Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.
You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.
We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.
It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness.
It’s impossible to separate Work IT from the transformation of organizational design. Work IT supports emerging approaches to organization – sociocratic, holacratic, podular, wirearchical – over the traditional hierarchical command-and-control structures. And the advantages of such networked organization encourages innovation in and the adoption of Work IT. I consider sustainability to be the major driver.
Sustainability – the health and resilience of living systems including our societies and organizations – requires individual agency, diversity, and distributed networks to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. This then conveys some of the traits we will demand for the continued growth of Work IT, including openness and privacy, accessibility and digital inclusion.

Open and private

Open society, open government, and open organization help create greater transparency and accountability, and yet concurrently concern for the privacy of personal data and information is growing. In the absence of self-regulation when it comes to the mass surveillance of our use of digital technologies, law-makers are stepping up to the mark. Non-compliance with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation for example might incur penalty of 5% of global turnover. That focuses the mind.
Work IT may excel at openness, but centralized Enterprise IT remains the stronghold for data security and compliance, impeding the growth of Work IT. This will only be addressed by some metadata mechanism to express the provenance and confidentiality of data such that it may flow where it will but not where it should not. And just as Work IT supports a distributed network of workers, this facility will in turn likely hang off the only known system for incorruptible, distributed database – the blockchain.

Accessibility and digital inclusion

We are all unique. We all have different digital, numerical, information and visual literacy. Millions of people have one or more disabilities, and millions more will become disabled with age, yet UI designers simply cannot cater to this variety.
We need all things digital to adapt to us, not as currently the other way round. Only when Work IT and the digital interactions with all variety of organizational stakeholder adopt a human interface might we have the chance to reap everyone’s full participation. In other words, bring-your-own-interface.

Social business

With compliance built-in rather than bolted-on, and all things digital deigning to adapt to us, major frictions currently impeding the individual’s ability to seek, sense and share are eliminated, manifesting in organizational learning, collective intelligence and responsiveness.
Social business is about all stakeholders coming together to add mutual value faster than otherwise, with the help of social technologies, appropriately transformed culture, and a network orientation rather than command and control. It’s co-creation with customers, partners, suppliers, everyone, constantly striving to find the right combination to best pursue shared objectives, guided by shared values.
Social business is, by this definition, sustainable business, and such self-organization demands that Work IT enables the organized self. By this I mean software that represents us in finding opportunities to create mutual value with others, and then helps us realise that value.
In just a few decades then we’ll have moved from a hoped-for exceptional choice of laptop to fast-and-loose organization inviting you to bring-you-and-your-own-everything. Indeed, to you playing your part in spontaneous organization.

Virtual desktops don’t replace EMM

A few weeks ago, a Gigaom Research client told me she was “sick of BYOD” and wanted out. She asked me if I thought she could “dump everything and just have employees remote into their desktops when they need to work from the road.”

It’s a compelling question, and timely, too.

In his 2015 end-user computing outlook, Gigaom Research analyst Simon Bramfitt documents the persistent fears that businesses have of BYOD plans along with the growing acceptance of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). It’s tempting to think that the two trends are directly connected: By turning smartphones and tablets into dumb terminals, we combine the redundant connectivity of a mobile device with all the security and manageability of a containerized desktop environment. If your iPad falls into a river, let it float — your data is safe on a server.

And plenty of vendors support VDI as an important component of an enterprise mobility solution. Citrix is  leading in mindshare, with a solid enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform and perhaps the industry’s best-known VDI solution. With AirWatch firmly under its wing, VMware offers a very similar range of features, and Microsoft isn’t far behind. Every week, in fact, I see lots of excitement from vendors about virtualized environments on mobile devices. But we’ve heard barely a peep from IT management — the ones who actually manage mobility programs. So while scrapping mobile app development in favor of delivering general-purpose apps to any device via a virtualized desktop seems like a tempting solution to a mobile headache, it clearly doesn’t stand in as a replacement for a BYOD plan.

In the last two years, I’ve only heard one other client mention an interest in using VDI as an alternative to apps. Here are three reasons why.

Assets still matter

An unlocked top-of-the-line smartphone like an iPhone 6 or a Galaxy 5 costs nearly as much as a laptop, and supporting and configuring that hardware is expensive (particularly if the tech support staff is not familiar with a specific phone model). And even if virtualization solved all security and access problems, tracking, managing and provisioning devices would still be a necessary and resource-consuming evil.

Mobile-device management (MDM) software provides those asset-focused services, and should be a standard deployment for every enterprise. And since most MDM providers already bundle a free or low-cost suite of applications to handle the most common productivity tasks, using those apps is generally much easier (and cheaper) than creating and supporting a virtualization program to connect to desktop apps.

