IT consumerization: What IT managers and employees really want

The explosion of new technological devices, apps, and services has given employees newfound powers in the workplace (commonly called the consumerization of IT). We conducted a survey of both employees and IT managers to better understand this critical trend, including the strategies companies employ to control it, the perceived benefits and risks, and the devices, software, and services preferred.

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IT consumerization What IT managers and employees really want


Chicago Mike Connolly Senior Partner +1-312-578-4580 mike.connolly Düsseldorf Jens Niebuhr Partner +49-211-3890-195 jens.niebuhr Düsseldorf/Stockholm Roman Friedrich Partner +49-211-3890-165 roman.friedrich

Florham Park, N.J. Barry Jaruzelski Senior Partner +1-973-410-7624 barry.jaruzelski Frankfurt/Dubai Olaf Acker Partner +49-69-97167-453 olaf.acker Frankfurt Rainer Bernnat Partner +49-69-97167-414 rainer.bernnat Kuala Lumpur/Sydney David Hovenden Partner +60-3-2095-3188 david.hovenden

London Richard Rawlinson Partner +44-20-7393-3415 richard.rawlinson Melbourne Mark Johnson Principal +61-3-9221-1931 mark.johnson Munich Nicolai Bieber Principal +49-89-54525-545 nicolai.bieber Paris Pierre Péladeau Partner +33-1-44-34-3074 pierre.peladeau

San Francisco Fabian Seelbach Principal +1-415-653-3527 fabian.seelbach São Paulo Ivan de Souza Senior Partner +55-11-5501-6368 ivan.desouza Sydney Peter Burns Partner +61-2-9321-1974 peter.burns Zurich Alex Koster Partner +41-43-268-2133 alex.koster



About the authors

Olaf Acker is a partner based in Strategy&’s Frankfurt and Dubai offices. He focuses on business technology strategy and transformation programs for global companies in the telecommunications, media, and high-tech industries. Nicolai Bieber is a principal with Strategy& based in Munich. He specializes in IT strategies, application architectures, and large transformation programs, with a focus on the public sector, financial services, and telecommunications. Jean-Thomas Célette is a senior associate based in Strategy&’s Munich office. He leads digitization and business technology projects and supports global companies in the automotive and production-related industries.

This report was originally published by Booz & Company in 2013.



Executive summary

Corporate IT departments have long tried hard to maintain control over their internal networks and systems, in hopes of keeping them secure and minimizing complexity. In just the past few years, however, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. The explosion of new devices, most notably smartphones, tablet computers, and their accompanying apps and services, has given employees all kinds of newfound powers — commonly called the consumerization of IT — and they are avidly exercising those powers. We recently conducted a survey of both employees and IT managers to better understand the current status of this critical trend — the strategies companies employ to control it, the perceived benefits and risks, and the devices, software, and services preferred. The results show that IT managers and employees are, somewhat surprisingly, in agreement in many key areas. But the debate over IT consumerization isn’t just about the kinds of personal devices and software employees can use. It’s also about the role that employers, particularly major companies, should play in fostering work–life balance and talent retention. How that ultimately plays out will very likely transform the very nature of the corporation.



Not just smartphones

The increasing diversity and functionality of personal devices such as smartphones and tablets have transformed the way people are living their personal lives, and whetted their appetite for bringing this change with them to their jobs. The shift is driven in large part by “Generation C,” the always clicking, connected, communicating, content-centric, community-oriented segment of the global population that was born after 1990. Members of this generation, the first to have grown up in the Internet age, will account for 40 percent of the population in industrialized economies by 2020. They confidently voice their demands, insisting on more choice in the devices, tools, and software they can use for work, and they want to be able to use their own devices for both work and play. For many, the consumerization of IT means little more than the right to use personal smartphones at work. But the implications go much further. Employees now want to choose their own tablets and laptops and to configure them to their needs. And they are increasing their pressure on employers for the right to access cloud-based social media such as Facebook, Dropbox, and WhatsApp at work. It’s all part of an overarching shift in which the boundaries between work life and personal life are becoming much fuzzier — and it will have real consequences for how workers work and managers manage. This shift is still in the transitional phase, and there is much that remains unclear about the direction it will ultimately take. In hopes of clarifying the current state of IT consumerization, Strategy& recently conducted a study to find out what employees really want and how their desires align with the plans of their CIOs. Although there are some areas where the interests of the two groups diverge, particularly in their attitudes about desktop and notebook computers, there is also a surprising degree of alignment in several fundamental areas, such as overall consumerization strategy and the use of a variety of software and cloud-based services.



