Until just a few years ago, the entire IT industry was pretty tightly focused on two things:  PC’s and Servers.  These clients are still the biggest players in our market, but, for a modern IT pro, today's landscape also includes slates, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It makes that earlier era of IT seem a lot simpler – if nothing else, there weren’t so many moving targets to manage!

Regardless of the era, the mission of IT departments around the world has always been to support the productivity and efficiency of the workforce, and today’s specialists have the added challenge of dealing with the combined explosions of platforms and data.

By developing and maintaining a modern datacenter environment, IT departments can tackle a range of trends that present a unique set of challenges for IT teams around the world. I see these trends falling into three major groups:

  1. Technical trends
  2. People trends
  3. Cloud trends

 

Technical Trends

If you’re managing an IT department (or simply trying to buy Christmas gifts) keeping up with the thousands of devices that walk in and out of a business can be a full time job. These various devices present countless challenges – different platforms, different app requirements, and different performance issues based on form factor.

The solution Microsoft offers to manage this common and persistent issue is the attachment of Windows Intune to System Center Configuration Manager. When these tools are paired together managing the devices within a larger IT infrastructure is a simple process – and it’s done entirely within the familiar operating environment of System Center.

A second major benefit to IT departments is that, within this management environment, IT teams can proactively manage Windows, iOS, and Android platforms.

 

People Trends

A focus on what we call “People Centric IT” is a critical IT strategy for the mobile device era. People Centric IT allows a workforce to work when and where they want – and this means more productivity, more often, for more people. This trend reflects our understanding of the workforce’s evolving expectations for technology and IT support.

This trend is really an extension of the technical trends – it’s the practical, day-to-day application of Microsoft’s management tools and an organization’s IT infrastructure. Staying ahead of the curve on People Centric IT is important because the incoming generation of workers are an order of magnitude more technically savvy than the baby boomers, and these younger workers expect corporate apps, network access, and other IT services to cater to them. If IT departments are flexible enough to accommodate this, it will be a considerable competitive differentiator for attracting and retaining top talent.

Microsoft’s focus on management experiences for IT teams, and usability for your workforce, enables the apps and data you manage to be seamlessly delivered – regardless of where and how your workers are doing business. By pairing Windows Intune and System Center Configuration Manager, a worker can access the same applications and corporate data no matter where he/she goes or which type of devices he/she picks up along the way. This kind of portability, accessibility, productivity is an area where Microsoft is clearly leading the industry.

 

Cloud Trends

The Cloud has become a new frontier for innovations around systems and services. The reasons for this are simple:

  • Client server computing is being rapidly replaced by devices connecting to the cloud.
  • The cloud is the easiest way to deliver data and services to devices.
  • A cloud-based model continually updates and upgrades devices without IT needing to manual take action.

Whereas PC sales once led directly to software sales, now devices are sold with the intention of selling additional software and services. Device users are thinking in terms of apps and services, and IT management needs to think in these terms in order to deliver the best possible solution. And, considering there is no such thing as a smartphone that doesn’t connect to cloud services, these apps and services should be cloud-based, and, naturally, the management of all the above can be cloud-based via Windows Intune.

 

It’s not only important to identify the trends, but to also the critical question: What do these trends actually mean for businesses?

From my perspective, I see these next steps:

No matter how much it may concern companies in regards to data security and data leakage, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) trends are here to stay. This development is simply an organic outcome of the explosion of business-ready, connectable devices now in market. Compounding this growth is my earlier point about the next generation of workers not simply expecting BYOD/CYOD, but demanding it. They will insist on a flexible IT environment where they can opt in to business apps, and access corporate data from otherwise personal devices. Cloud-based services are going to be a mandatory part of managing this workforce due to this ongoing, monumental shift in the way we use technology.

If that last paragraph makes you nervous, or perhaps a bit uneasy about how your IT department can/will respond, I believe that Microsoft can really help.

Across the company, we are building devices to respond to each of these emerging trends. You can see this with consumer-grade devices with enterprise-grade security (Windows Phone, Surface), secure and robust public clouds (Windows Azure), dynamic cloud-based identity management and access control (Windows Azure Active Directory), cloud-based device management (Windows Intune + System Center Configuration Manager), and cloud-based productivity tools (Office 365), just to name a few.

From my perspective, the size of these trends is pretty well matched by the number of available solutions. With this in mind, what matters most is how IT teams will use these tools to adapt to a rapidly changing industry.

In future posts on this topic, I’ll discuss in greater detail the value, efficiency, and usability of cloud-based device management.