Corporate attitudes to consumer-led technologies extending into the enterprise must shift from "unavoidable nuisance" to "opportunity for additional innovation", according to Gartner.
The analyst firm predicts that employees will continue to push consumer technologies into the enterprise, particularly in areas such as personal productivity and communications.
"By embracing and leveraging employee experimentation and experience with consumer technologies, enterprises can enjoy a significant addition to the resources they can apply to evaluating innovation," said Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner fellow.
Technologies that initially targeted, and were adopted by, consumers have long made an impact in corporate IT, from PCs to today's invasion of the enterprise by consumer-grade instant messaging (IM) and desktop search products.
"In the emerging world of 'permanent beta' innovation led by web-native companies such as Google, the dominant approach is to throw a new capability out to potential users, see what they do with it, then figure out how to monetise it," Fenn said.
"This fertile breeding ground enables a raw idea to be refined rapidly and allows many applications for a new capability to be explored and evaluated in parallel, making it increasingly likely that significant new functionality relevant to enterprises will first arise in the consumer world."
The analyst noted that, in some cases, a technology may have been used in niche areas of enterprise IT, but may not spread broadly until widespread consumer adoption drives down the price.
However, not all classes of enterprise IT are likely to be affected equally by the consumer-first trend.
The areas where most innovation will occur will be those relevant to individuals and small workgroups, including personal productivity, communications and social networking, and programming and development tools.
"The flood of consumer-led technologies into the enterprise is not going to subside," said Fenn. "To fully realise the benefits, IT must embrace these technologies as an ongoing strategy rather than on a case-by-case basis."
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