a decade or so, but really started becoming common with the iPhone a couple years ago, and absolutely exploded with the iPad. Suddenly, chief executives were bringing their iPads to work and demanding that the IT department make them work.

That's one of the top challenges facing IT right now. How do companies keep track of the explosion of mobile devices in the enterprise, and make sure that people aren't putting the company's data at risk with simple accidents like leaving their smartphones on a plane? It's a huge thorny problem, and has spawned all kinds of companies, processes, and acronyms like BYOD (bring your own device) and MDM (mobile device management) that will hopefully help out. We'll stay on top of all those trends.

But consumerization is a lot more profound than that.

Until recently, most advances in information technology started at work, then came to the home. Personal computers. Networking. Email.  

That began to change with the rise of the consumer Internet in the late 1990s. Suddenly, people were spending a lot more time on their computers, using tools like Google Maps and Gmail which were easy, intuitive, and available from any computer with an Internet connection. (Or, as we say now, "all your stuff is in the cloud.")

The iPhone, with its emphasis on ease of use and design, blew the doors off completely. Here was a truly personal computer that was just as powerful as the PC you used at work a few years before, but small enough to fit in your pocket and easy enough for anybody to use. Plus, it works from anywhere with a decent wireless connection. 

People rightly started asking "why should the technology we use at work be so much harder and uglier than the technology we use in our personal lives?"

It's a very good question, and hundreds of companies have rushed in to answer it over the last decade. Some of these companies have grown amazingly fast -- Salesforce is now the fifth-biggest company in the world, and there's a bunch of disruptive billion-dollar babies right behind it, like Netsuite, Dropbox, Jive, Yammer (now part of Microsoft), Box, and Workday. Plus a whole ton of younger and very hungry start-ups. Not to mention the big vendors, who are responding in their own ways with products like Microsoft's Windows 8 and Office 365, or IBM Connections (social networking for enterprises). Even Oracle has started paying attention to concepts from the consumer world like social networking.

These startups, and the concepts they embody about how to make work better, are just as important as the mobile revolution, and will be a big part of CITEworld's coverage as well.


  • When you use your iPhone to check your email or benefits program or paid time off, that's consumerization.
  • When your boss gets a new iPad and demands to do work on it just like he does with his PC, then likes it so much that he buys iPads for the rest of the department too, that's consumerization.
  • When all the new software at work seems a lot more like Facebook, that's consumerization.
  • When you need to share files with somebody across the country and you don't remember (or care) how the IT department told you to do it so you just put them in Dropbox instead, that's consumerization.
  • When you happily discover that the new startup you just joined uses Gmail -- the same Gmail you've used at home for years and are totally comfortable with -- that's consumerization.
  • When a bunch of people in the sales department start using this free online tool that helps them communicate or share presentations or do videoconferences, then it slowly spreads throughout the company until everybody's using it, that's consumerization.
  • When recruiters find most of their prospects through LinkedIn, that's consumerizatoin.

Information technology is everywhere now. It helps us get more done, be more social, and organize our lives better. The promise of consumerization is that it will make us more productive, more social, and (yes) even happier at work.

That's what CITEworld is about. We hope you enjoy it. 

Any suggestions, please let me know -- you can email me editor at citeworld dot com, or shout at us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. We'll listen. 

From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies