What the "Consumerization of IT" really means for public sector CIOs

27 September 2011 | Joel Cherkis, General Manager, Worldwide Government

The "consumerization of IT" is a trend that’s received a lot of media attention lately. Yet, much like cloud computing, the term is somewhat ambiguously applied to various industries and IT issues. So what does it really mean, especially for international public sector organizations?

At its most basic definition, the consumerization of IT means that the technologies, services and capabilities that people expect as consumers are now being expected in the workplace. Where employees once relied on employer-supplied tools to handle their work, today’s employees are increasingly self-sufficient, and want to handle their business using the same devices that they use in their personal lives and that fit their work styles (smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, etc.).

At the same time, employees have also grown accustomed to self-service applications at home, which are characteristically intuitive and easy-to-use, such as mobile banking, automated tax filing, e-payments, etc. Today, they are demanding the same self-service capabilities at work, from business process automation to dashboards and document collaboration. From the citizen perspective, there is also a growing demand for advanced services that provide for greater interaction with government entities. Check out a Microsoft video that shows how IT is blurring the lines between personal life and work life.

For CIOs, this represents both a tremendous challenge and opportunity—and doubly so for public sector organizations. Unlike the private sector, public sector organizations must also address these demands for their constituents. This means providing government services on mobile devices, improving access to public data and forms, and making citizen-facing processes much faster and more accessible, from permitting to civic engagement.

Adapting to this paradigm will require public CIOs to strike a new balance between user expectations and enterprise requirements such as security, compliance, and privacy. Under increasing budget pressure, public sector CIOs will also need to find cost-effective ways to provide these new technology resources with the flexibility and accessibility that their employees and constituents expect. This will require exploring new technologies like cloud computing and virtualization, as well as taking an even more agile and end user-focused approach to application development.

From boosting employee productivity and job satisfaction to delivering on open government initiatives, the consumerization of IT has a tremendous upside for public sector CIOs that embrace this new paradigm. We’re already seeing ways in which it is a catalyst for aligning public sector organizations closer with the needs and interests of the citizen.

For example, in the United States, the White House recently announced a soon-to-launch site called We the People, which will provide a new platform to make it easier and more accessible for citizens to petition government. Using the new system, petitions collecting more than 5,000 signatures will be reviewed and answered within 30 days. A similar system already exists within the United Kingdom. These examples, in my opinion, are only a fraction of what’s possible when public sector organizations embrace the consumerization of IT. You can read more about this trend on our website.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Joel Cherkis
General Manager, Worldwide Government

About the Author

Joel Cherkis | General Manager, Worldwide Government

Joel leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world. Read more