End users and data everywhere
Part 1: Cloud and infrastructure article series
In enabling new business and preserving existing value, IT executives are more challenged than ever to balance the agility companies want with the stability they need. Legacy data centers are increasingly removed from the cloud and mobile end users. Delivering data to a variety of devices and taking advantage of new platforms typically requires giving up some control over IT infrastructure. Our new series covers these trends and ways IT executives can make the most of emerging technologies. The first article in the series addresses how cloud computing and the end-user experience are changing how—and where—end users are accessing data.
The end user
Widespread adoption of cloud computing and the evolution of the end-user experience are dramatically changing the corporate office. End users are on the move on different devices—and so is end-user data. As customer and enterprise data moves across both internal and external telephony and wireless networks, CIOs are facing growing challenges around control and management of enterprise IT and data flow to and from the data center (which may now be external).
Devices, technologies, and networks continue to improve, and computing capabilities, data availability, and dataflow are becoming ubiquitous. Users are interacting with their devices in new ways and demanding mass-market capability and mobility from their CIO. Business lines are also demanding digitalization and automation to keep pace with rapid changes.
These trends can wrest control of end user technology and interface decisions from the IT executive. "End users and data everywhere" explores these trends and offers strategies for IT executives to respond to:
- Emergence of a truly mobile and evolving workforce
- Increasing volume of computing power and data flow associated with each end user
- Changing application user interface needs and expectations for the end-user experience
- Expanding consumer market capabilities
- End users who disregard IT policies to bring new technologies to the workplace
- The need to balance legacy back-end infrastructure with digitalization requirements
The state of play: Business converges on the person
Not so long ago, CIOs knew precisely where end users were and what tools they were using. Today, CIOs largely deliver browser or app-based capabilities that can be accessed from a variety of devices and remote locations, both for employees to perform work and for customers to engage with the company's products and services. There is ever-growing demand for functionality and end-user data to be device agnostic: accessible by desktop, tablet, or smartphone, regardless of operating system.
Products and devices are becoming smarter, predictive, and autonomous, and the end-user experience is evolving from 'click or push" (mouse, touchscreen) to "show and tell" (Siri, Kinect). In addition to desktops, laptops, and smartphones, wearable and embedded devices are generating end-user data that end users expect to be able to access from other devices.
The end user carries and moves through ubiquitous computing capabilities and a wireless sea of data on different devices. As a result, performance has become less about processing speed and more about data delivery, and coverage and signal strength are everything.
Practical CIO considerations
Given the trends in cloud adoption and the end-user experience, there are a number of IT infrastructure considerations.
Enterprise computing will continue to thrive: More mobility will not stop the need for back-end processing, but architectures and infrastructure should be adjusted for the changing landscape and data needs.
Embrace the abstraction: Stay nimble by breaking the traditional link of application software to the operating system and hardware, avoiding highly proprietary technologies.
Use device computing power: Most data still should be processed before it reaches the end user, but leverage the device when you can without compromising the end-user experience.
The state department: You still need a "stateful" foundation for the "stateless" mix of cloud and end-user interactions. Data architecture, a chief data officer, and robust reference data have become even more important.
Leveraging human resources: Train or hire people with the skills to leverage fast-moving trends and technologies. Customers and employees expect a rich and efficient end-user experience; your development team must be able to work with the most current platforms and capabilities.
Focus on the app, not on the device: Select apps with known and secure data flows so you can allow more flexibility around device choice.
Interdependence of software and IT operations: Make sure your operating model is suited to the new capabilities, ongoing support, and maintenance challenges.
Exit legacy infrastructure: Refresh dated and difficult legacy technology and consider moving to trusted cloud services or other virtualized shared resources.
DevOps: Bringing development and operations closer together
The IT operating model has a new challenge with the new IT portfolio: flexing between managing the customized, bespoke, and other internally retained, controlled, and managed technologies at the same time as external platforms and services. In managing your in-house IT, and (as a starting mindset) to also work with platform vendors, you should consider bringing development and operations closer together. Approaches that can help creating a DevOps mindset across IT include:
- Publish mission statements with agreed upon language to be used by development and operations teams.
- Institute common metrics that drive development and operations to similar business goals.
- Schedule regular joint development and operational team meetings.
- Implement a shared ticketing system to ensure quick turnaround on root-cause analysis and accountability between teams.
- Establish a Wiki or social media page to encourage information sharing and reduce the "information silo" effect.
- Deploy mobile productivity tools and an online project management suite. Create a balanced scorecard that tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) for the team.
While bringing development and operations closer together has benefits, some of the ops may sit with a vendor. The challenge in the mixed portfolio of retained and sourced services then becomes leveraging a DevOps model that crosses internal and vendor boundaries.