Bestselling author Geoffrey Moore wrote Crossing the Chasm in 1991, and since then, the book has served as a strategic business guide for technology entrepreneurs and marketers. In the book, Moore describes the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and how new technology products are adopted according to a bell curve pattern, as shown in the following figure:
In this pattern, initial purchasers of a product are Innovators, after which come the Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and finally Laggards. Rather than a smooth curve there is a “chasm” in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle within the segment of Early Adopters. This is because customers at this stage of decision-making tend to look for references from other companies in the same segment before making a buying decision.
The gap comes because Innovators buy products primarily to have the latest and greatest technology, and they do not serve as good references to Early Adopters, who are focused on the benefits provided by a technology, rather than the technology itself.
Despite this pattern, the iPad seems to have defied the curve of adoption that held fast within enterprise IT for decades. How was Apple able to pull this off?
I asked Moore how the iPad was able to jump over the entire Technology Adoption Lifecycle, and he shared with me his thoughts regarding the iPad and the consumerization of IT.
His response was, “The key thing about the iPad and iPhone, and the consumerization movement in general, is that there is no technology adoption lifecycle for end users — no training even — so there is no adoption lifecycle for the enterprise when the technology is being brought in by the end user. Indeed there is a pent-up demand based on decades of retro user interfaces and user experiences. There is some adoption shock for IT, but this time around it is not so bad because there is a more flexible infrastructure to absorb it.”
Moore also believes that this provides a dramatic opportunity for IT managers within enterprises. He continued, “All that is really left is for executive teams to understand the ROI for these deployments. I believe this will come from empowering the legions of middle managers responsible for negotiating actions across a distributed global value chain. These people have an intense need for the communication, coordination and collaboration facilities that the consumer market has already embraced, but that the enterprise has never had an opportunity to deploy before now.”
Because of user demand, the iPad managed to penetrate 50 percent of Fortune 100 companies in less than 90 days. Of everyone I spoke with, Frank Modruson, CIO of Accenture, had the most vivid explanation of how the iPad penetrated that organization:
“The day the iPad was introduced we had some discussions about adding them into our environment; 24 hours later, we had 500 devices accessing e-mails. People expect their personal devices—iPads, iPhones and the like—to be usable at work. They want to be more productive, they want do a better job, and there’s an expectation that they’ll be able to integrate consumer devices with enterprise applications at the office.
“It’s a sensible and reasonable expectation, and we feel it’s imperative to oblige them. Indeed, we see it as an opportunity. We’re always plowing ahead, moving toward the next generation of technology because the next generation is almost always better, faster and cheaper.
“CIOs who resist will eventually be forced to change. Consider, for example, when the personal computer arrived on the scene. Its initial target market was the home. And then people started to recognize that PCs were very powerful tools that could be used at work. Many CIOs and procurement departments declined to authorize their purchase. So people circumvented the restrictions by saying they were purchasing a calculator. CIOs should not be asking if they should be taking advantage of the devices. They should be asking how they can take advantage.”
The fact that Accenture could go from zero to 500 devices overnight is astounding. It represents an incredibly rapid rate of change for CIOs who have traditionally embraced stability. But it proves the idea that enterprises that look on new technology as an opportunity – rather than a threat – can build a stronger business by empowering and supporting employees.
Ken Dulaney, vice president and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, agrees with Modruson. According to Dulaney, “These devices have become inexpensive enough that end users can overwhelm IT through widespread consumer-fueled adoption. It’s kind of a parallel with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, a relatively peaceful protest that the government cannot ignore. The IT dictatorships of the past do not work any longer; the end user is more than equipped to adopt compelling technology and to work around IT when necessary. Either IT helps the end user with new technologies or risks widespread criticism.”
Some IT leaders believe that while the iPad adoption rate was rapid, it was also superficial. This view was widespread among IT leaders I spoke with; but only Kate Bass, CIO at Valspar, was willing to go on record. She said, “Personally, I think that the fact that 50 percent of FORTUNE 100 have adopted the iPad is a gross overstatement. Yes, we have iPads in the organization but that does not mean widespread adoption nor that iPads are being used for daily processes.
