Surveys show that people all over the world are using personal cloud technologies to store their personal and work stuff--files, contacts, photos, music and videos. In the U.S., 77 percent of online adults use one or more of these online services, while in Europe, 61 percent do so. As a result, there is now an online gold rush to help customers and employees build their "digital self"--to help them access, manage and benefit from their digital information using any smartphone, tablet, PC or Web browser.
And the work and personal clouds are merging. Microsoft's new Smart Search feature in Windows 8.1 will index both work and personal data on PCs, file servers and online, and other services will likely provide similar tools. Employers who try to block integration services will not only impair productivity and annoy workers, they'll also find their efforts futile--workers who bring their in own devices and services will find a way around restrictions.
Shell, for one, is implementing a bring-your-own-device policy that will mean supporting about 135,000 devices picked by users, not IT. Why? As Shell's enterprise information security architect said at a recent conference, "Because young staff...don't want to come into a locked corporate environment." CIOs and their direct reports need a plan for embracing the new types of information about consumers--and the blending of routine work and personal information by employees.
To get a taste for the next round of offerings beyond Dropbox, try out mobile service apps such as Google Now, Osito, Cue and Tipbit. Playing with apps like these will provide insights about IT's future. For example, they'll help you anticipate how the CMO and her organization will ask for new individualized marketing systems.
What do these new apps mean for IT? Your application development team will need a raft of new APIs; enterprise architects will need to master much larger data architectures; your infrastructure and operations team will need to manage individuals, not devices; and your security team will need to handle security and policy by data object.
Frank Gillett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves CIOs.