After numerous years performing a task (it can be anything from a daily job to fatherhood), you often reach the point of preaching (or maybe it’s just me): “In my day…” or “we didn’t do things like that” and so on… But the rate of change in business driven by information technology (IT) today makes time frames as short as a year ago seem like the “good old days”.
Last weekend was opened by “Black Friday”, a social season that’s skipped across to the UK in pretty much a year to mirror one of the largest retail trading windows in the US – “Thanksgiving”. The Thanksgiving weekend stateside unlocked a retail extravaganza of below bargain prices and frenzied shopping at a level rarely seen in the UK outside of the few weeks that precede Christmas. Even though we don’t celebrate “Thanksgiving” we now have our own Black Friday price crash and shopping madness that I suspect will be here for the indefinite future. So where I hear you ask is the IT link, can IT really be the silver bullet to retail success in a manic market? Not in isolation as people buying from people, served by people, engaging with people is still the richest emotional experience, but with the dawn of Omni-channel as an essential go-to-market strategy, IT genuinely is the “silver bullet”.
Picture the average UK shopper last weekend (Black Friday weekend):
- The UK news media started to stoke the fire of “Black Friday” days earlier advertising the potential for once in a lifetime deals and prices.
- Consumers via the internet researched current prices and specifications of products of interest.
- Those consumers keen on bargains but without the crush were waiting keenly at 00.00am (and 1 second) on Friday morning to place the first online orders at the Black Friday price.
- Many web sites couldn’t cope creating a situation that reinforces the importance of robust IT systems potentially using cloud computing to allow “burst” or on-demand scaling with application delivery controllers that shares workloads across both local and global systems.
- As the online trading carried on furiously through the early morning, the retail high street front doors opened and stampedes ensued for many who had researched online, but wanted to visit the store in person (as much for the emotional and tactile shopping experience).
- And as the tills rang and many left those frantic stores bargains in hand, fleets of delivery vehicles were then despatched to deliver both online orders and in-store orders in a manner most convenient to the purchaser.
A quick comparison with the “good old days” and using a similar example:
- The consumer would visit the store, research in store and buy in store (or visit multiple stores until the price or “offer” was right); or research online, buy online; or research online, pick in store; and for both delivery to a location that suits at a time that suits.
Dynamic, highly scalable processing systems, with the capability to burst into on demand resources at peak times, balanced across the globe by high performance, application-aware networks with secure application delivery control, must surely be the only template that can deliver repeated success in this “Black Friday” influenced digital economy. That’s why IT delivered well is key to Omni-channel success (in fact retail success in general). As Europe’s leading user enablement IT infrastructure systems integrator, Computacenter plays a major role in this arena, ensuring time is not just money, but equally ultimate customer satisfaction.
Omni-channel, underpinned by the effective amalgam of IT and human service delivery delivers the best of all of the above. The consumer “Omni-channel” engagement mode (“my product, in my time, my way”) is fast becoming the norm for consumers ever-present today, with few memories of the “good old days”. Buy online/collect in store, research online/collect in-store, browse in-store/buy online – “my way”.
Without Omni-channel the only channel available to the consumer is “your channel”, the channel(s) presented by the retailer. However in today’s personalised digital economy retailers may find if they don’t allow the buyer to engage and interact via “their” channel, they may choose not to transact via the retailer at all. A simple to use, effective online presence is now essential, but alongside UC-enabled customer contact centres, high street-based outlets with engaging staff, customer WIFI, digital signage for rich media advertising and back-end systems that deliver a single customer data view, it’s easy to see how Omni-channel that blends all is quickly becoming the king of the castle.
Until next time.
In this blog, one of a series over the coming weeks, I’m going to run through some of the top trends we are seeing in the fast paced world of Enterprise Mobility. Starting with the Top 5 headline market trends:
1. From MDM to EMM
We’ve seen over the past 12-18 months the Mobile Device Management (MDM) market evolve into what is now termed Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM). EMM encompasses three key facets to make mobile technology a truly viable platform for business productivity. EMM is comprised of:
- Mobile Device Management (MDM)
- Mobile Application Management (MAM)
- Mobile Content Management (MCM)
We’ve seen all the key players evolve their proposition from MDM to EMM, and Gartner even declared “MDM is a feature not a product”, so the direction of travel towards integrated suites that deliver apps and content, while retaining the underlying device control is clear.
