J une 12, 2012, the day Apple hyped up its plans to release a slew of the latest and greatest techno gadgets to its ever growing innovation hungry consumer base, one event went unnoticed by the frenzy of tech media swarming Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

The proof that their products’ influence is more far-reaching than anyone (except maybe the late great visionary Steve Jobs) could have imagined …  My Mom got an iPhone.

Why is this event so significant you might ask?  Well, for me it was the realization that high tech had gone even beyond the mainstream and had now become so woven into the fabric of our culture that Joan, a retired school administrator in her mid-60’s, now carries in her purse more advanced technology than most IT departments provide their employees.  Consumerization of IT finally hit home!!

OK, now it may seem a bit odd to you that the first thought I had on receiving a call from my Mom’s new iPhone had to do with corporate IT.  Please allow me to explain…  (Well, actually my first thought was “I wonder if she will embrace texting now so I can get out of the traditional Sunday evening phone call where both of my parents double team me from their home phone,” but I’ll get to that later.)

As a product manager at an industry leading global software provider it is my job to stay on top of the trends that influence the way we will do business in the future.  My goal is to leverage those trends into some sort of competitive advantage for my company by providing increased value to our clients.  Well, the consumerization of IT, is defined by Wikipedia as the growing tendency for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business, and is considered the single most influential technology trend of the decade by analysts at Gartner.  The future will take us way beyond smartphones, mobile apps, and tablets. That may give you a little insight as to why this would be on my mind, but how does all this relate to dear old Mom and her iPhone?  She doesn’t have an IT department.

Joan was my non-technical persona!!

Let me back up, a “persona” in the product management world is an archetype of a typical person that you are targeting to either buy or use your product.  In the past, there was this notion that Beeline was a high tech company in a relatively low tech industry.  Joan represented the non-technical end of the spectrum of people I design products for and now she owns a handheld device that has more computing power than NASA had when they put a man on the moon in 1969!!  This is big…

According to Accenture research in 2012,

23% of employees use their personal devices for work regularly

27% use non-corporate application to improve productivity,

32% actively recommend good consumer applications to their colleagues

27% are willing to pay for their own devices and applications if allowed to use them at work

44% are dissatisfied with the devices and software applications provided by their company

These are all very interesting numbers, especially if you are in the business of providing enterprise applications to corporations. And those statistics were before Joan got her iPhone.  Research shows that in 2013 those numbers are growing by the day.  Guess who got an iPad for Christmas this year?  Merry Christmas Mom!

In Part 2 of this blog we are going to look at ideas on how we as software creators can leverage this trend and empower this growing population of business users that want to have options.  We will also dissect Joan’s first text conversation and discuss the question of why my four year old niece can Skype my 92 year old grandmother, but my company cannot video conference remote employees into meetings so they can see what is going on.

Before I close this out, I want to provide a bit of a disclaimer (like any good son would.) If you made assumptions about Joan’s ability to comprehend or embrace new technologies (and just in case she comes across this on the web,) I have to say my Mom is extremely bright.  She holds a PhD from Rutgers University and has dedicated her life to education and learning.  Also, I wouldn’t exactly categorize her as a technological laggard either. Cutting edge tech is not new to her, and interestingly, neither are Apple products.  Joan was hip to Apple long before ironic facial hair growing, skinny jean wearing, Starbucks junkies deemed it cool. How many of you can say you cranked out your first “Hello World” program on an Apple II like I can?  (Yes, Apple made computers before the iPod… Google it.)  It is pretty cool to say now, but at the time I really wanted an Atari. Mom also drafted her PhD dissertation on a Macintosh LCII back in the early 90’s. So, you could even say she has been loyal to the Apple brand longer than most Apple consumers have been alive.  The non-technical label has more to do with depth than breadth.  Sorry Mom, I’ll FaceTime you this weekend J

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