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There are a few trends that are affecting IT in some hard hitting, demanding and, for many, (work) life changing ways. Cloud is the first obvious one, but causing more of a pain in the IT department's rear right now is probably consumerisation.
Consumerisation is a simple theory; that people want to be able to do things in the office with the same “ease” that they do at home. A couple of examples will help clarify: Jane wants to be able to search her email inbox and find the stuff she needs rather than having to file things. James wants to be able to use his iPad to get his work email – it makes it easier for him to process stuff whilst watching the telly at night. These both present problems for the traditional IT department. The email system might be out of date and iPad isn’t secure enough for your organisation's policy.
What a conundrum. What we’ve been asking the IT department to do for years is to “manage all this complicated stuff for us”. Of course, over time, some of it's become less complicated and we’ve all learnt a thing or two about working with technology, turning us all into techies. There was a time when being a techy meant being able to interact with a computer - now that’s just second nature.
This particular trend is hard for IT folks to assimilate because for years they’ve been placed in the position of being the people who would provide technology and, now it’s in abundance, it’s sometimes easier to circumvent the system just to get the job done. With that circumvention, however, comes a barrage of problems which eventually land on the poor IT manager to fix, and, obviously because it’s a problem, it’s the most urgent thing in the world. What a pain.
Seen through different eyes, though – those of the end user – things have become brilliant. No longer do you need to go begging to your IT manager for budget for a new PC - you just use your own, and as a result you no longer have to ask permission to do something, which saves you time and lets you get on with making money. It’s also pretty cool to be down the pub with your mates and pull your phone out of your pocket, then check that you haven’t had any mail since you snuck out 30 minutes early to have a beer. How cool!
So we have a situation where what’s cool for the users is a pain for the IT department, which is not so good…but the IT department is there to endure pain, isn’t it? Not in my book. There’s a better way. We’re starting to see that companies embracing consumerisation are enjoying some great benefits.
Benefit A – Happy people
Using equipment that you care about makes you care about your equipment more. Find any craftsman who cares about his work and you’ll find a rack of well-oiled, well-loved tools. In return their kit breaks less and they get more done. Allowing your end users more choice over the type of computer they use can lead them to care more for it, so that upfront investment you make in a shiny PC might result in fewer keyboard replacements, for example. Of course the ultimate end is that they may wish to purchase their own PC, and depending upon your size and type of business, that could be cheaper for you. Heck, they might even hunt more for a bargain and end up spending less.
The IT manager needs to act with one of my five imperatives, Be a guide not a gate keeper and help users make an informed decision. That might mean creating an internal site where they can “shop” for their next PC. It won’t take long before your users start to think of their kit as their own and even as an extension of themselves - a virtuous circle that might just make them happier.
They will be happier because they have choice and flexibility and fewer hoops to jump through. You’ll probably be happier as the IT manager - you get to be the good guys (as CBR says)
Benefit B – Lower costs (potentially)
That care and respect and the subsequent translation into a happy work environment will translate into lower costs as users not only care more for their kit and even hunt for better priced kit, but they stop calling IT to fix every little thing. With trust – in this case the trust to self-select – comes responsibility, and people don’t like to appear unable to handle responsibility. This doesn’t mean that they won’t need help but it may well mean that IT will get fewer calls asking “how do I…” Instead, they’ll probably turn to the Internet for help.
Embrace, Address, Block?
I think it’s going to be hard for organisations not to address consumerisation, but deciding if an organisation should embrace, address or block consumerisation is a tough call. I figure it’s going to (and in many cases already does) depend on the size of the organisation. It’s easy to see how smaller organisations will benefit from consumerisation when you consider such things as users possibly buying their own kit and paying for their own mobile data tariffs, for example, so I think we’ll see them embrace the trend very quickly.
Larger organisations will probably move to the position of addressing the trend by developing their own principles and practices to support consumerisation, but at the same time by ensuring that the organisation is safe and control remains central. User (customer) demand within their organisation is what will drive adoption of the trend, and therein lies the kernel of this trend – consumerisation is just demand-driven computing.
