Observations from #CITE2013

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If I could sum up everything I heard, saw and learned during the 2nd annual two-day Consumerization of IT for the Enterprise (CITE 2013) conference in San Francisco, it would be:

1. People can’t keep running their businesses the same way; and
2. People can’t keep designing and building technology the same way.

Sure, these are both “no duh” observations. Never the less, these two points were driven home in almost every presentations or panel discussion I heard. Whether I was listening to Dropbox talk about their solutions for business users, or hearing Gary Hamel, a consultant and management professor at the London School of business, talk about a new corporate revolution during his opening keynote address, it all boiled down to these two points — at least for me.

Let me expand.

1. People Can’t Keep Running Businesses the Same Way

In his compelling opening keynote to a packed crowd of almost 500, Hamel talked about the next big business revolution won’t just be technical, but social too where companies will be forced to change or risk being left in the dust by faster, more nimble businesses.

He pointed to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend as just the tip of the sword, where front-line workers are given more latitude to be creative and exercise their own decision making authority and judgement. Hamel cited several examples of companies breaking the traditional top-down management paradigm, including Morning Star, a Northern California-based tomato distributor. With 500 employees, they have zero VPs, directors or managers. Sans a single President for, “legal purposes”, all 500 employees answer to no one but themselves and their peers. Each new employee outlines a mission statement and agreement with their peers, spelling out precisely what value they plan to contribute. If the employee falls short of their promise, fellow employees can Donald Trump them (i.e., “Your Fired!”). Carry your own weight or get out. It’s as simple as that. And it’s working. Morning Star is dominating their market and growing like crazy.

2. People Can’t Keep Designing & Building Technology the Same Way

Similarly, companies in the business of making technology solutions can no longer build things for “consumers” (aka – B2c) or “business users (aka – B2B). The line between the two is all but gone. Several keynote and breakout speakers touched on this idea, each with their own unique perspective. But at the end of the day, the common theme I heard was that people are people and buyers are buyers, whether they’re wearing a button down shirt and khakis or soccer shorts and a T-shirt. For technology companies focused on building business solutions, they need to build their products with the same eye to design and simplicity as consumer-oriented company would. To put it simply, if your business software isn’t as easy to look at, easy to buy or easy to use as a consumer app downloaded from the iStore, business people simply won’t use it no matter how powerful or beneficial.

Of course, maybe I only heard what I wanted to hear at CITE 2013. After all, these are things deeply engrained into TrackVia as we build a great place to work and look for ways to empower non-technical business users to solve their own problems by building their own software solutions. Regardless, it’s quite clear that the Consumerization of IT movement is more than a trend. It’s a fundamental shift that cuts across everything we do in the business world. How we think. How we communicate. How we make decisions. How we work. How we buy.

Personally, I think it’s all pretty exciting.