Cloud and Consumerisation Have Changed the Desktop Forever

This blog post is sponsored by T-Systems and the Zero Distance community.

Cloud and the consumerisation of IT have changed the face of end user computing, and the desktop in particular irrevocably.

When I look at the shape of end user computing, how much it has changed over the last couple of years, and what the future holds, I’m astonished. Cloud and the consumerisation of IT have changed the face and future of end user computing – and the corporate desktop in particular – fundamentally and irrevocably. Not all of these changes have made their way into the corporate desktop, but it is just a matter of time. I expect that in three years most corporate desktops will be radically different to what we see today. Why is that? And, how will they be different?

The consumerisation of IT has meant that powerful (and empowering) tools have become affordable for the average person. Everybody can carry around mobile devices – smartphones or tablets – that give them constant access to tools that used to only be available at work. That, and the ubiquity of cheap mobile internet access means that I now have better access to my personal email than I do to my work email. I can easily access gmail using multi-factor authentication, anywhere I want, on my smartphone.

The sheer range of tools that consumers have access to from the cloud (often on their smartphones), often for free, is astonishing. As consumers we now have tools that are easier to use and in many cases are more powerful than traditional corporate IT tools. In addition the sheer variety of cloud services means that anyone can find specialised applications for their very specific needs. The experience that many of our users are having is that they are more productive when not using the tools supplied by corporate IT on their old-fashioned desktop PC.

This has in turn led to higher expectations from the users of corporate IT – “If I can get dropbox at home, I should be able to get something just as good on my work PC”. People have seen the future of work with these services, and they are less likely to settle for the inflexible, difficult and expensive tools that their IT department are providing them with.

These factors are driving people to use their personal devices at work. They are under greater pressure to deliver at work, and they see that their personal tools are helping them do that. Their use of these personal devices to store and process company information has led to many organisations trying out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programmes.  Recent surveys show that organisations are lagging behind their employees in reacting to the BYOD phenomenon, but eventually they will have to catch up as there are no signs that BYOD will go away.

Cloud has made powerful enterprise grade tools available to the end user. And those applications are accessed over the web, from any browser. We no longer need thick client applications using local processing power. We expect our applications to be accessible from any browser on any device.

Consumer app stores in particular have got people used to having and exercising choice. We are now used to selecting the best tool for our personal working style to get the job done. When it comes down to it, people realise that they are the ones who are best at judging what makes them more productive in their business, not some person in IT. And, they also see that what works for them is not the same as what works for their colleagues. This explains the sudden popularity of corporate app store products, but that is just the start of it. We will see more self-service and community support models in corporate IT as users seize back control.

What are the implications of these trends for IT and the corporate desktop? As I see it they are:

  • People’s expectations of what their work desktop can do for them have changed – they are demanding more: faster access to better,easier to use devices and software, greater control and more choice.
  • Heavy weight managed devices are a thing of the past. The future is light weight, mobile devices with light weight (or no) management.
  • IT will move from providing and managing devices to providing services – accessed over any browser.
  • We can no longer provide a locked down device and operating system with designated tools. If they don’t like what they are given, users can just get their own better ones. And they will, no matter what your policy says.
  • Personalisation, control and choice will become standard.

I think that control has already been lost, and the attempt to regain it is futile. One of two things will happen, either IT departments will evolve to deliver services that can compete, or our end users will abandon us and get their own services. The sooner your IT department realises this, the sooner they can move to provide the desktop of the future.

This blog post is sponsored by T-Systems and the Zero Distance community.

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