Bring your own… or use what you are told?

A few days ago, I read an article about the risks presented by IT consumerisation. It rang alarm bells with me because, whilst the premise is sound (there are risks, some serious ones, and they need to be mitigated), the focus seemed to be on controlling data leakage by restricting access to social media and locking down device functionality (restricting USB ports, etc.). Whilst that was once an accepted model, I have to question if UWYT (use what you are told) is really the approach we should be taking in this day and age?

One of the key topics within the overal consumerisation theme is concerned with “bring your own” (BYO) device models. I recently wrote a white paper on this topic (a condensed “insight and opinion” view is also available) but, in summary, BYO offers IT departments an opportunity to provide consumer-like services to their customers – i.e. business end users.

In a recent dialogue on Twitter, one of my contacts was suggesting that Fortune 500 companies won’t go for BYO.  But the tide does seem to be turning and there are significant enterprises who are seriously considering it. I’ve been involved in several discussions over recent weeks and I’ve even seen articles in mainstream press about BYO adoption (for example, Qantas has publicly announced plans to allow up to 35,000 employees to connect their own devices to the corporate network). Interestingly, both those links are to Australian publications – maybe we’re just a little more conservative over here?

Of course, there are hurdles to cross (particularly around manageability and security) and it’s not about undoing the work put into managing “standard operating environments” but about recognising how to build flexibility into our infrastructure and open up access to what business end users really need – information!

We need to think about device ownership too and, in particular, about whose data resides where. Indeed, one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic was Art Witmann’s suggestion that a BYO strategy should start with data-centric security, including this memorable quote:

“Understandable or not, if ‘your device is now our device’ is the approach your team is taking, you need to rethink things”

Virtualisation can help with the transition, as can digital rights management. Ultimately we need to re-draw our boundaries and we may find ourselves in a place where the office network is considered “dirty” (just as the coffee shop Wi-Fi is today) and we access services (secured at the application or, better still, at the data layer) rather than concerning ourselves with device or technology-dependant offerings.

Putting myself in a customer’s shoes for a moment, I expect that I’d be asking if Fujitsu is following a BYO model and the answer is both “yes”, and “no”. As a device manufacturer it presents some image problems if our people are using other vendors’ equipment so, here in the UK and Ireland, our PCs are still provided by a central IT function. Having said that, there are some choices with a catalogue to select from (based on defined eligibility criteria [- a choose your own device scheme]). We also operate a BYO scheme for mobile devices, based on [Fujitsu’s] Managed Mobile service.

So we can see that BYO is not an all-or-nothing solution. And, whilst I’ve only scraped the surface here, it does need to be supported with appropriate changes to policies (not just IT policies either – there are legal, financial and human resources issues to address too).

To me it seems that ignoring consumerisation is a perilous path – it’s happening and if senior IT leaders are unable to support it, they may well find themselves bypassed. Of course, not every employee is a “knowledge worker” and there will be groups for whom access to social media (or even access to the Internet) or the ability to use their own device is not appropriate. For many others though, the advantages of “IT as a service” may be significant and far-reaching.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

The 2011 Computer Weekly Social Media Awards

Just over a year ago, we launched the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog – written by our Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, David Smith. It’s always been our intention to draw on a combination of external go-to-market and internal IT capability knowledge to produce content that translates IT trends into potential business value but one thing I’m particularly proud of is that we do not use external writers – what you read here is written by David or by one of his team.

QR code for Computer Weekly Social Media AwardsNow I’m pleased to say that we’ve been shortlisted for the 2011 Computer Weekly Social Media Awards so I’d like to ask for your support.  If you appreciate what we’re doing, please vote for David Smith/Fujitsu CTO Blog in the CIO/IT Director category (either by clicking on the link or by scanning the QR code on this post).

Whilst I’m sure that there will be many people supporting us, I’m equally convinced that there are some things we could do better. With that in mind, if you have feedback that might help us provide better insights and add more value through this blog, then please do leave a comment – we really would like to know what you think.

