The divide between consumer expectations and IT continues to grow at a rapid pace. When I use the word consumer, I’m referring to anyone consuming IT services and technology. This could be for such things as network access, email, development services and support. All of us use technology in our personal lives and for business. Over the past few years the two have started to converge. In fact, most of us are using our own personal technology (i.e. smart phones, etc) to conduct business on a daily basis. This is nothing new, however, the use and adoption of personal technology has moved much faster than its counterpart on the business side. Consumers now have vast choices on the market in terms of technology. Part of the disparity between personal and business is caused by these choices as well as better usability and overall acceptance. For example, the acceptance rate among smartphone users is very high. According to research firm IDC, there were 155.1 million U.S. smartphone users in 2012, which is 49.4% of the U.S. population. IDC estimates there will be 181.4 million U.S. smartphone users in 2013 representing 57.3% of the U.S. population. This rapid growth has deepened the divide between what consumers expect, and what IT departments can deliver.
This all leads to higher consumer expectations. Consumers want technology to be easy and intuitive to use. They also want it to be easily accessible and seamless. The problem is that IT departments usually lag behind the latest trends because of many factors, security being one of them. IT departments are also struggling to keep up with changing technology and consumer demands. My main point here is that what’s easy for a consumer to adopt may not be easy for IT departments to adopt. This is an issue for IT in that they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with consumer expectations, thus creating what I call the “expectation gap.” This is an issue for companies because it opens them up to vulnerabilities by having employees “plugging-in” using their own technology. It also gives IT a negative undertone due to their inability to keep pace with the latest trends in technology. They may be perceived as slow and inflexible. The dichotomy is that most people working in IT also feel this gap. If IT departments are looking at leveraging the latest technologies then this information should be communicated and shared with the rest of the organization. IT should open up the communication flow by listening to what consumers want to bring into the business. One idea is to stand up an Innovation Lab, or Center of Excellence (CoE), which could be used to test new technologies and to promote IT’s openness to exploring new ideas. This gives employees a forum for voicing their opinions. It also gives IT an outlet to test-drive the latest technologies in a safe environment. Due to limited resources, IT needs to be selective in regards to what projects it takes on. By giving its end consumers a voice, IT departments will strengthen its image and trust within the organization.