I was reading an interesting article in Information Week’s Dark Reading magazine.  The article was written by Kelly Jackson Higgins called “The Blurred Line Between Business And Personal Online Use“.  She was referencing a recent report co-authored by IDC and Unisys showing how corporations were struggling to keep up with their employees’ use of consumer technologies for both work and personal use.

The report touches on a big topic in IT today which is the consumerization of IT.  For the first time in corporate history, employees are entering the workplace with a highly advanced knowledge of IT.  This doesn’t mean that they are all IT geeks or want to be developers or engineers but it does mean that they know how to use technology extremely well.  Many of them have had all the latest gadgets and tools at home and using technology freely comes as second nature. 

Now they enter the workplace and they are being told what and how they can use technology. And to make matters worse, the technology is not always as state of the are as the one they have at home.  This is a group for which the word “no” has rarely been uttered and here they are hearing that ugly word from the lips of the IT folks in their new workplace.

The reaction of many organizations is to clamp down on security and restrict as many consumer devices and access to social media as possible.  From experience I can say that this is an ineffective tactic.  Millennials will find a way around it.  As the IDC-Unisys report showed,  many organizations have a real disconnect between what is allowed to be used vs. what is actually used by the staff.   Organizations are often surprised to find that their staff has access to things they thought were restricted.

Like many IT leaders, I was very surprised when I came to that realization.  I learned that like most people, Millennials want to do their job and do it well.  They don’t purposely go out of their way to break the rules.  They just happen to use a lot of effective tools in their personal lives that they feel would add value in the corporation.  Instead of saying “no” to all of them, we compromised.  If there were tools that had promising uses in the corporation, we simply tested them in the lab.  Some were found to be very useful and were certified for corporate use, others were not and still others were put on hold to be evaluated again at another time. The point was not to immediately reject the tool or solution simply because it wasn’t on the “accepted hardware & software list”.  The other important piece was to include the Millennials in the process so they could understand the “why” behind the decision whatever it ultimately was.  I find that once there is an understanding of the process,  people are much more inclined to live with the outcome of the decisions.  Saying no for the sake of no makes them much less inclined to do so.

There is no doubt that our personal and corporate lives are and will continue to converge at faster speeds going forward.  To deny it is risky because it doesn’t allow organizations to effectively deal with the trend.  In some cases, better policies or governance practices need to be established around consumer devices and social media.  In others, experimenting with them will give us an innovative solution that was not seen before.  And maybe, for the time being, it’s a little of both.  Convergence. Maybe the lines can blur. 

Maybe it’s just harder for those of us who are used to keeping the two worlds apart to think of blending the two.  Maybe it’s time to think differently?