2. BYOD, CYOD or COPE?
We have lots of discussions around modern device ownership models. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), to Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) and Corporately Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) – which model should you choose?
It would be fair to say we’ve not really seen BYOD take off in our market (Europe) as much as it has particularly in North America, with the predominant model being Corporately Owned Personally Enabled (COPE). With the growth of smartphone/tablet adoption we are seeing a much greater acceptance of enterprise to accommodate Personal usage on corporate assets. In many instances this has resulted in fringe benefits such as a reduction in repairs/returns as an individual will often take better care of the device when it has more of a personal importance to them – I guess that’s just human nature!
3. Work and Life Collide
Extending from trend 2, we are also starting to see users consolidate their devices. At the moment this is more from a personal/business life perspective as the “3 screen” principle of working still seems to be prevalent. However with pragmatism around COPE ownership models, the power and capability of “smart-tech” that we’re seeing deployed into enterprises, and good old user power many users are now blurring the lines between Personal and Work life. Just this week I read an interesting report that analysed this trend and showed the propensity for business/personal blending to be far more prominent across only certain type of user communities rather than all workers
4. Mobile Applications
As early adopters embrace mobile technologies, we’re starting to see interest in development of Native and mobile aware (e.g. HTML5) applications, and also the emergence of Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADP). The latter is a relatively new area of the market proliferated with a number of different providers and approaches, however we’re seeing the development of modern mobile applications across a number of different industry verticals as enterprises move forwards on their mobile and digitisation strategy. Exploiting mobile technologies for line of business use cases is clearly the forward direction, but is still an infant market waiting to grow as the hardware and software platforms mature.
This all ultimately relates to a “digitisation strategy” with mobility as a central pillar. This is a journey, we think comprised of 3 key stages, but a number of our customers are already achieving competitive advantage and differentiation by exploiting mobility early to enhance customer engagement, open up new markets and enable their staff
5. Pace of change
Working at the speed of mobile encompasses a number of things that are changing the classic paradigms for enterprise IT. The pace of change in the market, driven by new influencers such as consumerisation and user power, as well as new vendors who have fundamentally different approaches to their product strategies (Annual OS releases etc). Solution providers (EMM vendors) are increasingly embracing a “cloud first” SaaS delivery mechanism, in doing so introducing updates and releases to their platforms on anything up to a monthly basis. This creates a rate of change we’ve never experienced before, and breeds diversity of a scale we probably couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago. For example >18,000 Android variants, a new device released somewhere in the world every 6 days are just some of the stats I’ve heard recently that pay testament to that. Add to this a volatile wider market with Merger and Acquisitions, and partnership agreements as each vendor tries to maximise their value and relevance across the full workplace and mobile spectrum
The above poses a complex challenge for organisations to navigate in this “mobile first” world, and is just my top 5. There are many others which I can’t cover here as I limited myself to just 5, but serves to demonstrate the challenges (and opportunities!) of embracing mobility – but there’s much to consider.
We recently hosted a number of our partners and customers at our “Driving Enterprise Mobility” events in Manchester and London. The feedback and dialogue at these events was excellent as we explored a number of topics and challenges in how to embrace the mobility trend that we hear so much about in the market. This blog summarises the key messages from the events, and we hope it inspires you to attend some of our future events.
As you will be aware, Computacenter has recently changed our strapline from “Services and Solutions” to “Enabling Users”. With that our emphasis on providing the best service and solution to users, and viewing the world through their eyes in everything we do has been reinforced. Our overall strategy is influenced by what is known as the “SMAC stack” – the trends of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud which dominate the IT agenda. Mobile is clearly a central aspect of our strategy and we shared an update on our own internal mobile initiative which has been running since early 2014, and we have called our “Group Mobile Engine”.
Customers face a number of challenges and a raft of competing priorities, perhaps more so than ever with the sheer pace of change in the market and the growing expectations and demands of their user base. We recognise a number of different challenges that organisations face across three main pillars:
- Market – this addresses the volatility, uncertainty, innovation and change that is occurring in our market place, that we need to understand and plan a response to
- Operational – the need to “keep the lights on”. Notwithstanding the opportunity that innovation and new technology provides, the need to manage cost, efficiency and improve the delivery of core IT services is the core need
- Users – Managing and catering to the needs of a more expectant user base, both in terms of Generation Y and Z, but also the more fundamental impacts of consumerisation and a drive towards the latest technology and the simplest user experience.
