Amid the findings and forecasts of 2011 and 2012 year are telltale signs that users are driving corporate information consumption patterns and that IT, for better or worse, is becoming complicit with personal consumption habits over controls and policies.

One nugget I stumbled on last week was in research Cisco Systems rolled out over the last few months about information overdose among younger employees. The renegades of this generation may not be into drag racing or raves, but seven in 10 say they knowingly break IT security policy, and 60 percent don't feel responsible for protecting corporate information or devices.

Cisco found all sorts of hyperbolics among younger employees who mention the Internet in the same sentence with air, food, shelter and water. Many would surrender their wallet before they'd give up their device; they prefer surfing to dating. They would take a lower-paying job if it brings more IT freedom and they will circumvent policy if they have to.  

Once upon a time, that was evidence to discipline or fire somebody (or tell them to get a life) but savvy managers today might be wiser to look the other way and cross their fingers. The greater fear for IT management might be getting left behind, the embarrassment of showing up at the industry conference with a Blackberry. How do you get work done on that thing?

There is more truth than cynicism in observing that companies are helplessly caught in consumption patterns that are leaving some casual user IT policies in their wake. A profound forecast is found in Forrester's new 2012-2013 technology market outlook that sees governments and companies buying $19 billion worth of iPads, iPhones and other Apple gear this year – and get this – another $28 billion worth in 2013.

That is greater than 50 percent annual spending growth for Apple, a blindside hit worthy of slow-motion replay compared to few years ago when Apple was 4 percent share of the computing market, a curiosity for graphics users and corporate eccentrics. Windows/Intel device spending, meanwhile, is slipping 3 percent this year.

Users are having the last word. Where it was once done covertly or on the employee's dime, we are now arming our own Internet rebels with our own IT dollars.

This wasn't lost on Andrew Bartels, who was the lead analyst on Forrester's report. Despite a confluence of events and trends Bartels found that Apple, not cloud computing, is doing more to reshape the computing equipment buyer market. Services may disrupt computing and storage patterns of the future, but front-end demand is speaking louder.

No one is saying transactional or process oriented applications are going anywhere. Nonetheless, user demand trends "are absolutely and profoundly threatening to the dominant vendors in the Wintel world, Dell, HP and Microsoft," Bartels told me. "Those big guys still have the advantage that corporate apps with a user interface are built for Windows and IT departments are still centered around three or five core apps." 

So it won't sort out quickly, and building parallel enterprise apps for Apple is a clunky pain that doesn't really make sense on mobile devices that aren't used as major control consoles anyway.

For lighter work, development methodology on smaller devices is easier and more attractive for the applet approach for collaborative use by many parties on the Web, inside and outside the department and firewall. That, Bartels says, will drive software as a service as much or more than cost benefits of SaaS over the long haul.
Ironically, a lot of these iPads are presently going to senior management who are still comparing which protective case is the best, and downloading the showiest apps they can find.

But that's the deal. Last summer the CIO of Schwab told an MIT audience that the best way to get an exec to use a BI dashboard was to build it on an iPad and give it to him. We can talk all we want about analytic training and it will fall by degrees to managers to need to understand the nuances of power tools and reporting. But the Internet improviser has already arrived. The faster we're able to support easily built, light analytic apps and data through an API and make them consumable, the faster they will be put to use.  

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