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Among enterprise technology professionals, the term “consumerization of IT” means the tendency of consumer technology to find its way into enterprise workplaces. It leaves IT folks dealing with devices and applications that might not have the level of security, robustness, and control that companies usually demand of the products they purchase on end users’ behalf. But it has the advantage of letting employees use technology tools that they actually prefer.

“Consumerized” IT went from a phenomenon to a fact of life over the past few years. So is it now the workspace’s turn to be consumerized?

That possibility was one of my takeaways from a conversation with Nathan Yang, senior director of experience design at Poly, the communications device and software company formed from the combination of Plantronics and Polycom. Nathan spent several years with the legacy Polycom, and recently returned to the company after a stint working in the connected home industry, as director of product management for user experience at iControl Networks, which makes security and automation products for the home.

When Nathan talks about consumerization of the workplace, he’s not talking about ping-pong tables, Casual Everyday dress codes, or bring-your-dog-to-work days. It’s more about the enterprise learning to approach the workplace with the same mindset that a consumer household uses when tackling connected-home buying decisions.

Nathan said he learned when developing products for the connected home that the buying organization—i.e., the household—tends to break down into particular roles, or personas, based on personality types. The most common division, broadly speaking, is between the person who values convenience, versus the individual whose main concern is peace of mind or security. “It’s always about understanding: What are the core human needs from the products we’re trying to solve?” he explained.

In the workplace, the analogous split is between “productivity and creativity,” Nathan said. Those two competing orientations have always existed in the workplace, but it’s only more recently that the latter is being acknowledged and incorporated into workplace design and strategy, he added.

In the past, the focus on cognitive/thinking led to an emphasis, among vendors, on efficiency—making meeting happen quicker, and making more meetings happen. Today, when we look at a more balanced approach between the cognitive and the creative, “It’s not about having more meetings, it’s about having the right meetings,” Nathan said.

That’s especially true as we see continual increases in mobility, hoteling, and contract work -- all of which mean employees will use different tools in different environments over the course of a single day. This changing reality will push us toward a need for flexibility in workspaces and technology tools, Nathan said.

This need to equip a diverse workforce with flexible tools and spaces is driving an increased interest in the concept of personas. Though not a new idea, personas continue to attract attention as enterprises try to build space and deploy solutions that will work at scale for a wide range of employees. Nathan cited consultancy Deloitte’s concept of Business Chemistry, which tries to determine different people’s collaboration style.

Whether it’s Deloitte’s model or some other, enterprises are likely to continue seeking methods of accurately portraying and thus understanding their specific set of users in ways that let workspace and technology decision-makers provide solutions that fit the new emerging workforce.

In a consumer setting, a binary pair of personas—convenience vs. safety; head vs. heart; cognitive vs. creative—may be enough. In the workplace, there are lots more shades of grey. It makes the consumerization of the workplace a more complex problem to solve, but just as essential as the challenge that technology teams have encountered with the consumerization of IT.

One final note of big news: Registration for our inaugural WorkSpace Connect event in Dallas, Sept. 9-11, is now open! If you’re an enterprise decision-maker in IT/AV, Real Estate/Facilities, or HR, this is an event you can’t miss. Our Call for Participation is open, and we’ll be announcing the program and agenda in May. Whether online or in person, we’re looking forward to carrying forward the conversation with you!

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair WorkSpace Connect &  Enterprise Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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