Consumerization vs Corporate IT, Round 1
Consumerization is one of the "revolutions" of our time, along with its cousins cloud computing and big data but is the cart, in fact, in front of the horse or perhaps it's the tail that's wagging the dog. For sure, corporate IT users want to a) access their business data whenever and wherever they may be and b) use the aesthetically pleasing (AKA "sexy") devices that Apple and Google et al may care to throw at them. But, how much of this is genuinely improving their working life and how much is just making them feel better about having a working life (albeit a benefit not to be ignored in its own right). Well, after Consumerization, "Userfication" and "Gamification" are on their way and we face a future of ever more sophisticated (rather than complex) ways in which IT enriches the user experience.
"So what?" you may (or should) be asking. The challenge is this. The use of corporate IT has absconded from the control of corporate IT … again! Legions of users are bringing their iPhones and iPads and Androids and cloud drop boxes into the enterprise domain. Rather than trying to stop it, companies should be challenging themselves about how to embrace and derive value from it so that the very real business demands on security and compliance can still be met. This will differ according to the business. It is inevitably more onerous for banks than brewers but the key business requirement on IT remains the same - how do we embrace the arrival of remarkable (for it is truly that) technology to our business benefit rather than putting up a "Keep Out!" sign?
I've never been one for tablets - too much fuss for too little productive output for an old lag like me. However, I have recently had the opportunity to road test the latest in x86 cool, the Intel inspired Ultrabook and so far I am close to being converted. The device has full blown Windows capability and performance (unlike previous netbook incarnations) in a form factor to die for. Lots of brushed metal, about 13mm thick, speakers by Bang & Olufsen, a power lead that fits in your pocket and HD video output all put it right up there.
For the geeks like me, with the Intel i5 processor, 4GB memory, and a solid-state disk drive (SSD), you can happily run "thicktop" Windows workloads in a very "skinnytop" way - indeed the skinny latte of the computing world. The instant on feature has also yet to fail (in reality a wake from sleep mode that actually works reliably) and it is apparent that the SSD makes for very speedy performance and practically silent operation.
The one contention so far is with the claimed 6 hour battery life which is in reality closer to 4 hours. Rather like car fuel consumptions, battery life remains somewhat overstated and no doubt tied to minimal load lab conditions without a wifi or bluetooth connection in sight. Nevertheless, having recently shared a busy Eurostar table with the Ultrabook in tow, it is interesting how gargantuan the traditional "thicktop" now appeared, as people fought for their space on the table and access to the only power outlet - "Hey people - get with the programme!!".
So is it just a Macbook Air without piece of fruit on the back? Perhaps but I am not in a position to judge against the Ultrabook's peers, only against its forebears. The proof is of course in the eating and the big challenge in my world is how could I survive outside of the corporate network embrace. Well, I am able to securely synchronise my company content offline (fully encrypted) and run my traditional office productivity applications so no issue there. I have browser access to my key company ERP, Content Management and Wiki applications so the real challenge left is no access to off line email, which has proven itself to actually be quite liberating. Rather than spending "downtime" catching up on email, I am forced (such is the power of addiction) to do "real" work instead. Email becomes restricted to whenever I have (or choose to have) network connectivity and therefore a more balanced part of the working day. I recommend that you try it.
So how do you deal with an expanding supply of diverse and mutually incompatible devices that are driven into the workplace by personal choice and preference. The advent of HTML5 makes the browser a strong candidate for the corporate application delivery mechanism of choice to a myriad of devices. Given its inherent platform independence and therefore protection from the fragmenting of the device landscape into proprietary app-store based approaches. Remember vendor lock in? It started in the 1950's and it's never gone away. Time will tell if the browser approach can maintain the necessary security with enough abstraction from the underlying platform without compromising the user experience when compared to native applications. However a key challenges remains how to deal with offline activity which, whatever people may say about ubiquitous networking, is here to stay for some time yet.
The conclusion? There is room for many approaches to the delivery of the applications and data to the end user. If not completely driven, these will still be heavily influenced by that most unpredictable of forces - the human condition. The future for corporate IT departments is therefore filled with challenge and opportunity. Those who embrace this to "securely connect" their workforce in ways previously not thought of will be seen as bringing the value so long demanded of IT from the business. Those who don’t run the risk of being left behind by users who are increasingly savvy enough to work it out for themselves.
Seconds out …… Round 2!!!