Many people argue that in a large organisation we might well see the provision of a “technology allowance” similar to a car allowance, giving users the opportunity to source their own kit. That’s a nice idea but anyone with a company car will know the taxation mire that this approach causes, and I think it’ll be years before the tax man catches up with the trend.
What we see day-in-day out is that it’s very hard for an organisation to throw away its old ways; there are just too many business reasons to not to do so. So how do you stick on the side of your users, not blocking them but retaining some control? You need to move to an operational model that allows you to address consumerisation, embrace it, extend access to consumerised devices and services, yet protect business interests – add value.
Here’s a little recipe of ideas that might help IT pros up against the wall with consumerisation:
You have a web-based HR portal and you’re concerned about the security of other browsers: Use a system like ForeFront Unfied Access Gateway to read the browser header and allow access only on devices with trusted browsers, directing other users to instructions for accessing the system.
You have a need to provide access to your productivity applications on a multitude of devices but don’t want the data to end up on those devices: Deploy RDS and provide remote desktop sessions or virtual desktops to those users, there are solutions from the likes of Citrix to help with that.
You’ve got a hot desk environment where users can use their own laptops but there are ground level windows and you don’t want passers-by snooping on people sat with monitors facing the window: There’s a solution from Quest that can help address that by being location-aware and allowing access to RD sessions from only specific locations.
There are loads of options depending on what you need to do, and large organisations will love the added flexibility that the consumerised approach gives them. What’s clear from commentary in places like CIO.com is that consumerisation needs to be managed (at least in large orgs).
If this has got you more interested in the consumerisation debate, there's an event coming up later in July that should be in your diary. Hosted by Play.com, the event's theme is 'How is service-oriented architecture changing to deal with an increasingly complex, multi-channel world?' Our very own Simon Ince is one of the speakers. You'll get the chance to network and find out how other large organisations are addressing this challenge, happily fuelled by drinks and pizza. Here's the agenda:
Play.com’s Cambridge Office, 14 July 2011
For more information, contact the event's organisers: email@example.com/ +44 20 7333 1825.
[foot note: I use consumerisation without a Z because I use British English]
It’s almost time to emerge into the sunshine for the weekend. Before you do, take a quick look at this week’s news and views. Have a great weekend.
If you’re considering Office 365 or have started with the free trial then you’d be well placed to head over and check out the Office 365 Service Descriptions where you’ll find some really deep information about what’s included in each part of the service. I’ve seen some mention of Office 365 not providing two factor authentication (some competitors doo)…well actually Office 365 does too as it says in the Identity Service Description:
Two-Factor Authentication for Office 365 Two-factor authentication (also called strong authentication) provides improved security by requiring users to meet two authentication criteria such as a user name/password combination and a token or certificate. Planning for Two-Factor Authentication with SSO To use two-factor authentication, you must implement an single sign-on strategy using Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 with Office 365. When planning your implementation, consider whether users have a supported operating system, are inside or outside the corporate network, and are using rich clients or web browsers. Also consider the ability of your authentication provider to interoperate with other services.
Two-factor authentication (also called strong authentication) provides improved security by requiring users to meet two authentication criteria such as a user name/password combination and a token or certificate.
Planning for Two-Factor Authentication with SSO
To use two-factor authentication, you must implement an single sign-on strategy using Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 with Office 365. When planning your implementation, consider whether users have a supported operating system, are inside or outside the corporate network, and are using rich clients or web browsers. Also consider the ability of your authentication provider to interoperate with other services.
These guides are essential for anyone working their way through deployment of Office 365 in a large environment and probably for anyone considering the move
Take a look at this virtual lab and get started with Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.
Find more Windows Small Business Server info here on the blog or on TechNet.
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Windows Thin PC enables you to repurpose existing PCs as thin clients by providing a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7. Get the lowdown and find out how you can reduce the end-point costs for your virtual desktop infrastructure here. You’ll also find a host of technical documentation, including a deployment guide, and a link to the 90- day Windows Thin PC trial.
