OK, post number 4 in this series … Users!  We’ve previously taken a look at the new way we work, the new devices we are using to blend our home and work lives and the new applications that take advantage of these new ways of working.  In this post I’ll take a look at the applications themselves and how they

This is a 5 part series.

The way we work is changing. When we were chained to a desktop, the world was fairly static, information was stored in known locations and users worked the way the systems were constructed. In this new world of app stores, socially connected users, genuine mobility, disparate devices and BYOD, there is an expectation that our professional lives are an extension of our personal lives, not some completely different thing.

I think there are 4 key elements for users in this new world – Identity, Content, Mobile and Interfaces.

Identity: A really good article on cio.com was posted, and I am glad they tackled the identity issue.  To me, this is one of the key challenges with managing users across multiple devices, some of which you might have no control over.  Put simply, how do you know that the entity trying to access your data/information/services/systems is actually your user (and in the case of malware, even a person), how do you ensure they only get access to what they are supposed to and how do you protect that information from being left behind on devices or falling into the wrong hands?  Additionally, how do you blend a users personal and professional identity, and still differentiate between them?  Windows 8 is designed to work this way, you can log on with your Active Directory corporate identity as well as connect your Microsoft Account, blending your home email, calendar and social networks with you workplace defines identity profile.

Content: Gaining access to your documents, your data, your applications and services is one thing, but what about the continuity?  By that I really mean, how do you keep it all in sync?  If I open a document on one device, say at work, and then want to continue while away from the office, can I pick up from where I left off? In the old days of servers and file shares, this was achieved by taking a copy with you, or at best having an offline sync. But sync is not always utopic, especially when multiple users are working on the same thing and conflict resolution gets ugly. SharePoint with its multiple user editing alleviated a lot of this. But cloud storage is really where I am going with this. Once we move to an always-on model for data and information, with a common identity model between the cloud and on-premises locations, then we can remove the need for offline copies, conflict resolution and so on. This does require a connection obviously, but as mobile networks and internet connections on public transport have become so much better and widespread, this has become less of an issue. And until then, we have tools to work offline, and probably always will.

Mobile: Users are genuinely mobile, and by that I mean they are not just in known, defined locations (i.e. working at home using remote access) but out and about, at the mall, in a car, on a train or a plane, in a coffee shop. This means their connectivity options will vary, not only by device but also by type (such as cellular versus Wi-Fi) and speed (from super-latent cellular to high-speed). So being able to adapt to these conditions is a challenge for both the user and the company. Users will become “network aware”, they will understand that when they are in the coffee shop and half decent Wi-Fi they will be able to work on full-fidelity content and be able to upload and send larger volumes of data, but when they are on their phone with only 2 bars of cellular that they need to work slightly differently. The generation of people exiting college/university into the workforce have grown up this way and are pre-programmed to accept and understand this, so companies need to be ready to provide working environments that can handle this.

Interfaces:  This one is interesting to me. I do think that having common elements of user interface similarity across devices and applications is a good thing. But I also think the criticality of this will depend on your user base and will vary by user. And then there is the flip side where everyone is creating applications across different platforms (but keeping as much of the application interface the same as the platform allows). One thing I am solid on is that service interfaces need to be consistent.  By that I mean, the way users get access to, interact with and consume information and services should be consistent. The last thing you want is to train, or have users have to learn, that when in one location or on one device you do things one way, but in another location or on a different device they do it another.

So how are you faring in the management of your users? Are you ready for the explosion of requirements for the next generation of “remote access” and mobile users?

This is the second to last post in this series, in the final post I’ll wrap up with a look at the Services themselves.

As always, feedback is good Smile

A.