Changing computing exceptions to workplace norms

The transition from the PC era to the cloud era is changing the nature of work and that means IT managers need to used to giving employees what they want.

Today’s IT departments now operate in a world where staff, management and customers’ ongoing expectations and experiences now shape their policies and thinking – and this is a major reversal in attitude and approach for most management infomation system (MIS) professionals. The issue really isn't about ‘command and control’ of IT resources, it’s now about making sure that systems and processes work within people’s everyday expectations and needs while balancing the requirements of the organisation for security, business alignment and rock-solid reliability of their IT resources.

At the heart of this new way of thinking is the consumerisation of IT and the transition from the PC era to the cloud era, which is fundamentally changing the nature of work.

Exceptions vs assumptions

In yesterday’s PC era, work was regarded as somewhere we went. Today’s systems – designed and built in the PC era - are based on some core assumptions – that people work in an office, using a corporate-issued PC and primarily attached to a wired network. IT services were delivered and designed as premise-based, built in a monolithic way and offered in suites of applications for various roles, locations and even devices.

Occasionally there would be exceptions that IT would manage as one-offs - such as laptop usage, email outside the corporate environment, or the use of personal devices. However, as we transition into the cloud era, more people want to be mobile, use personal devices, be wireless and use cloud-based applications. Over time, these assumptions have forced IT to over-invest in these exceptions, and what used to be the exceptions of the PC era have become the new assumptions of the cloud era.

Times they are a-changin’

The dynamics between IT departments and end users are changing in favour of users. Traditionally, IT departments have had the mindset of predicting and dictating what a user needs, and pushed out pre-determined applications and devices. 

In the first three months of 2012, consumer electronics vendors worldwide shipped 144.9 million smartphones, a 42.5 per cent year over year growth compared to 101.7 million in the same period a year earlier. This past month, IDC predicted that 40 per cent of workers in the Asia Pacific region will be mobile by 2015. As computing devices become more customisable and personal, work is no longer restricted to the physical boundaries of the office. 

Employees now expect to access a range of corporate data and applications remotely from their own mobile device, whether it is company issued or personal. These employees are the drivers of the new workstyle as they call for an unified computing experience across disparate devices. 

Move to the cloud

The Gartner Predicts 2012 report states that “the convergence of cloud, social, mobile and information into a unified set of forces is shaping almost every IT-related decision.” The exceptions of the PC era no longer apply to only one per cent of users, so we need to rethink computing under this new set of assumptions. Everyone is now assumed to be mobile and enabled with multiple personal devices, connecting over wireless networks. Applications are increasingly delivered as cloud services – private or public – and as micro apps, because simpler is better, faster and cheaper. IT services are becoming self-service and consumption-based, delivered through enterprise app stores.

If you build to this new set of assumptions, anyone who works in an office on a company device, connects to a wired network to use premise-based, legacy apps, doesn’t cost one incremental dollar to the enterprise. So in the cloud era that we at Citrix envision, exceptions are free!

Losing the competitive edge 

Companies risk their competitive advantage by failing to adopt new working practices, especially as more and more organisations are adopting mobile workstyles for their employees. The era of the 9 to 5 work day is over. Australia and the world are looking for new ways of boosting productivity and employee engagement, and adapting work to be flexible enough to fit people’s lives and the way they want to work is one way organisations are changing to meet these very real needs. 

Citrix’s latest Global Workshifting Index, released in March, found that by the end of 2013, 95 per cent of Australian organisations will have implemented workshifting policies for part, or all, of their workforce, and three out of five workers said they don’t need to be in the office anymore to be productive. We are seeing great demand from both our customers and internal staff to work remotely and we now have all the tools at our disposal to make this way of working a reality.

A mobile workforce is now fundamental to improving staff productivity, attracting and retaining top talent, improving business continuity and driving business growth. Therefore, it’s clear that planning and implementing an effective mobile and cloud strategy is the key to surviving the transition from the PC era to the cloud era.  

Seamus King is the ANZ Country Manager for Citrix.