Tune in on 16 August at 5pm to hear Forrester Research's Bob Cormier present findings from his total economic impact (TEI) study of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.
Forrester interviewed six Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP) customers to discuss each organisation's experience upgrading from Internet Explorer 8 to Internet Explorer 9. Then, Forrester created a TEI case study, in which it describes the costs and benefits of using a composite organisation. Forrester concluded that the composite organisation would achieve a risk-adjusted net saving of $3.3 million over three years as a result of upgrading to Internet Explorer 9. In this webcast, Cormier outlines the costs, benefits, and flexibility options of the composite organisation. Find out how your company can save costs by upgrading to Internet Explorer 9, by registering today.
Find more Internet Explorer 9 resources on TechNet and here on the UK TechNet blog.
For me the most interesting stuff in the System Center 2012 is the cloud stuff. Some of this is obvious - there’s cloud button in Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012, and there’s even a new product in the line-up, currently called Concero that is totally cloud focused.
Some of the cloud enablement is, however, more subtle and is really an extension of what System Center has always been capable of i.e. automation and event handling.
For example one of the capabilities that marks the private cloud out from a traditional data centre is the ability to provide a self service capability. I don’t see this being used by the conventional end user, but rather by what I would refer to as applied IT professionals as distinct from the data centre professionals. The applied IT professionals might either be embedded in a business unit or an expert in a particular application, like the DBAs, Exchange and SharePoint administrators. This group would have limited rights to create services and provision VM’s within limits set by the data centre professional. In System Center 2012 there are several ways to accomplish this:
The other key feature of cloud computing is scalability, and System Center can support this depending on what the service needs:
One final thought: we never discuss backup and disaster recovery of the private cloud but of course it’s essential, and in fact protecting System Center 2012 itself from disaster is also essential if you’re using it to manage your data centre. The least known of the System Center products, Data Protection Manager (DPM), is also being upgraded for 2012 to allow remote management and a single console view to allow all your DPM servers to be centrally managed, so you can quickly find the data you need to recover from wherever you are working.
Not all of this is in beta right now but you can get your hands on:
and I’ll keep you posted on the rest.
Read Simon’s TechNet blog and chat with him on Twitter.
Why should you try Office 365?
Wouldn’t the world be a great place if you didn’t have to worry about your users quickly running out of email storage space; if your users had a single place where they could collaborate on documents; if they could contact each other at the click of a button and if you didn’t have to waste time upgrading your servers? Sounds a little too good to be true already, but how about if they could do it from any mobile device with a familiar experience on the desktop and web no matter what computer they use or where?
We’ve launched Office 365 and it’s something you should try right now, because it’s free to trial, but more importantly it’ll help you explore what it can do far better than a technical document can. Office 365 combines all the parts your businesses depends on from Microsoft to be productive: Office 2010 Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. The very latest versions managed by Microsoft’s experts and backed by uptime guarantees that give your business money back if things go wrong.
With all that said you might be thinking there’s less for you to do: less time spent patching, less time installing server software, less time ensuring uptime, but of course you’ll spend more time making your users happy.
Office 365 can integrate with your existing Exchange environment or run stand alone and it links with Active Directory Directory Services (AD DS) so your users still only have to sign on once. If you don’t have AD DS in place, don’t worry there’s a single sign on client for smaller operations. Small businesses using Small Business Server as their platform also benefit from tight integration between Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Office 365 - they act as one. Office 365 works with your existing infrastructure to provide a cloud only or hybrid approach (connecting on and off premises) that matches the reality your organisation faces today. Let’s be clear though, the skills you bring to bear as an IT pro will help make it seamless to the people who matter - your users.
The tools to do the job are just what you’d expect: there are hundreds of PowerShell cmdlets like this one and the Exchange 2010 MMC can be used to manage Exchange Online (just like Exchange 2010). SharePoint sites can be created and managed in browser or with SharePoint Designer or even Visual Studio 2010, just like they can with the on-premises versions.