Much focus around mobility is centred on smartphone and tablet technology, but with a number of our key partners supporting the events we were able to provide a showcase of the latest technology from these manufacturers. From traditional laptops through to ultra-mobile and hybrid devices, the range of End-User hardware technology and innovation, and the opportunities this presents to meet modern work styles is immense.
With that in mind we established our “Right Advice to Right Device” approach of Workstyle analysis, where we seek to understand and analyse the varied user profiles within an organisation and align the appropriate solution to that need. Important to note here is that this is not solely about the device technology, but the ability to support and manage the device in accordance with factors such as data security, as well as the applications and services that the user requires, so that the device compliments and supports the nature of their work.
Recognising the various workstyles that exist in the modern world, the requirement and demands to cater for multiple ownership models such as BYOD or COPE (Corporately Owned Personally Enabled), and the plethora of devices that are available – both in terms of hardware varieties and Operating Systems with the mobile shift in full force presents for a complex model. Our “Contemporary Workplace” approach pictured below demonstrates how we go about helping organisations navigate through this complexity and work towards a future state with the flexibility to accommodate the diversity which is now the key aspect of the modern workplace environment.
At the event, we were supported by Citrix and Intel who are key partners. Each explained the effect that mobility is having on their businesses and solutions and how they are addressing these needs through their own offerings and strategy.
The events provided an overview of what we see in the market, and what we are doing through our own mobility project and initiatives. Mobility is clearly a very broad topic which extends from changing the technology in an individual users hand all the way to full Workplace Enablement and Transformation initiatives. The latter seeks to redefine the whole working environment and context to cater for future ways of working – including mobility, flexible working, collaboration and office rationalisation and re-design.
As it stands we are very close to some key milestones relating to our own mobility project which was of great interest to the attendees, many of whom are also seeking to define their own mobile strategy and understand how ‘Going Mobile’ can provide business value, efficiency, better user satisfaction and increased market opportunity in their own markets.
Industry surveys, analyst commentary, our client and partner conversations all suggest that “Mobility” is the hottest concept in enterprise IT, possibly surpassing “cloud” which has dominated the IT agenda in recent years. But haven’t we always been mobile?
We may be in danger of speaking about ‘Mobility’ as if its a new concept even though we’ve had mobile work styles and solutions for at least the past 20 years! What is changing, and what we need to focus on is how technology, user demands and innovation are driving solutions that in turn drive a whole new value proposition around mobility and its application potential across a much broader area. In doing so, we need to reset our definition of “Enterprise Mobility”
Our Mobile Journey
A mobile worker was once a “road warrior”, based from the company car, armed with only a work diary they would conduct the majority of their working week away from the office – meeting clients, taking orders and writing up notes that they would then have to process on their return to the office and “got connected”. This was how you achieved customer intimacy, but with glaring inefficiencies and challenges that seem so alien to us now.
True, IT mobility started in the laptop era. As hardware became more cost effective businesses could unshackle key users from a fixed office location. Dial up RAS was the first mobile solution, as long as you were near a telephone line! It was better, but still not efficient or flexible. With the emergence of broadband technology and WiFi, mobile working joined the mainstream and with the prevalence of mobile phones users could be connected and contactable. Suddenly users became mobile, productive and contactable! The really important people were also given a Blackberry, the epitome of mobility.
It would be difficult to say that we weren’t mobile, albeit in the early days it could be an inefficient and frustrating experience
Consumerisation: Redefining Mobility
The mobile workforce was contented, technology was enhancing and connectivity was improving as we moved into the 3G area. Then came an explosion of consumer led technology – devices and cloud services. This moved “mobility” to the next level, and before we knew it, this technology found its way into the corporate world.
Device platforms and form factors changed, but more importantly the technology was much simpler to operate and fashionable, and with strong connectivity it all started to come together:
We can work anywhere, on any device, and at any time.
The only lingering problem was that this was starting to occur under the radar; users were driving this trend rather than the IT department. The term “shadow IT” was coined to define the trend, and is now explains the significant challenges facing the IT department.
