Reading Andrew Nusca’s blog on ZDNet earlier last week from the SAP Sapphire conference caused me to think some more about this concept of “consumerization of IT.”
Today, everyone interacts with enterprise applications in their work life, from Global 2000 companies to mom and pops from sales representatives to health care providers to service technicians to retail clerks. Quite a number of these applications are from SAP. Few like the experience. Enterprise applications have not kept pace with how and where we do our work in the 21st century. This is in sharp contrast to our consumer life. Applications like Facebook and Twitter are fun, reliable and easy to use. The IT departments of most companies, big and small, are still in the dark ages, writing Java code, creating messes, the way they did in the 80s. This is why we are all so frustrated. There is a better way.
Everyone today (sales, customer service, health care, HR, accounting, etc.) can select the Software as a Service (SaaS) application of their choice, “an anchor application,” along the same lines as Facebook and Twitter are anchor applications at home. There are literally thousands of SaaS applications for just about everything we do, many attractively priced. Once you subscribe to SaaS, subject matter experts can easily customize the experience, creating scenario-based mobile user interfaces (UI), no developers needed. The result would be almost immediate; successful meetings, improved customer service, better patient care and yes, a better quality of life.
However, before we throw the entire IT department under the bus, let’s make sure we acknowledge the fact that Facebook and Twitter are great applications not just because of a pretty UI. Robust runtimes underlie their platforms. To those people screaming, and rightfully so, for the consumerization of IT, I’d encourage an alternative definition: “enterprise-enabling consumer technology.”
There is no reason everyone can’t have the consumer-style UIs and usability features. But good consumer-like technologies are also backed by a set of enterprise-grade IT sophisticated capabilities – exception and error handling, rollback and compensation, persistence, clustering, redundancy, scalability, security, visibility, etc.
While I think that the vast majority of Java developers can and should be made obsolete, and yes even those low cost ones in India and China, the tried and true enterprise IT policies and best practices that have evolved over the last 30 years need to survive. Rethinking “consumerization of IT” opens the door to a union that takes the best of consumer technology, which empowers users with the latest and greatest business features, and combines it with the enterprise-grade capabilities that IT demands. Think of it as consumerization without compromise. Technical issues are abstracted to the point that regular business users can get their work done without help from IT. Meanwhile, IT can rest assured that all of their service availability, uptime, security and other concerns are being met in full.
Given the overwhelming workloads in most IT departments, IT should be all in favor of consumerization and giving their users more control. I am not sure anyone will miss those Java developers.