Thank you for all of your support.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

Is technology at the heart of business, or is it simply an enabler?

I saw a video from Cisco this morning, and found it quite inspirational. The fact it’s from Cisco isn’t really relevant (indeed, if I showed it without the last few seconds you woudn’t know) but it’s a great example of how IT is shaping the world that we live in – or, more precisely, how the world is shaping the direction that IT is taking:

In case you can’t see the video above, here are some of the key statistics it contains:

  • Humans created more data in 2009 alone than in all previous years combined.
  • Over the last 15 years, network speeds have increased 18 million times.
  • Information is moving to the cloud; 8/10 IT Managers plan to use cloud computing within the next 3 years.
  • By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of IT labour hours.
  • We’re using multiple devices: by 2015 there will be nearly one mobile-connected device for every person on earth;
  • 2/3 of employees believe they should be able to access information using company-issued devices at any time, at any location;
  • 60% believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive;
  • This is creating entirely new forms of collaboration.
  • “The real impact of the information revolution isn’t about information management but on relationships; the ability to allow not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands of people to meaningfully interact” [Dr Michael Schrage, MIT].
  • By 2015 companies will generate 50% of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.
  • Social business software will become a $5bn business by 2013.
  • Who sits at the centre of all this? Who is managing these exponential shifts? The CIO.

Some impressive numbers here – and we might expect to see many of these figures cited by a company selling social collaboration software and networking equipment but they are a good indication of the way things are heading.  I would place more emphasis on empowered employees and customers redefining IT provisioning (BYO, for example); on everything as a service (XaaS) changing the IT delivery model; on the need for a new architecture to manage the “app Internet”; and on big data – which will be a key theme for the next few years.

Whatever the technologies underpinning the solution – the overall direction is for IT to provide business services that add value and enhance business agility rather than simply being part of “the cost of doing business”.

I think Cisco’s video does a rather good job of illustrating the change that is occurring but the real benefits come when we are able to use technology as an enabler for business services that create new opportunities, rather than responding to existing pressures.

I’d love to hear what our customers, partners and competitors think – is technology at the heart of the digital revolution, or is it simply an enabler for new business services?

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and was written with assistance from Ian Mitchell.]

As Amazon fuels the fire, where are the networks to deliver our content?

Last week saw Amazon’s announcement of the Kindle Fire – a new tablet computer which marks the bookstore-turned-online-warehouse-turned-cloud-infrastructure-provider‘s latest skirmish into the world of content provision and consumption. It’s not going to be available in the UK and Ireland for a while (some of the supporting services don’t yet exist here) but many technology commentators have drawn comparisons with the Apple iPad – the current tablet market leader (by a country mile). And, whilst there are comparisons (both are tablets, both rely on content) – they really do compete in different sectors.

Even as an iPad user, I can see the attractiveness of the Kindle Fire: If Amazon is able to execute its strategy (and all signs suggest they are), then they can segment the tablet market leaving Apple at the premium end and shifting huge volumes of low price devices to non-geeks. Note how Amazon has maintained a range of lower-price eInk devices too? That’s all about preserving and growing the existing user base – people who like reading, like the convenience of eBooks but who are not driven by technology.

At this point you’re probably starting to wonder why I’m writing this on a blog from a provider of enterprise IT systems and services. How is this really relevant to the enterprise? Actually, I think it is really relevant. I’ve written about the consumerisation of enterprise IT over and over (on this blog and elsewhere) but, all of a sudden, we’re not talking about a £650 iPad purchase (a major commitment for most people) but a sub-£200 tablet (assuming the Fire makes it to the UK). And that could well mark a tipping point where Android, previously largely confined to smartphones, is used to access other enterprise services.

I can think of at least one former CIO for whom that is a concern: the variety of Android platforms and the potential for malware is a significant security risk. But we can’t stick our heads in the sand, or ban Android devices – we need to find a way forward that is truly device and operating system agnostic (and I think that’s best saved as a topic for another blog post).

