The future of IT thinking

The macro IT environment over the past 20 years has had a significant impact on the role of the CIO.

From the most important influencer on the board, through the turn of the millennium when the CIO was all-focused on surviving disaster, to the innovator, where CIOs spent huge capital to grow the business through e-business. From the cost centre, where the CIO defended the huge application spends and found the only answer to be outsourcing, and finally to the ‘problem child’ which, through lack of resource and restricted outsource contracts, now can’t move quickly enough to support the new world of work.

The recent explosion in consumerisation of IT and the ability to just turn applications on, has led to a shift in the buying centre, where business leaders are making more IT decisions (e.g. a sales director now buying salesforce.com as their IT solution). Therefore it is easy to see why CIOs have needed to reinvent their role and defend IT as strategic and needing to be at the forefront of the business decision making.

More and more I see business leaders and commercial managers running the IT functions – and I don’t see this trend changing. However, I would add caution. ‘Always on’ and instant IT are great, but still need to be delivered and managed with a high performance approach. The recent issue of global outages at Blackberry only goes to show the huge reliance end users have on technology and it will always come back to the CIO to resolve. So whilst the role has evolved, new IT leaders are emerging whose understanding of mission critical services is more critical than ever, to enable organisations to be competitive in the market or deliver on citizen expectations.

BYOD v CYOD

There has been much confusion over the past two years relating to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD). In many cases, I find people debating relative merits when in reality they are talking about quite different situations. From my perspective there are four variants.

BringYOD – This is where an individual brings their own device into work and the IT department connects it to the corporate network, with a security policy and solutions forced onto the device to ensure corporate data is protected. The device and its data plan remains the responsibility of the individual. We commonly see this when individuals want to work on a tablet and the company won’t provide one.

BuyYOD – This is when the company provides a budget for an individual to purchase a device and data plan. The IT department then connects this to the corporate network using their security policies and solutions to ensure company data is protected. The assets remain the property of the individual and the obligation to provide connectivity to the business remains with the employee. We have seen this as the nirvana for corporations but it rarely becomes reality, challenges in support and enterprise grade warranty being the main challenges.

ConnectYOD – Connect your own device results when individuals connect their own devices onto the corporate network without the permission of the IT team, putting the business at considerable risk. We still see this in corporates where the demand to use smarter devices from employees is high, the business is not equipped to deal with the demand properly and so situations occur where people mobilise themselves, outside corporate policy.

ChooseYOD – Where the company provides a range of devices that the individual can choose from (and can even decide to top-up to buy the top of the range), but the device remains the corporate’s responsibility and is secured with security policies and solutions to ensure company data is protected.

ChooseYOD is fast becoming the norm, enabling individuals to choose the right solution for their role and lifestyle but remaining controlled under the IT corporate umbrella. It does, however, result in multiple operating system variants and the IT management headache this can entail. So with all the similar terms and subtle differences, it’s easy to see where a debate can become confused. In all cases, the reality is that the IT estate is becoming more complicated. And it’s never going to go back to the legacy world of ‘one device, one organisation’. Therefore the need to look at this from a strategic perspective, linked to changing work patterns and business needs, is critical in order to not make short-term expensive investment decisions that may become disablers for the organisation further down the road.

Future thinking

So what constitutes an ‘app’? Today many people are exposed to apps on their smartphones. However, what they are really using is a portal into a traditional online website. The website has been re-constituted through an app for use on a smartphone. Users love the experience and it feels intuitive, but the app is not native and won’t work off line and users commonly experience delays. These delays are often driven by the multiple APIs the app is trying to access, some of which could be on the server from the provider with multiple feeds coming from third-party content servers – all of which mean the app provider has little or no control over the server performance. Therefore the app experience can only be as good as the infrastructure and connectivity that the individual is accessing the service on.

In Enterprise we still see only a small fraction of businesses taking ‘off the shelf’ apps and using them in their day-to-day business operations. The most popular are those that have no integration with the business or are stand-alone storage solutions with a limited integration with calendars, tasks or email, such as Evernote or Dropbox.

Others include the ‘app-ification’ of platforms such as Salesforce or LinkedIn, again very much in stand-alone functionality. What is certain is that this trend will continue and companies will in time work out how to take advantage of these, especially as the cloud gains more momentum with technologies such as Office365.

So what does this mean to Vodafone?

Vodafone has worked with Enterprise clients for many years, delivering applications to enable greater work force productivity. Applications clearly come in three forms: those which are bespoke and built specifically for the Enterprise; those which are integrated and designed to work out of the box with vertical systems (such as police and health care applications); and those which are stand-alone and largely non-integrated – the ‘app-ification’ element. Vodafone uses Better Ways of Working, a methodology that looks at how people work across three different worker types: fixed, flex and field, to define what the right application is. Vodafone Total Workforce Mobility delivers a one-stop shop across the three variants of applications, bundled with a managed service, all on the back of our comprehensive network of fixed and mobile.

We have had to evolve with the changing Enterprise behaviours and attitudes towards consumerisation, however, what still remains clear is that CIOs still value a partner with clear application experience who can help them make the right long-term strategic decisions for their application strategy.

Our traditional applications, which are dedicated vertical specific solutions, deliver on very specific ‘app-ification’. They have become an integral element of our Total Workforce Management solution, whereby we have taken the consumer application approach and embedded in a dedicated private app managed service. This enables clients to find consumer apps and have them hosted, managed and rolled out through a simple one-stop shop managed service.

Quite simply, this allows Enterprise to take consumer applications and roll these out in a controlled and managed way with a full service wrap, to ensure they deliver the experience employees need to deliver their day-to-day work. In parallel, the innovation from Vodafone 4G with high speed access, high throughput and dedicated APN access will considerably improve the app experience and result in ‘always on’ access.

Ready Businesses are building a cohesive IT and mobile strategy for the future. Secure your workforce on the move with Total Managed Mobility from Vodafone.