The Economist special recently highlighted the increasing use of Consumer Technology in Corporates in its article ‘The consumer–industrial complex‘.
Differentis has been involved in leading edge efforts in Consumerisation for the last decade, and it is evident that these changes have massive consequences for the way IT should be managed. These changes encompass the technologies themselves, the way those technologies are used, the manner in which they are supported, the applications that the new technologies allow, the ways in which the enterprise can change and the services that are bought. They also change the IT governance and increasingly importantly, the degrees of freedom granted to the users.
We see four critical aspects of consumerisation in corporates:
- The End Point (the device focus)
- The Usage and Experience of the technology (the applications focus)
- The Delivery of the technology (Infrastructure and technology support focus)
- The external Provision of Technology (Services focus)
The End Point (Device)
Understanding the nature of the demand for consumer devices will require potential users to be segmented by device, usage, the applications it would need to run, the data it would need to access and/or store, and what it would need to connect to. Senior managers are often seen as candidates for tablets, but if they are to be supported properly IT managers need to understand the conditions for their effective use. Many organisations are actually introducing self–support mechanisms as part of the deal to allow use of tablets.
There are some advantages of allowing people to choose their own machines, or even making them use their personal machines, particularly for companies who employ large numbers of contractors. However, many of the benefits will accrue from the decoupling of the device from the infrastructure that supports it, not from the nature of the device itself.
The Usage and Experience
The first applications to be considered within a corporate environment are typically a browser and MS Office. Many senior managers use little else; providing they can be delivered to a decoupled desktop there may be little else to do.
Consumer applications are almost always elective rather than mandated, and often collaborative in nature. This means that the strategy, provisioning, management, support, measurement and marketing of consumer applications will be different from the mandated corporate heavy metal.
The Delivery of the Technology behind the Consumer Experience:
Many advantages of being able to use consumer devices arise from the benefits of having the kind of infrastructure and applications architectures that enable them. The device lock–down was seen by many CIOs as the only way of retaining control over the core environment, although what really needed to be locked down was just that environment – the services – not the device as a whole. Gaining this control actually only requires locking down the elements of the software build that interact with the corporate applications (say SAP or Siebel). A virtualised desktop is built on a remote central server where the programs, applications, processes, and data are accessed through a browser. This does four things from the CIO’s point of view:
- It enables control of what really needs controlling – the core operating systems and the interfaces to core corporate applications;
- It provides freedom for the users to use applications that do not integrate with that core;
- It enables any device capable of running a browser to access core applications including email and MS Office or equivalents;
- It places much of the operational support at the central server, enabling better service and theoretically a lower cost.;
The corporate adoption of the technology used to deliver consumer services could be of enormous value, the consumer experience of using technologies like the App Store is much better than that typically provided in the corporate arena. Such technologies underlie the consumer experience, and their advantages are independent of those of the device.
Virtualisation requires that security services themselves be virtualised – we need a flexible, logical security layer inside a virtualised data centre. Traditional static security measures are often insufficient, as it is hard to manage static security devices next to a pool of dynamic virtual servers, and the security often gets in the way of the benefits of virtualisation.
Encapsulation and portability of virtual machines allows virtual servers to move between physical servers. If the security can’t follow the servers, we all have a problem. Virtual security technologies allow companies to secure virtual environments without compromising on resource-pooling and live migration. What security has to achieve need not change, but how it is delivered will.
The External Provision of Consumer Services:
As the relative cost of elements that underlie the delivery of technology services change – whether those are storage, applications, power or real end–to–end business services – their optimum configuration can change.
The various Cloud offerings – Software, Platforms, Infrastructure are currently battling it out, and there are many trade–offs to be made.
Service Based Pricing
The mechanisms that underlie and enable service pricing are exactly those which underlie Cloud computing. Services are delivered over a shared infrastructure, which enables fluctuations in individual customer demand to be more easily managed because variations cancel out. Capacity can be provided and removed more quickly without lags and premium payments and economies of scale can be made at levels greater than those afforded to a single customer.
The economics come down to economies of scale and the ability to achieve higher levels of utilisation, at a cost that is understood. There are evidently advantages for a firm to implement many of the technologies used by Cloud providers, providing they have reached a sufficient size. If they are small they would do better to go to an external provider.
The growth of consumerisation within IT is not an add–on that can be simply absorbed into the way IT is managed throughout its life cycle. The changes we are seeing are far more pervasive, and the consumer technologies, the part that consumers actually see, is a small part of that story.