Blurring boundaries

Corporate IT managers have long struggled to contain the enthusiasm of employees about adopting the latest technologies. In the 1980s, the battle involved the networking of desktop PCs; in the 1990s, it was the advent of the World Wide Web. Today’s CIOs face two trends that have unleashed the consumerization of IT and put the boundaries of their IT departments, and their ability to define them, in question. The first is ubiquitous access: The sheer variety of devices that employees are bringing to work, and the number of channels they can use to access the world outside corporate boundaries, continues to grow. Despite the use of technologies such as virtual private networks to safeguard corporate networks, ubiquitous access has become a must in a business environment that requires employees to be vastly more mobile, to work in virtual teams, to telecommute, and to freelance. The second is cloud computing, which provides companies and their employees with the benefits of efficiency and storage, despite the perceived threat to the sovereignty of the IT department and the problematic, and as yet unresolved, implications for security, controls, and standards. These trends continue to challenge the traditional approach to IT perimeter security, which builds on keeping corporate systems, networks, and information behind high walls. CIOs find themselves walking a thin line: On one hand, they cannot contain the consumerization of IT; on the other, they are responsible for providing robust, efficient, and — most important — secure IT services at a low cost. This situation calls for new strategies that address the openness of the 21st-century business environment, the demands of younger employees, and the requirements of corporate IT.

Today’s CIOs face two trends that have unleashed the consumerization of IT and put the boundaries of their departments in question.



Many benefits

IT managers themselves are quite willing to concede the benefits of IT consumerization (see Exhibit 1, next page). In their view, employee satisfaction is the most important. Support for the trend demonstrates companies’ confidence in employees and makes those employers more attractive to young, talented, and motivated workers for whom digital self-determination is key — a critical issue as the shortage of talent, especially in technical areas, becomes more acute. Almost 70 percent of IT managers view IT consumerization as a key enabler of our “always on” business culture, as it naturally increases the accessibility and availability of employees, regardless of location and time of day. Besides allowing for greater efficiency and reduced reaction time on the part of employees, this phenomenon also dissolves the barrier between personal and work life and leads to a greater commitment to work. More flexibility offers benefits for employees too, since personal obligations such as taking care of children can be integrated more closely into work hours as a trade-off for answering emails during what used to be personal time. The consumerization of IT would seem to have the potential to boost employee productivity, given the innovative state-of-the-art devices and services at the disposal of workers. Less than 60 percent of IT managers, however, view this as a clear benefit, no doubt because of the potential for distraction inherent in the greater mix of work and personal life.

Almost 70 percent of IT managers view IT consumerization as a key enabler of our “always on” business culture.



Exhibit 1 CIOs see considerable benefits in the consumerization of IT
Benefits from consumerization of IT

Increased employee satisfaction


Increased availability of employees


Increased employee productivity


Reduced cost


IT manager

What do you see as the major benefits from consumerization of IT for your company?

Source: Strategy&



Strategic approaches

Given the perceived benefits of IT consumerization, the question is how to go about embracing it. Companies are opening themselves up to consumerization in several ways. These approaches can be classified as either “supportive” or “tolerant.” At supportive companies, the IT organization takes an active hand in guiding the process of consumerization. Some provide all the equipment needed for employees to perform their jobs, but also allow and support the use of personal devices. Others even provide employees with a budget to buy their own smartphones and notebooks. At tolerant companies, corporate IT’s role is more passive. Some tolerate the use of personal devices but don’t support them, whereas others permit employees to use corporate devices for personal purposes. Our survey shows that at the current stage of consumerization, IT managers and employees alike prefer tolerant approaches (see Exhibit 2, next page). The top preference of both groups is the private use of company devices. IT managers are willing to tolerate the use of employee-owned devices without explicitly offering support, but employees would prefer to see their own devices fully supported or to be able to select their devices from a range of choices. IT managers find both options less attractive, due to the inherent security risks, complexity, and cost.



Exhibit 2 IT managers and employees diverge in their preferences regarding approaches to the consumerization of IT
Level of preference
Low Private use of company devices High

Private devices tolerated

Private devices supported

Private devices funded by company

IT manager Please rate the following models of IT consumerization according to your personal preference. Employee Please rate the following models of IT consumerization according to your personal preference.

Source: Strategy&



Devices and software

As to specific products, both employees and IT managers prefer iPhones and iPads over competing smartphones and tablets. The reason appears to be that these devices’ security and usability have been proven, for the most part, and that the tools needed to manage them at the enterprise level are now sufficiently mature. Security concerns for Android-based devices seem to be resolved as well, since IT managers appear to be willing to allow them, though they don’t seem to be as popular among users. Overall, however, ease of use appears to be aligning with ease of management from the perspective of IT managers. Meanwhile, BlackBerry, the traditional corporate smartphone, has lost much of its appeal: Employees are finding BlackBerrys less and less attractive, and IT managers are likely hoping to reduce the complexity involved in managing the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Acceptance of Windows Mobile is also still limited, especially among users (see Exhibit 3, page 13). In addition to mobile devices, IT consumerization is also affecting the use of traditional IT equipment such as desktops and notebooks. Here, the preferences of employees and IT are far apart. Employees want the right to choose specific technical characteristics such as speed and disk space, they want up-to-date equipment, and they’re picky about the operating system, although the specific brand is less important than is often assumed. IT managers, however, are unwilling to make these concessions. Some may accept shorter renewal cycles, and allow employees to choose specific features, but overall they remain opposed to offering alternative operating systems, leaving the long-standing Windows monopoly firmly in place (see Exhibit 4, page 14). Of course, the consumerization of IT isn’t just about hardware choices. Over the past few years, an immense variety of new software applications and online services has been developed — social media, communication services, personal productivity



apps, even games. Unsurprisingly, employees feel that such services are critical to maintaining their work–life balance. More surprisingly, IT managers agree with them for the most part, though they draw the line at personal communication tools such as Skype and instant messaging, and personal applications such as banking clients. No one much likes the idea of playing games at work (see Exhibit 5, page 15 ).



