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CIO Jury: Businesses face consumer tech revolution

Google, Skype et al are increasingly impacting enterprise IT, say IT bosses

Consumer technologies such as Google Desktop and Skype are set to have an increasing impact on enterprise IT, according to IT bosses.

All manner of new consumer tech products have been in the headlines recently, thanks to the Consumer Electronics Show show in Las Vegas, and CIOs agree that these technologies are raising the expectations of users - both at home as a consumer and when they come into work as an employee.

Ten of silicon.com's 12-man CIO Jury IT user panel this week said they believe technologies that have their roots in the consumer market, such as Google Desktop and the iPod, will continue to make inroads into enterprise IT and impact IT purchasing decisions in the future.

Mark Foulsham, CIO at eSure, said the influence of consumer-based products is likely to be felt most through pressure from corporate users.

Foulsham said: "Consumer products are designed to be highly intuitive and easy to use - an approach which enterprise product suppliers overlook by focusing on functionality and interoperability first. It is inevitable that staff will want to replicate the experiences they have at home, at their workplace. IT leaders need to anticipate this change and plan for it."

Better usability and more intuitive systems will be one benefit that will trickle down from consumer to business technology, according to Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution.

He said: "There are a myriad of lessons to be learned on how to make systems easier for end users to utilise. We only need to compare the 'transaction code' type of front-end systems written some years ago, with the more intuitive, web-based facilities that we now develop to realise that a consumer type revolution has affected us all - for the good."

Luke Mellors, IT director at the Dorchester Hotel, predicts the growth of consumer electronics will reshape the business world.

He said: "Our next generation of employees will come equipped with skills learned through the application of the consumer driven technologies and our ability to capitalise on these skills may become a huge productivity factor."

Of course some business sectors will be forced to react to the rapid advances in consumer technology more than others and Ken Davis, head of IT at TV channel Five, said: "Within the media world, new consumer-based content distribution technologies have the potential to redefine existing business models."

But the advancement of consumer technology into the enterprise will also cause some headaches for IT bosses.

Angus Waugh, head of IT at the National Audit Office, said: "It can attract security, information integrity and service continuity concerns which are not always appreciated by corporate user communities."

Nick Clark, IT director at Tower Hamlets College, added: "A downside is that central management tools for the technologies become an add-on rather than built-in from the start."

John Odell, group IT director at the BBA Group, welcomed the influence of consumer technologies but said: "They won't be half as much fun or as cheap in the enterprise world more's the pity."

But others doubted just how much influence consumer tech will have on enterprise IT. Andy Pepper, director of business information systems at Tetley, said: "Businesses need 'industrial strength' solutions with greater longevity and often tailored to their own processes. I can't see consumer-based products or solutions meeting that need."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Nick Clark, IT director, Tower Hamlets College
Frank Coyle, IT director, John Menzies Distribution
Ken Davis, head of IT, Five
Nicholas Evans, European IT director, Key Equipment Finance
Mark Foulsham, CIO, eSure
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Vans
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT programmes director, Voca
Luke Mellors, IT director, the Dorchester Hotel
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Andy Pepper, director of business information systems, Tetley
Angus Waugh, head of IT, National Audit Office
Phil Young, head of IT operations, Amtrak Express Parcels

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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