What the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire, and plethora of Google Android-powered devices have in common is their reliance on content. Apple and Amazon both have a content-driven strategy (Google is working on one) but how does that content reach us? Over the Internet.

And there stands a problem… outside major cities, broadband provision is still best described as patchy. There are efforts to improve this (including, but not exclusively, those which Fujitsu is taking part in) but 3G and  4G mobile networks are a part of the picture.

UK businesses and consumers won’t be able to fully benefit from new cloud-based tools until the UK has a nationwide reliable high speed mobile data network and a new paper, published today by the Open Digital Policy Organisation suggests that the UK is at least 2 years behind major countries in its 4G rollout plans. Aside from the potential cost to businesses of £732m a year,  we’re all consumers, downloading content to our Kindles, iPads, watching TV catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD, as well as video content from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Add to that the networks of sensors that will drive the future Internet – and then consider that many businesses are starting to question the need for expensive wide area network connections when inexpensive public options are available… I think you get my point…

We live in a content-driven society – more and more so by the day… sadly it seems that the “information superhighway” is suffering from congestion and that may well stifle our progress.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

The future Internet and the Intelligent Society

Last week, I spent an evening with the British Computer Society’s Internet Specialist Group, where I’d been asked to present on where I see the Internet developing in future – an always-on, connected vision of joined-up services to deliver greater benefit across society.

I started out with a brief retrospective of the last 42 years of Internet development and at look at the way we use the Internet today, before I introduced the concept of human-centric computing and, in particular, citizen-centric computing as featured in Rebecca MacKinnon’s TED talk about the need to take back the Internet. This shows how we need any future Internet to evolve in a citizen-centric manner, building a world where government and technology serve people and leads nicely into some of the concepts introduced in the Technology Strategy Board‘s Future Internet Report.

After highlighting out the explosion in the volumes of data and the number of connected devices, I outlined the major enabling components for the future Internet – far more than “bigger pipes” – although we do need a capable access mechanism, infrastructure for the personalisation of cloud services and for machine to machine (M2M) transactions; and finally, for convergence that delivers a transformational change in both public and private service delivery.

Our vision is The Intelligent Society; bringing physical and virtual worlds into harmony to deliver greater benefit across society. As consumerisation takes hold, technology is becoming more accessible, even commoditised in places, for on delivery of on-demand, stateless services. Right now we have a “perfect storm” where a number of technologies are maturing and falling into alignment to deliver our vision.

These technologies break down into: the devices (typically mobile) and sensors (for M2M communications); the networks that join devices to services; and the digital utilities that provide on demand computing and software resources for next-generation digital services. And digital utilities are more than just “more cloud” too – we need to consider interconnectivity between clouds, security provision and the compute power required to process big data to provide analytics and smart responses.

There’s more detail in the speaker notes on the deck (and I should probably write some more blog posts on the subject) but I finished up with a look at Technology Perspectives – a resource we’ve created to give a background context for strategic planning.

As we develop “the Internet of the future” we have an opportunity to deliver benefit, not just in terms of specific business problems, but on a wide scale that benefits entire populations. Furthermore, we’ve seen that changing principles and mindsets are creating the right conditions for these solutions to be incubated and developed alongside maturing technologies that enabling this vision and making it a reality.

This isn’t sci-fi, this is within our reach. And it’s very exciting.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

Microsoft reimagines Windows while others search for business value

Whilst there are many conferences and many keynotes to keep an eye on, I watched last night’s keynote from Microsoft’s Build conference with great interest. The geek inside me was interested in the technology but there was another side too – I wanted to see how Microsoft, for many years so dominant, is responding to today’s pressures of IT consumerisation.

It seems that I’m having an increasing number of conversations about “bring your own” (BYO) device schemes – indeed I hope to be able to publish a white paper on this soon – but the reaction seems to be either:

  1. No, it’ll never happen here or in any large company because <insert security, manageability, etc. concerns>; or
  2. We think BYO sounds promising but need to understand more about how to make it a reality.

