Archive | March 26, 2013

Consumerisation of IT

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Raising a child has been one of the proudest moments of my life, and being a fan of technology and gadgets it was a given that my son would follow in my footsteps. Now my son is not even 3 years old yet, but give him an i-device and he is more than capable of navigating it to find and use what he wants. The thing is, he expects everything to work like an i-device. He touches and swipes on the TV screen and wonders why nothing happens and expects everything with a screen to respond to swipes and touches.

His frustration at the lack of continuity across devices reflects what I see and hear from customers with regard to unified communications and collaboration. I get questions such as “why can’t I perform what should be an easy task on device x that I can do on device y?” or “why do I have to do things differently at work from at home to get the outcome I require?

The consumer world will always be more integrated and support a larger number of devices and features than corporate environments and this causes frustration, especially to the younger workers; this is for many reasons which we will not discuss here, but the way many modern businesses work restricts the adoption, interoperability or functionality of many modern collaborative tools and in turn their employees productivity, but that’s a subject for another blog.

What I like about i-devices is their ease of use, my son at 2 years old observed me using these devices and picked up the use of them pretty much instantly. Much of that comes down to the way that the user interface works. The other factor which is not specific to i-devices is that the user experience appeals to the senses to engage the user; I see and then I touch and something happens, sometimes visually, sometimes auditory or sometimes both, pretty much like reality. The virtual environment on the screen responds to your interactions just as you’d expect from the real world.

If we extend that to a wider audience, we get a similar experience with most of the tools that we use today, telephones all work in pretty much the same way, numbers remain the same, dialling is the same, email, text messaging, facebook, twitter etc. All function similarly in that the backend infrastructure can be accessed on many devices, be they tablet, phone or computer to provide mostly the same functionality regardless of the device used.

You could argue that it really doesn’t matter what device you use to create or access resources and information, as today most devices are good enough, and the user experience created by the application user interface is what separates a successful platform from an average one. Forcing people to change the way that they are and the way they work is not conducive to productivity. From my experience, good applications provide the best user interfaces to suit the device that the application is being accessed from. This is where I believe the future of unified communications will be. The device will simply become a tool that allows us to do what it is we want and need to do. The user interface and how it allows the user to access whatever, whenever will be the differentiator moving forward. Personally I can use pretty much any device to access what I need, what bothers me is badly written user interfaces  which prevents me from doing what I need to do or precluding me from accessing something because I don’t have the right device.

The challenge for application developers is to ensure that your user interfaces are usable and intuitive and that the back end protocols are inter-operable with other vendors; the challenge for Computacenter? Working with you to help guide innovation, change and collaboration without disrupting the workplace and making everything work seamlessly in the background so you don’t have to……

The Changing Face of Healthcare

In line with other public sector organisations, the NHS is required to make savings over the next few years. In total, these savings will amount to approximately £20Bn and are expected not to come from front line services, but rather to be found in rationalisation and efficiency savings across the board.

One way in which Acute Trusts and Mental Health Trusts are seeking to meet this challenge is to undertake Estates Rationalisation Programmes. Many organisations have a number of sites which are extremely expensive to run and are often providing limited services which can be carried out better in the community or linked with other NHS delivery to bring efficiencies.

For example, at some Trusts Community Nurses are based at a site where they have to attend each morning to log in to systems and collect their workload before setting off to see patients. At the end of the day, the clinician is required to return to the site to input the results of each clinical session undertaken, as well as ordering any follow ups required. This seriously impacts on the total time available to clinicians to meet with patients.

Technology can help. By making clinical systems accessible over mobile and wireless technologies in a completely secure and safe manner ensures that the clinician is able to access notes and patient details at the point of care. In the case of areas where mobile and wireless coverage is far from perfect (anything from rural areas to city centre housing estates and high rise blocks for example) systems can be made available in an “offline” mode. In this mode, the clinician still has access to information which is at most 24-48 hours out of date, but still very relevant to the patient.

The ability of these mobile clinicians not to have to come in to a “base” on a daily basis will reduce the amount of wasted time in travelling, and will increase total clinician-patient face time on a daily basis.

But Trusts need to think carefully about how this is achieved. Requirements of the Data Protection Act, the underlying principles of Caldicott and other NHS specific regulations around patient data security cannot be dismissed. The ICO (Information Commissioners Office) has been fining NHS organisations large sums for the loss of data, and so Trusts must ensure that data is fully secured both at rest and in transit.