Challenges and the Future
The future mobile world is a complex mix of all of the things we’ve discussed – devices, connectivity, services, applications and data. We want to be able to work from multiple device types, at any time, in any location and for it to be consistent and at/for our convenience. The nature of work has also changed significantly, competition in the market, globalisation and the demands it places on employees and the strive for home/life balance and key examples where we as users have had to look towards new technology to help us “keep up” and achieve the right balance
The demands are unprecedented, and require we architect and think about mobility in a whole new way:
- Abstract the user and their services from the devices that they use
- To support a much broader range of device platforms and form factors
- Mobilise applications and data content
- Govern, manage and secure the services to protect the company
- Put the user needs and experience at the forefront of the design
Those are the guiding principles by which we’re developing our Mobility and Workplace services; Mobility isn’t new, but the challenges and opportunities it now offers businesses are bigger than ever before.
I was fortunate last week to visit one of our enterprise customers for an executive strategy session.
The customer invited a room of senior stakeholders to discuss and debate future ways of working and connecting next generation end user workspaces. Many questions were posed – what are the needs of tomorrows employee, what does tomorrows customer look like, who will the competitors be – how many of today’s major players will remain? Most importantly what changes are required, personal, cultural, professional, operational, technological and so on to take everything that makes the organisation great today and recalibrate it to ensure they are great tomorrow.
It is a pleasure to interface directly with business stakeholders discussing how their organisation needs to evolve to realise business success in the future. And you know it’s a mutually rewarding session when discussions pose new and radical questions that encourage all to rethink even the most robust personal viewpoints.
Understanding the “future way of working” or “tomorrows workplace”, spawned by evolving employee and customer behaviour seems to be top of the agenda of many organisations serious about winning in the corporate landscape of tomorrow. But where do you start, is the current BYOD euphoria a sneak preview of tomorrows mobile orientated, information rich, always on world or the late arrival of an activity organisations should have undertaken years ago.
And the wire “free” wireless network environment both public and private highlighted by many as one of the silver bullets of “next generation workspace” is also raising a few concerns. The consensus seems to be whilst performing admirably most of the time, many legacy wireless LANs are seriously compromised all too many times. Which positions a wireless LAN upgrade as the first “upgrade it now” post it note on the fridge of any thought leading CTO or CIO.
And who can forget end user devices, or is it operating systems or is it applications or even “apps”, and so on. Do we understand the end user behaviour enabled by this new mobile device wave that unlocks and enables different business outcomes – can the organisation harness it, maximise it, capitalise on it?
But now appears a real dilemma, “to be ready for the workspace tomorrow”, “where do you start today”. Is it wireless, is it devices, users, apps, BYOD – is it security, is it process / workflow change, is it all of the above and more ….. Or is it quite simply to “just start”.
Change starts with change and one of the hardest elements to embrace for even the most successful of the worlds species is the ode that the “skills and capabilities have got you here may not be enough to get you there”.
Future blogs will examine this topic further but organisations may want to consider the following as a minimum to ensure they obtain a connected environment essential to achieving “future workspace” success.
- Local area access switch functionality and effectiveness (poe, onboard WLC,etc).
- Device independent applications (HTML5 for example).
- Wireless LAN coverage, reliability and performance.
- End user wireless access and authentication, remediation.
- Mobile device and application management (MDaAM)
- Data loss prevention (DLP)
- Wireless to core round trip optimisation (and internet back haul)
Getting today’s workplace centric organisation ready for tomorrow’s workspace centric ideal will be fun but hard. With that in mind senior level sponsorship and acknowledgement that change is not only essential but also now, is as good a place to start – and will ensure that you actually “start”.
Until next time
I hereby make the case for a new term to describe our rich, IP network delivered, information flow – “Digital Fuel”.
Put simply, the wealth of digital information circling continually around the developed world could be classified as a fuel source utilised to drive everything from our social activity to the global economy. It now feeds the world, transported by IP networks and ensures we can consume the ever increasing volume of information created all the time, by everyone – everywhere.
But should it really be called fuel, what does it drive or power? In this IT centric day and age it may be easier to describe what “Digital Fuel” doesn’t drive over what it does. And if we loosely align the “Digital Fuel” term with its fossil equivalent, what do we really understand about it? How is “Digital Fuel” generated and who dominates the supply chain? In the fossil fuel arena, certain geographic regions or nation states play a key role – does such a regional dominance exist in the “Digital Fuel” arena? And closer to home, as you read this blog, where does your “Digital Fuel” originate from – where is it refined and processed – how is it secured / stored?
