Rise Of The Machines: How IT Support Forgot Who They Are Supporting

The hype around consumerisation and BYOD aside, the one thing that cannot be escaped is the fact that more and more workers are now using multiple devices to carry out their work on a daily basis. In fact, 53% of employees elect to use their own device to fulfill their work responsibilities. For the IT department, this creates a headache.

Whereas before, managing a user’s IT experience was making sure their workstation was operational, today it is about delivering a consistent level of support, user experience and a multitude of services across the different platforms that employees use.

From an end user perspective, IT’s attempts to manage each individual device with policies and compliance measures is needlessly overcomplicating the process. Let’s take for example, the end-user who uses a Windows based desktop as their main device, an iPad for working on the go and an Android-powered smartphone as their primary mobile device – already giving IT three different devices to manage with all the policies that go along with each.

The approach by IT departments and solution providers to put the devices at the centre of everything the user does is out dated. Not surprisingly, 75% of the world’s population has access to mobile devices, and now 12% of the population uses two more devices, which is anticipated to steadily grow each year. A much more sensible and simple approach is to put the employee at the centre of the IT policy and make the devices and services they use fit around them. Let us call this ‘people-centric’ IT.

By placing the user at the core of all IT policies, an IT department can provide an improved user experience and regain a flexibility that is currently lost by siloing user policies against each separate device. Going forward this will become increasingly important, especially as mobile devices and tablets are becoming ever more sophisticated.

The advances made in mobile technology will result in devices that are more capable of handling the cloud-based virtualised platforms that are the key to delivering user-centric platforms with a consistent feel across a wide range of formats. It’s about empowering users to get their jobs done, using the applications they need to use regardless of what device they happen to be using or form which location they are operating.

BYOD has become the dominant paradigm in explaining the trend of consumerisation of IT. While undoubtedly a huge part of the consumerisation trend, it only goes some of the way towards truly explaining the concept. And before IT departments have got a handle on it, a new trend is sitting on the horizon – BYOX – bring your own apps, data, device or anything else you use to do your job.

Thinking of the consumerisation trend in this holistic manner can allow IT departments to focus on the users and what they may want and need. Only thinking about the device will stifle productivity and decrease innovation.

Yet, delivering services created for end users is still where the majority of IT solutions providers are missing a trick. These companies are selling complete end-to-end systems that do not necessarily allow the flexibility required to deliver a ‘people-centric’ service.

While it is true that most deliver an innovative solution to various problems, the agile and nimble organisation and its highly productive end users require a more varied approach to IT system roll-out – picking and choosing the services and platforms that they need to remain productive.

Take desktop virtualisation for example. Some IT decision makers and solutions providers will argue that everything needs to move towards a virtualised environment and that physical desktop environments should be totally ignored. While there is no doubt that this is beneficial for many organisations, sometimes a physical desktop may be a better option for workers. However, if the IT department has fully bought in to an organisation-wide virtualisation package, what may have been the best option for some workers suddenly becomes no option at all.

The same goes for mobile device management (MDM). BYOD encourages users to use a preferred mobile device for work purposes; however IT departments essentially strangle this with MDM in an effort to protect corporate assets.

Most MDM platforms more or less prevent users from using their devices for personal use by restricting the apps that can run on the device. What this means is that by bringing their own device to work, users are effectively surrendering it to the IT department, an idea which is totally at odds with BYOD in its purest form.

Perhaps the root of this issue is that the majority of IT departments are still delivering IT for IT’s sake – often delivering solutions that solve immediate systems driven concerns instead of enhancing user experience or assisting to increase productivity.

This is a short-sighted approach. According to Gartner, 35% of businesses’ spending will be allocated to IT costs by year 2015. Putting restrictive solutions in place only makes users try and find around them, which can inadvertently lead to more risk for the organisation. By putting the user’s needs at the centre of IT policy organisations can find what the best fit is. An efficient, harmonious IT strategy in a fractured technology landscape is possible, but it involves putting the user first and not the machine.

Keith Turnbull is responsible for driving AppSense's global development strategy and continuing to build its world-class development team. A 30-year veteran of the software industry, Keith spent the last 13 years in executive development and engineering roles at Citrix, joining the company through the acquisition of Insignia Solutions, an x86 emulation company. During his time at Citrix, he successfully grew existing development teams as well as setting up sizeable new product teams from scratch and taking on new sites through multiple acquisitions. Keith has led teams of up to 500 developers and was responsible for many of the core product teams that achieved great success in their lifecycle; most notably scaling up Citrix XenApp to a strategic $1 billion plus product and delivering the first versions of XenDesktop.