by Mark Gibbs

The IT Consumerization Grief Process

Nov 14, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsIT LeadershipIT Strategy

IT groups must go through a "grief process" when they are pushed by users to adopt a consumer product, and IT has to recognize that there's really no choice--and that the end result is almost always the same.

As consumer products enter the enterprise, IT goes through a process that oddly mimics the process which people go through when profound grief comes into their lives. The process for people is called the Kubler-Ross model. I call the process for IT the “Consumerization Grief Process.”


Stage 1. Denial and Isolation

The first reaction IT has when users ask for, demand, or simply bring new consumer IT products into the organization is usually to deny that what the users want has any validity. This is a defense mechanism because IT already has enough to do! Who needs anything that’s new, untested by IT, and costs both arms and both legs? Just ignore ’em, is usually IT’s first response.

Stage 2. Anger

As pressure builds within the organization for adoption of whatever the product is, IT’s ability to deny the product and the demand for it wears thin and anger creeps in. Those wretched users are upsetting the status quo!

Stage 3. Bargaining

IT attempts to bargain its way out of adopting the product. This is usually done by offering to upgrade something that is already in production, but as a ploy, it almost always fails because what IT is usually offering is “jam tomorrow”. The trouble with this solution is that users know tomorrow will be way down the road. They also know that if tomorrow comes sooner rather than later, what they’ll get will probably be a lot less than they wanted.

Stage 4. Depression

In this stage, IT finally starts to realize that the influx of consumer tech isn’t stoppable. If IT has refused to buy whatever the demanded product is, either various departments will start buying it for their members out of their own budgets (this happened a lot with printers and Wi-Fi), or the users will just buy the product for themselves (as has happened with iPhones and iPads).

This is a stage of great frustration and gloom for IT because it is now obvious and inevitable that IT’s wishes will be thwarted. The users will get their way and IT will have to accommodate the users whether IT likes it or not. Along with that the status quo will be redefined and priorities and challenges will have to shift and realign. For IT this is a very depressing time.

Stage 5. Acceptance

The final stage of Consumerization Grief is marked by the withdrawal of IT from conflict with the rest of the organization. Calm will result. IT will no longer fight against the product or the users and the product will become part of the corporate IT world. Given a few months, IT will likely have completely embraced the product and the issue of having ever fought against it will no longer even be up for consideration. IT will probably act like it was all their idea in the first place.

So, if you’re in IT and your users are pushing for the enterprise to adopt product X consider very carefully whether you have any chance whatsoever of blocking its adoption. The answer is increasingly becoming a great big “no.”