Solutions will need to ensure that mobile devices (including BYOD devices) are properly secured and can be centrally managed – including full remote locking and remote wipe. In the case of clinical information, there is a requirement that the information is encrypted at all times. Furthermore, IT Directors and CIOs will have to ensure that such solutions are not open to “screen scraping” technologies.

But it is not only the information which needs to be secure. We also need to secure our staff. Clinicians are already vulnerable when out working in the community. Some are seen as targets for FP10 forms (prescriptions) or for possible drugs they may be carrying. Others invite attack simply for being a clinician. Equipping these staff with expensive mobile devices may increase the risk of muggings etc.

To prevent this, Trusts must employ strong lone worker solutions. A number of these are available ranging from solutions which are manual – based on mobile phone usage – to technically adept solutions which track locations (GPS) and have two way radio built into them which can be operated without patients/citizens being made aware. This then allows an emergency call centre to listen in to the situation and summon the appropriate assistance. The small costs of such systems and the decreasing costs of mobile solutions is quickly saved in the ability of organisations to reduce their estates footprint and to treat more patients in a shorter time.

But a word of warning. It is easy for CIOs and IT Directors to over-promise ROIs and perceived benefits of such systems. Any such implementation should be done in a phased approach allowing impact on services and savings to be correctly measured and monitored before a whole systems roll out. There are issues around ICT training, availability of hardware and solutions, security and even clinical adoption which need to be carefully ironed out before any programme is initiated. And one of the major reasons for failure of IT Programmes in the NHS? Clinician Engagement – the Trust must ensure that key clinicians who represent their areas are involved in the design and build of any mobile solution.

As an IT person, I can design a technical solution which will best meet the technical need – I cannot design a solution to be used in clinical areas without clinical input. I will only look at the technology, I need the clinicians to tell me how they work to ensure that workflows are logical to the use cases. Running a Proof of Concept with a partner of choice who is technology and vendor agnostic will allow Trusts to mix and match all solutions available to find the best approach for their specific clinical and business needs. Not all mobility solutions are the same, and not all security solutions are designed with the mobile workforce in mind. Overall, Trusts need to ensure that they select the right partner who is able to work closely with them to assist them in achieving their goals.

Are you COPEing?

There has been the usual flurry of mobile reports over the weekend from the likes of Gartner, Citrix and others. One of the articles that caught my eye was entitled “COPE Will Outshine BYOD in 2013”. Now we have talked in many of our CC blogs about how this industry loves an acronym or two and this was a new one on me. So if you live in the world of reality and to save you endless hours of wonderment I can explain it  for you –  COPE is meant to stand for ‘corporate owned, personally enabled’.

Now while you remove the cynical smile from your face, I thought there was a little more to the substance of this article. We all know that BYOD has reached the top of the hype curve and when you examine just how many Enterprise organisations have actually removed all of the corporately owned end user devices and let employees run their business from their own personal devices  -you’ll find that the answer is actually – very few.

I have been known to say on many occasions that ‘consumer IT’ and ‘BYOD’ are not the same outcome and here at CC we are definitely seeing a shift in our clients spend moving to more lightweight and touch enabled devices. However, we also see a range of new IT challenges — from security, compliance and management, to cost and human capital management, as organisations are rapidly forced to invest in some form of mobile device management (MDM). In a recent Gartner research note published at the back of last year they noted that MDM market has been growing, and will continue to grow in 2013, with the market size estimated at over $500 million, and more than 100 players!

The COPE article also stated that “Although a recent study shows that  77 percent of BYOD employees dislike the use of mobile device management (MDM) on their device, the “personally enabled,” or “PE,” aspect of COPE allows employees to choose the company-approved device they favour while also enabling them to use it personally and professionally”.

I can relate to this; as outside of the IT literate, high net worth and high fee earning individuals in an organisation – most would happily be given the right device to get on and do their job properly and accommodate for situations whereby they can access certain personal services if they want to (was it any different in desktop/laptop only days?).

However, there is clearly still some tension in reaching the right balance. Citrix recently published their quarterly enterprise mobility cloud report and one of the unexpected findings from the aggregated data showed that “Dropbox was on the blacklist, but was also one of the most heavily-recommended apps from enterprise IT (in the enterprise app catalog). This juxtaposition speaks to Dropbox’s simultaneous usefulness and risk! Organizations can’t decide!”

So how it for you? Is your mobile device strategy as clear as a bell or are you just about in a position to COPE? I’d be really interested in your viewpoint….

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