That’s why I was so pleased to see a major airline announcing its BYO programme (for up to 35,000 seats) this week.

So what are the devices that our enterprise IT consumers will bring to work? Well, an increasing percentage are Apple MacBooks and iPads, Android tablets, etc. and these threaten Microsoft’s hegemony in the world of enterprise IT (not to mention the fact that Fujitsu also designs and manufactures PCs, many of which run Windows, unlike the devices I mentioned a moment ago…) .

Microsoft promised that, at Build, they would present “Windows reimagined”. I was sceptical at first but, I truly believe that they have struck a remarkable balance between maintaining compatibility with existing Windows applications and creating a platform that allows for convergence across device types (PC, phone, web) and architectures (x86, ARM). Crucially, they also got a big chunk of the Windows development community on side with a free tablet device from Samsung and/or access to a preview copy of the code.

What does this mean for the enterprise though? It seems to me that the most important question is not about technology, but what’s the business case for a Windows upgrade; why would a CIO invest in Windows 8? Or, as Glen Koskela, CTO for Fujitsu’s Nordic region, put it:

“Windows 8 @ BUILD Windows. Platform changes, major UX overhaul etc. But: tell me the relevance of the business problems Win8 solves.”

[@gkoskela, on Twitter]

Glen’s comment sounds harsh – at least in 140 characters it does – but he is right on the mark. A new version of Windows is, in itself, not something of value – we need to find a reason to adopt it – something that either has an impact on the bottom line or addresses other business requirements (such as security, legal or regulatory concerns).

Build is a developer conference and yesterday’s keynote reflects that. As we learn more about the technologies that Microsoft produces, we’ll be able to see where these features and the associated advantages can translate into tangible, business benefits.

Meanwhile, what we have been shown might just make those Windows devices more attractive to consumers – the group of people that will buy the devices that access the content we provide to business end users, in this brave new world of cloud-enabled enterprise IT.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

Could this be the ultimate unified messaging client?

Much has been made of the slow death of email and the rise of enterprise social software so I was interested to read a recent paper in which Benno Zollner, Fujitsu’s global CIO, commented on the need to balance email usage with other communications mechanisms.

In the paper, Benno posits a view that we’re entering not just a post-PC era but a post-email era where we use a plethora of devices and protocols. This is driven by a convergence of voice and data (not just on smartphones, but on the “desktop” too – Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype shows how seriously they are taking this) but also the enterprise social software that’s extending our traditional collaboration platforms to offer what was once referred to as a “web 2.0” experience, only inside the corporate network.  Actually, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that last sentence – not just because as I find the terms “web 2.0” and “enterprise 2.0” to be cringe-worthy but, also, the concept of the corporate network is becoming less and less relevant as we transact more and more business in the cloud, using the mobile Internet, Wi-Fi hotspots and home broadband. Even so, it illustrates my point, that social networking is very much a part of the modern business environment, alongside traditional communications mechanisms including the telephone and email.

A few months ago, I wrote about the need to prioritise communications but I can see us taking a step further in the not-too-distant future.  Why do I need an email client (Microsoft Outlook), multiple instant messaging/presence/voice over IP (VoIP) clients (Microsoft Office Communicator/Lync/Skype) a Twitter client (TweetDeck), Enterprise social software (Microsoft SharePoint/Newsgator Social Sites/Salesforce Chatter) and a combination of mobile and desk-based phones (don’t forget SMS on that mobile too!)? Plenty has been made of the ability to use VoIP to ring several phones simultaneously, to call the phone that best matches my presence or to divert the call to a unified messaging inbox but why limit this to telephony?

I can envisage a time when we each have a consolidated communications client – one that recognises who we’re trying to communicate with and picks the appropriate channel to contact them.  If I’m sending a message to my wife and she’s at her desk, then email is fine but if I can tell she’s on the school run then why not route it to her mobile phone by SMS?  Similarly, advanced presence information can be used to route communications over a variety of channels to favour that which each of my contacts tends to use in a given scenario.  Perhaps the software knows that a contact is not available via instant messaging but is signed in to Twitter and can be contacted with a direct message.  Maybe I can receive a précis of an urgent report on my smartphone but the full version is available at my desk. The possibilities are vast but the main point is that the sender shouldn’t need to pick and choose the medium; instead, software can take into account the preferences of the recipient and route the communication accordingly (taking into account that some transport mechanisms may not guarantee delivery). Could this be the ultimate unified messaging client?

