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Understand the trends in the consumer market and make decisions on how to apply them

The Consumer Electronics Show was held in Las Vegas this week, bringing together over 100,000 techies to ogle over the latest innovations. The hilights of the show include cool new connected devices including Ultrabooks, connected vehicles, TVs you can control from your iPad and yet another new form factor from Samsung called the ‘Note’. While there is a lot of excitement around the hardware, it is the application of this consumer technology in enterprise that I find more interesting.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week with SAP’s CIO Oliver Bussmann, talking about our predictions for what 2012 will bring (stay tuned for more on that topic). A good portion of these predictions center around how consumer technology will impact businesses around the world. The last two years have been significant – and it’s not going to slow down. There isn’t anything new to this story, but the adoption rates of consumer technology at work are skyrocketing.

Oliver had an opportunity here at CES to talk on a panel and discuss the impact of consumer trends on the enterprise.  The panel discussion opened talking about the challenges of adopting consumer devices. Most of us are both consumers and employees so we can daily relate to this – I know I have the same expectation of a good user experience both at home and at work. The challenge then for IT is to satisfy the demands of employees while managing risk and security concerns. Oliver’s perspective on consumer mobility is that it has helped SAP to drive a mobility mindset of all employees. By providing developers, sales reps, marketing, operations and others with the tablets and smartphones they want, people start to think about mobility intrinsically. According to Oliver “Employees are embracing technology, using it, getting to know it, and want to use it in their work.”

One interesting perspective discussed at this session was that in the past IT had to drive users to accept technology. Today that has flipped – employees are driving the enterprise to adopt the technology they want. And because of this – price no longer drives the sale of technology. One panelist from Verizon stated that “it is the creativity – not the utility that drives the adoption of technology.”

Every discussion I have been a part of on this topic inevitably lands on the topic of management and security. I really liked a quote from another panelist: “Data and knowledge are assets and you have to protect those assets.” Everyone agrees wholeheartedly that any device (whether corporate owned or BYOD) needs to be secured.  With the speed that the mobile market is moving, Oliver’s advice was to think beyond today’s devices – the future will bring many new devices and you need a tool that will give you flexibility to grow and change over time. Securing the content on devices is becoming more and more critical – driving to mobile application management as a key trend in 2012.

When we talk about productivity, we know that mobile devices drive increased productivity. Everyone in the room (including me) agreed when one panelist observed that “You don’t watch TV anymore without an iPhone or iPad in your hands.” Business doesn’t stop at 5:00pm or even 11:00pm – it is happening all the time. My phone is the last thing I check before owing to bed and the first thing I check in the morning. I believe that companies can probably recoup their annual costs of a device in a week or two simply through productivity increases.

Oliver noted “The combination of easy access and real time corporate information is what drives consumption.” We automatically think about productivity gains being achieved by replying to email, but the real benefit for executives is instant access to checking pipeline and the status of their business in real time. According to Oliver, this is the killer app. One last observation and bit of advice: “The CEO of the future has to understand the trends in the consumer market and make decisions on how to apply them. Consumerization is a trend that is unstoppable.”

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