Mobility is about more than the app

 Enterprise mobility isn’t simply about accessing apps on the go. The devices themselves are an integral part of the picture. That includes SMS, voice, location-based services, and the camera, all of which need to be managed and integrated into a system. For example, a sales app might integrate text and email communications with prospects while using GPS to guide reps to a meeting.  Enterprises supporting similar use cases beyond routine productivity  will want to take full advantage of everything a device has to offer through traditional apps.

There are also a number of mobile-specific concerns that rely on device and usage context. Throttling data transfers or disabling certain applications when a user is roaming or over a data cap can be managed fairly easily with EMM tools in traditional mobile settings. Connecting app behavior to device and plan data is much more difficult when the app is running inside a virtualized black box with limited connection to the device.

Mobile apps are different

Successful mobile apps are rarely anything like their desktop counterparts. While a desktop or web app can provide a wide range of choices through menus and expansive screens, a good mobile experience is heavily dependent on context and workflow, providing only the tools a worker needs at that moment to accomplish their current task. And since task switching is particularly difficult on mobile devices, good apps often pull from a number of different sources, mashing up traditional enterprise apps into a unified-but-focused front end.

And building those apps continues to get easier. No-coding platforms allow non-developers to drag-and-drop app components and data sources to create basic business apps. Cross-platform Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADPs) allow developers to write one set of code and deploy it to multiple target platforms.

VDI will certainly play a role in enterprise mobility. Our other client who asked about VDI had a very specific goal in mind. Following an acquisition, he wanted to provide an iOS environment to 500 new sales reps on non-Apple tablets. He needed his new employees to be productive right away, and he didn’t want to replace perfectly good hardware. That’s the kind of use case that’s absolutely perfect for VDI. It’s also a great solution for occasional users who need short-term access to a wide range of office applications and assets. But as a catchall solution, we’re going to have to live with EMM and mobile as we know them. Our devices are too smart to become dumb.

Image courtesy of triloks/iStock.

Podcast: How enterprises can build successful BYOD programs

Implementing a formal BYOD strategy is key for many companies today. But finding one that can be managed in a secure and organized fashion is a challenge for many. In the latest GigaOM Research podcast, curator Cormac Foster and analyst Aileen Arcilla discuss challenges and steps for successful, cost-effective BYOD programs in enterprises.
Stitcher Radio
Host: David Linthicum
Speakers: Cormac Foster and Aileen Arcilla

  • What is BYOD?
  • What is the value of BYOD when leveraged within enterprises?
  • What are some of the technologies that enterprises can leverage to manage a BYOD workforce?
  • What should enterprise do to get ahead of the use of BYOD technologies?
  • What about security and privacy?

Instgram’s Twit-storm, Netflix nabs Disney, GMail’s Pretty iPad App
RoadMap re-run, our talk with Instagram’s Kevin Systrom
iTunes 11, When Things Connect, Sun Volt
What Aspiring New Media Stars Should Know About Agents and Managers
Holiday Gadget Gift Guide
War Tweets, Google TV and Nexus 4
Director Jay Duplass on low-fi movies through high-tech
Election Dissection, Ditching DSL and Dumping the iPad
Sandy’s Social, Infrastructure Impact and Forstall
Windows 8 Surfaces, and disruption eruption
iPad Mini, iMac gets skinny
Boxee Cloud DVR, Apple Rumors and Chromebook
Commutist interview: Joy of X author Steven Strogatz
Commutist podcast: Patent trolls, Costco ban and Passbook’s home run
Commutist, meet Nerdist, and interview with Chris Hardwick
T-Metro, Broadband Caps, Remembering Steve Jobs
Apple’s iO-Mess, Dirty Data Centers and Tesla
News from the Mobilize Conference
Paul Tough: How Children Succeed and what you can learn from them
The iPhone 5 Event
Come on, Kindle, Light My 4G Fire

Mocana raises $25M to secure the enterprise app boom

Mocana, a startup that is dedicated to securing the Internet of things has raised $25 million in a Series D round led by Trident Capital. While securing devices is Mocana’s biggest business, the fastest growing product is Mocana’s solution for protecting mobile applications.

InstallFree Nexus brings productivity apps to any browser

Getting productivity apps in a bring-your-own-device age is getting easier with the release of InstallFree Nexus, which allows users to access Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader and other apps from any browser without the need for a client or app download.

Go ahead, bring those holiday gadgets to work

IBM recently announced new social networking and collaboration mobile apps — specifically designed to support enterprise needs around consumer mobile devices. IBM aims to bring social networking, real-time collaboration, and online meeting capabilities from behind the company firewall and into the hands of tablet users.

Bring Your Own Device Will Usher in Bring Your Own Apps, Too

The workplace, and especially the virtual workplace of the distributed office, will inevitably see more and more workers embracing the “bring-your-own-device” model of enterprise hardware management. But there’s also another new trend that companies who use distributed teams should prepare for: the era of bring-your-own-apps.