Email isn’t dead – but soon we won’t care whether our messages are sent via SMTP, SIP, SMS or semaphore – just as long as they arrive in a manner that ensures an efficient communication process and lets us focus on the task at hand, rather than spending the day working our way through our inboxes.

This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and is based on a concept proposed by Ian Mitchell.

Rumours of the death of IT consumerisation have been greatly exaggerated

If you follow anyone IT-related on Twitter, or even the mainstream media, it’s difficult to have missed Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s news that it is planning to discontinue the production of WebOS devices and is considering a full or partial separation of its personal systems group.

I’m not entirely comfortable with commenting on a competitor’s business strategy on a Fujitsu blog (so I won’t) but I was more than a little surprised this morning when I saw CloudPro’s article suggesting that “HP’s cloud bet could kill consumerisation in IT“. Really?

Yes, all that glitters is not gold and, undoubtedly, there are some challenges for device manufacturers to overcome but, as Joe Baguley (EMEA Chief Cloud Technologist at VMware) has presented on a number of occasions, the consumerisation of IT is nothing to do with iPads, TouchPads (or even Stylistic Q550s…). It’s not about any device!

Put simply, the consumerisation of enterprise IT is about providing IT as-a-service.

Prior to the emergence of the world-wide web, users did what they were told to – making use of the hardware and software that the IT department provided. Now the dynamic has changed: the boundaries between work and play have eroded and, for many knowledge workers, there is no clear separation between business and personal tasks. Work has become something we do, not a place where we go, and those “users” have become consumers.

Consumers want to feel empowered – they desire flexibility, personalisation and immediate gratification. Our information workers want IT to work for them, in the way that they need it to work. They desire a portable, device independent, always-on (and instant-on) modern working environment that provides access to information from any device (including data synchronisation), with self-service subscriptions to provide access to application stores/portals and personal/professional persona management. If that sounds challenging, they are used to this in the consumer space – now they want it in business and a sizable proportion of employees are circumventing IT policies to self-provision at least a part of their IT toolkit.

Just like our banks, social networks, recreational websites and email, the organisational IT department has become a service provider. Furthermore, if the IT department can’t provide a service, consumers are happy to go elsewhere – leading to the emergence of what has become known as shadow IT.

Sometimes this shadow IT grows out of the need to do something that’s not possible on the corporate infrastructure (like using Dropbox to share a file with a colleague in another part of the world); and sometimes it’s officially sanctioned (for example, a business unit director deciding that salesforce.com is a more appropriate CRM solution than the IT-provided line of business application).

Regardless of the source of the shadow IT, it takes a brave CIO to try and fight it. Whether the approach is to embrace, contain, block or ignore, consumerisation is a trend that’s increasingly difficult to avoid.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

IT and the law – is misalignment an inevitable consequence of progress?

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of presenting on behalf of the Office of the CTO to the Society for Computers and Law (SCL)‘s Junior Lawyers Group. It was a slightly unsual presentation in that David [Smith] often speaks to CIOs and business leaders, or to aspiring young people who will become the next generation of IT leaders.  Meanwhile I was given the, somewhat daunting, challenge of pitching a presentation to a room full of practising lawyers – all of whom work in the field of IT law but who had signed up for the event because they wanted to know more about the technology terms that they come across in their legal work.  Because this was the SCL’s Junior Lawyers group, I considered that most of the people in the room have grown up in a world of IT and so finding a level which was neither too technical nor too basic was my biggest issue.

My approach was to spend some time talking about the way we design solutions: introducing the basic concepts of business, application and technology architectures; talking about the need for clear and stated requirements (particularly non-functionals); the role of service management; and introducing concepts such as cloud computing and virtualisation.