Exhibit 3 Both IT managers and employees prefer iPhones and iPads
Level of preference
Low Apple iPhone Android-based phone BlackBerry Windows Mobile-based phone Apple iPad Android-based tablet High

IT manager Employee

Which of the following devices would you give your company's employees freedom to choose from? How important would it be for you to be able to choose each of the following devices?

Source: Strategy&



Exhibit 4 Employees and IT managers have different preferences regarding notebooks and desktops
Level of preference
Low High

Recent model

Specific brand

Specific characteristics (display size, processor, memory, etc.) Specific operating system (Windows, Mac OS, etc.)

IT manager Employee

Which of the following devices would you give your company's employees freedom to choose from? How important would it be for you to be able to choose each of the following devices?

Source: Strategy&



Exhibit 5 IT managers and employees agree on the use of applications and services
Level of preference



Productivity apps (travel planner, professional contact network, currency converter, etc.) Personal use apps (Facebook, Skype, games, etc.) - Media (iTunes, personal music library, movie player, etc.) - Connectivity (Skype, instant messaging, etc.) - Personal (personal email client, banking application, etc.) - Games - Tools to be used for work (screenshot tools, backup programs, special editor, custom Web browser, etc.) Web-based applications (Gmail, Facebook, etc.)

IT manager Employee

Which of the following services would you allow your company's employees to use? Which of the following services would you like to use on your professional equipment?

Source: Strategy&



Risks remain

Despite the many benefits of IT consumerization for employees, the trend presents a very real challenge to CIOs and IT managers in terms of security, complexity, and compliance. Security remains the most significant problem for IT managers in the wake of IT consumerization, according to our survey (see Exhibit 6, next page). Greater tolerance of employee devices makes it more difficult to manage IT and to enforce security tools, including antivirus software, personal firewalls, data encryption, and secure passwords. Breaches of confidentiality and integrity may be the result. Ensuring the security of business data to prevent “identity theft” is the top concern of IT managers. Increased complexity is the second most common concern among IT managers. IT departments have long relied on consolidation, standardization, and harmonization of service and device offerings to reduce complexity and contain costs. With the variety of devices, software tools, and services being used by employees, it remains to be seen whether IT departments will be able to keep such policies in place. Compliance and the clarification of legal issues inherent in IT consumerization was the fourth most commonly cited issue. The breadth of laws and regulatory requirements affected by the trend is hugely complicated and varies considerably by country, industry, and type of company. Data protection, employee rights, employment protection, capital market regulations (such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the U.S.), and specific requirements in the financial industry are only a few examples. How the great variety of software used by companies is licensed also plays an important role, as CIOs must ensure that employer-owned software is used only for business purposes, if the license requires it. Companies must develop and enforce codes of conduct regarding the use of various software and services to limit corporate liability.



Exhibit 6 Security issues are the top concern of IT managers
Arguments against giving employees more freedom

Security issues Support complexity & less harmonization 60%


Data theft



Malware & viruses


Unlicensed software

Data loss


Legal constraints


IT skills of employees


Increased cost


IT manager

What do you see as the major arguments against giving employees more freedom in the choice and use of devices?

Source: Strategy&



Make a plan

Employees and IT managers alike recognize the many benefits of IT consumerization, but to manage the risks and complexity involved, CIOs must take a consistent, well-planned approach. Based on our experience in setting up such projects, we recommend five steps. 1. Assess the company’s readiness for consumerization and the requirements for each relevant user group. Both factors will likely vary considerably by industry and employee group. 2. Define the consumerization strategy, deciding what to tolerate and what to support. 3. Set up policies and tools to address the security, complexity, and compliance challenges. The tools needed will likely include solutions such as mobile device management, mobile application management, data loss prevention, virtual desktop infrastructure, and mobile virtual private network. 4. Educate the employees. Make them understand the benefits and the risks. Explain all policies in detail, and get buy-in and formal sign-off. 5. Establish governance and compliance processes, ensure continuous communication, and provide for adaptation of policies to the changing technological landscape.




One thing is certain about opening the door to consumerization: Once the process is started, there is no turning back. Employees will embrace their new freedom, and soon come to see it not as a privilege but as a right. CIOs need to strike the right balance now, and begin preparing for a future in which the distinction between work and life — like the boundary between corporate IT and the outside world — becomes all but invisible.



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This report was originally published by Booz & Company in 2013.
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