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The Consumption Conundrum


Technological and commercial advances are making technology increasingly accessible on-demand. Platforms that used to take days to provision can now be turned up in minutes.  Modern outsourcing relationships offer the ability to ramp up scale quickly and with linear or declining, known costs.  Users or even applications can dynamically request and obtain more resources (memory, storage, and computing power) to adapt to increases in demand.  These dynamics have benefited the enterprise because they have essentially removed friction points inhibiting innovation or performance.  But of course removing friction entirely can lead to a very dangerous situation.  Just as a car can become uncontrollable on an icy road, so can a budget in the current environment of democratized technology decision-making when appropriate visibility, policy, and controls are lacking.

The challenge most organizations face, however, is that the tools, processes, and policies that enabled effective management in the past have failed to adapt to new realities. Buying processes are no longer limited to procurement; end-users and lines of business are increasingly purchasing technology directly.  Fixed assets, which can be more easily tracked, are being replaced by subscriptions, licenses, and transactions.

Policies struggle to govern new relationships between people and the toolsets they use. Even though BYOD plans have existed for some time, we are still asking the question: “What use is acceptable on a BYOD mobile device?” Organizations need to adapt to the new paradigm of consumption-driven technology spend or face a complete inability to manage costs. It can’t be left up to the good intentions of your employees; if you have any doubt just look at the demand for mobile data during the NCAA tournament.  Consider the following steps when determining what should be considered acceptable BYOD usage:

  1. Monitor what you are actually using. You can’t manage what you can’t see.  Most organizations have very little idea of what services are actually being used in their environments much less how they were purchased.
  1. Establish guidance to end users. Most users’ intentions are good. They typically seek out technology to overcome a roadblock to them performing their job and creating value to the company.  This is a positive behavior, it just needs to be guided.
  1. Provide integrated, well managed solutions to the basic challenges users face.  Most users would rather not spend their time looking for an app or a service to work around an obstacle; they’d prefer for IT to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. So organizations should focus on providing easy-to-use, accessible solutions for the most common pain points. In most organizations, those continue to include basics like file storage and sharing (Really?  Still?  Yes really, Still!).  So tackle those challenges but resist the need to create a heavy, cumbersome solution that addresses every possible situation and risk point. Users demand elegant solutions or they simply won’t adopt them. So it’s important to balance the need for security and risk management with the reality that if they are never used they won’t prevent any problems.
  1. Provide insight to the business and the users themselves. The days of centralized command and control are gone and won’t be coming back any time soon. So rather than trying to recreate that dynamic partner with your employees and business, give them the data to make intelligent decisions about cost and value.  Show them what their consumption looks like and what it costs so that they can make the correct decisions on their own.

On demand, consumption oriented technology is a tremendous accelerator for innovation and productivity.  But every good accelerator needs good steering and the occasional brake test.