“They work great for ‘consuming’ information that is available to the ‘consumer.’ They do not work well for creating information. I do think they introduce an imperative, however, for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) vendors to make it easier to ‘consume’ data that we have spent years locking up in Fort Knox databases and storage systems.”
Bass’s imperative is felt in the exponentially growing demand for high-quality apps that can both consume and add value to data.
The founder and CEO of salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, agrees that this transformative shift is as much about the software as it is about the hardware. He says, “Our industry has gone through many shifts, but ultimately, the big ones have always been about software, not hardware. Now, we are seeing a simultaneous software and hardware revolution. Sales of mobile devices and tablets have far outpaced PCs. The key apps we use will all be rewritten to take advantage of this fundamental transformation.
“That transformation even extends to where we use these apps. Because devices like the iPad are so easy to carry and can be used anywhere, it creates a truly mobile workforce. That’s why I plan to put an iPad in the hands of all my salespeople.”
MicroStrategy, the enterprise software firm focused on business intelligence, has also recognized how consumerization is creating a highly productive mobile workforce.
According to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sanju Bansal, “People expect to be able to access any information they need at any time of the day from a mobile device, whether at home or at work. More and more companies are recognizing the value of mobile devices for businesses and are building mobile apps for employees, executives, suppliers and business partners.
“The phrase ‘I’ll get back to you’ will eventually disappear as every conversation will be infused with information and every decision will be fact-based. The ability to access business information 24/7 shortens decision-making time, streamlines business processes, enhances collaboration, and makes every location an office.”
The iPad is an incredibly disruptive technology; there is no debate about that. Looking forward, other disruptive technologies, driven by user demand, will no doubt arise and challenge the status quo of the enterprise.
So how can IT leaders strategically harness the consumerization trend for positive impact on their businesses? Some IT leaders see the potential for higher user satisfaction and flexibility.
Vishal Jain, an analyst focused on mobile services at the 451 Group, believes that technologies like the iPad are elevating user expectations of corporate IT. He said, “Form factors for information consumption and dissemination have changed, partly led by the explosion of consumer-centric technologies that are finding ways into the enterprise. Always-on smart phones and tablets with their excellent UI [user interface], processing power, and contextual capabilities serve all the computing needs of the discerning consumer.
“As real-time communication, social media, and search gets embedded within the application stack or device, the user expectation moves a notch higher. Today’s office of the CIO is itself a business organization and the availability of such devices presents an opportunity to have a fresh look at systems, processes and presentation.”
IT must respond to increased expectations, which can be used as an opportunity to differentiate a business from the inside out. Many CIOs are taking that challenge seriously, but recognizing that real problems, like those around security, must be both acknowledged and addressed by an effective post-consumerization IT organization.
Joseph Spagnoletti, senior vice president and CIO at Campbell Soup, said, “The personally-owned iPads walking in the front door created awareness for the need of mobility to consolidate personal and professional information. Security was the biggest barrier up until now, and our R&D [research and development] effort began right away to address the security issues.”
IT departments are starting to recognize that devices like the iPad are bringing challenges but also significant opportunities. Chevron CIO Louie Ehrlich stated, “Consumer devices such as smart phones and tablets can be game changers for an enterprise. They provide an opportunity for steep change in the speed of business decisions and increased individual productivity, but come with a distinct requirement for IT to rethink old paradigms around application development, delivery and support.”
So, how are you responding to the consumerization of IT within your organization? Feel free to chime in to the conversation by posting comments below.
Nathan Clevenger is the author of iPad in the Enterprise (see below). He has been developing mobile software for over 12 years. In addition to his role as enterprise editor for iPhone Life magazine, he is chief software architect at ITR Mobility, a mobile management and IT consulting firm, where he works with FORTUNE 500 companies to develop mobile strategies and enterprise architectures for line-of-business solutions. He has consulted with clients including 3M, Ameriprise Financial, Best Buy, Boston Scientific, Ecolab, General Mills, Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, Target, Thomson Reuters, UnitedHealth Group and Wells Fargo. He regularly speaks at industry events around the country and is extremely passionate about the unrealized potential for mobile technology within the enterprise.