For the purpose of this blog the term “Digital Fuel” is used as a play on words, analogous to other “powered” system based ideologies or indeed realities – but in a pause for deep thought the term may ring truer than initially considered. As I sought to find additional insight to support the term “Digital Fuel” I located the following definition online in the midst of explanations aligning fuel with combustible fossil outcomes, Fuel -. something that nourishes or builds up emotion, action, etc.
Surely that definition resonates and could support the notion of “Digital Fuel” as information transported, realtime, all of the time by networks and now fundamental to our societal existence. But do you protect the pipelines or “networks” that deliver your “Digital Fuel” with the same level of diligence aligned with our fossil fuel pipelines – do you deem it part of your organisations “Essential critical infrastructure?”
If “Digital Fuel” really exists it raises serious questions of the use and importance of this fundamental and increasingly critical energy source. In too many circumstances the IP network readiness, design and deployment discussions are an afterthought usually well behind other more glamorous technology or business centric outcomes. BYOD, VDI, cloud computing, end user mobility, (I could continue) – all create, process and utilise “Digital Fuel”. But without a network fit for purpose, available and secure all of the time everywhere, the fuel delivery stops. And with it so do we….
If you seeking business change and need more fuel, it’s time to make the IP network readiness conversation your first one not your worst one. If not how will your “Digital Fuel”, fuel?
Until next time
It looks like the BYOD term has been knocked off its perch (well for a short period at least) as the hottest term around – the big story is now “the Wireless LAN”.
In recent years every mobility or BYOD discussion resulted in a “to MDM or not MDM” debate with the consensus MDM was a must have technology (whether it delivered all of the outcomes originally promised is the discussion of a future blog). However as we fast forward through the start of 2013 the BYOD topic now starts and ends with a debate about “wireless networking effectiveness”. In the time before the “mobility wave” the wireless LAN most commonly experienced by the corporate end user was a home based network of convenience deployed with simplicity in mind but often lacking in reliability.
But how things have changed, what was a useful add-on to the physical RJ45 cable based corporate LAN environment has now become the talk of the CIO agenda and potentially the bane of many CIOs lives. That same wireless network used by guests, learned end users (who knew how to sneak the secret passwords) and the handful of approved laptop users is fast becoming the defacto connectivity environment for most end users. Where is the RJ45 port on a tablet computer, or modern Smartphone – does anyone care? Why embrace the inflexibility of laptop use tethered via the physical RJ45 network port when it becomes free and supremely flexible when connected via a high performing wireless network environment. The behaviour of many of us in both personal and professional arenas toward wireless connectivity has changed. In previous years, the IT aware individual within a household configured and used the home wireless network due to awareness of it at work – now the generation Y/Z digital natives not only own the home wireless network for social, education and entertainment ideals, but equally expect it to exist all the time everywhere.
Searching for a wireless hotspot is a teenage norm and second nature to all due to the ubiquitous use of smart phones, tablets, hand held games consoles and all fundamental to a digital native personal or social existence. But it doesn’t stop there, the behaviour outlined previously synonymous with a generation Y/Z persona now exists within us all, from the seven year old expecting the ipad to connect to download the latest update to “Temple Run”, to the corporate professional checking into a hotel on business uttering those now all too common words at reception “what is the key for the wireless network”. Do you ever remember the physical network deemed so fundamental to our work/home existence as the wireless network is today – it actually was, but in our minds it “wasn’t” and their lies the hypnotic magic of the wireless or WIFI network. This blog homes in on WIFI wireless networks but the ever reducing blur between WIFI and service provider 3G/4G networks forces us to summarise it all as “THE WIRELESS NETWORK” (not technically correct, but you get the picture).
The wireless network underpins and enables the new world order, one where the end user can have the best connected experience of “ME” but at the swipe of a hand can choose to be part of a worldwide “WE”. That only works if the nothing stops connectively and no rules exist for connection (i.e. “it’s not available or limited to times, zones, locations”). The wireless network is already the primary network and with “gigabit wireless” coming soon destined to be so woven into the fabric of our personal and professional existence we face a “world wide stall” at times of wireless network failure. Some would say it makes the task of maintaining and securing these wireless networks far more important than we think. Uuummm, I think I can feel another blog coming on.
Until next time