Part way through, I dumped the PowerPoint (Dilbert fans may be aware of the danger that is “PowerPoint poisoning”) and went back to a flip chart to sketch out a view of why we have redundancy in our servers, networks, datacentres, etc. and to talk about thin clients, virtual desktops and other such terms that may come up in IT conversations.

Then, back to the deck to talk about where we see things heading in the near future before my slot ended and the event switched to an exercise in prioritising legal terms in an IT context.

I’m not sure how it went (it will be interesting to see the consolidated feedback from the society) but there was plenty of verbal feedback to suggest the talk was well received, I received some questions (always good to get some audience participation) and from the frantic scribbling on notes at one table I must have been saying something that someone found useful!

The main reason for this blog post is to highlight some of the additional material in the deck that I didn’t present last night.  There are many places where IT and the law are not as closely aligned as we might expect. Examples include:

These items could have been a whole presentation in themselves but I’m interested to hear what the readers of this blog think – are these really as significant as I suggest they are? Or is this just an inevitable consequence of  fast-paced business and technology change rubbing up against a legal profession that’s steeped in tradition and takes time to evolve?

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

Should we gamify the workplace?

Gamification is certainly one of this year’s buzzwords and the science of gamification (i.e. the use of game mechanics/dynamics to drive game-like engagement and actions in non-game environments) is a topic of great interest to me at the moment.

But how can we use gamification in the workplace? And should we even try?

Whilst it’s true that there is a moral hazard to avoid, the trick to successful gamification is making sure it doesn’t feel like the target is being played. Let’s take an example that well established in the workplace: flexitime. The motivation is for an employee to accrue enough additional work time to “earn” a day off; ability is controlled by the rules that govern the flexitime scheme; and the trigger is the point where sufficient “credit” is available to take some additional leave!

I have to admit that flexitime is not one of my benefits at Fujitsu but for those businesses that have such as scheme, it has benefits in terms of employee flexibility and morale. And there are other examples where we can re-engineer our business processes and introduce some elements of gamification.

Take, for example, the idea of a results-oriented work environment. What if, instead of being paid a salary, or an hourly rate, employees were given the opportunity to pick and choose their work and remunerated accordingly? Critics may see such an approach as a return to factory processes and piecework. Others may see an opportunity to free themselves from their 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6, or 6 to 8 work routine) and work in a more flexible manner. My background is as a solutions architect. What if projects were to be crowdsourced so that a pool or architects to pick tasks from a list of activities? Different values could be attributed depending on the difficulty or time sensitivity of the task, with all architects having to achieve a minimum number of credits (but the ability to earn more if they so desired). I’m sure there many human resources issues to overcome but I can see this being the “normal” way to work in future.

Problems come when the gamification feels controlling and is associated with “Big Brother”. We have to accept that one size does not fit all – and there is a risk that employees may feel disconnected, or that they are being patronised. Most people are smart and can work out how to “game” the system – so the game mechanics need to be honed to balance motivation and ability, and to trigger employees at the appropriate times.

If we gamify the workplace though, it seems there’s a risk of destroying some of the other elements of successful collaboration. The workplace is far more than just a literal place to work. There are social and environmental aspects to consider too. If we create an internal market of competing architects what’s the difference between that and a group of independant contractors working on a project? At what point do people stop working for a common purpose (the company’s mission) and start working for their own goals? People can’t be our most important asset when we don’t have any people any more!

It may be that gamification is not appropriate for mainstream activities but can be used for those on the periphery – those that are considered extra-curricular. For example, whilst I’d like everyone to want to contribute to our Open Innovation Community, the reality is that people can opt in or out. What if we were able to gamify the innovation process with a system of rewards?

This post doesn’t really provide any answers – it does pose some questions though. How would you feel about the gamification of your work environment? And would you consider there are significant advantages to be gained, or is the risk of disruption just too great?

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and was written with assistance from Ian Mitchell and Vin Hughes.]