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By Larry Socher
An agile, intelligent infrastructure creates the technology foundation for the digital business.
Workplace technologies play a significant role in how employees get their jobs done, but with many employees using both business and personal devices to do their jobs, the definition of workplace is itself changing…providing new challenges and opportunities.
In a fully realized intelligent infrastructure, the desktop will be provisioned based on the unique user profile, providing the applications and infrastructure services each employee needs to support his or her unique role. The infrastructure will be able to determine the employee’s location—office, mobile or home—and provision the user experience accordingly to maximize workplace capabilities. The infrastructure will ensure that devices are always on and connected—and will ensure network connectivity to the required environments. While the current technology options are not quite ready to achieve the full vision for an intelligent infrastructure, IT leaders can begin to prepare.
When it comes to workplace technologies, there are five key areas where IT leaders should focus their efforts:
Focus on the end user. Recognize that IT can no longer dictate how systems are delivered. Users now expect to be able to get their work done wherever they are, on any type of device – from smartphones and tablets to traditional desktop computers. IT must enable work in any and every manner that best suits this new—and very productive—type of end user, while also protecting company data. Mobile device management is becoming more sophisticated, more critical and, thankfully, more “doable.” Just be sure not to dictate to, but rather collaborate with, end users, helping them become more productive by working with them to get the most out of technology.
Give them apps. Users want to access all corporate applications on all of their devices all of the time—and all those applications must work the same, no matter what the device. Successful companies work to support this trend. It’s important to recognize that building and supporting a corporate “app store” tends to drive more custom application development. In addition to providing the app store, support must be provided to developers, helping them build quality apps that meet IT needs as well as business needs.
Consider virtualized desktops. With Windows XP reaching the end of its life, now is an ideal time for many companies to reconsider how they are delivering services to their employees. Virtual desktops are not the answer for every situation, but in many cases they can help meet changing users’ needs while greatly enhancing productivity and innovation, reducing support costs, improving reliability and better securing corporate data.
Embrace “workplace as a service.” Cloud services are quickly moving into the enterprise, often without IT involvement, and successful IT leaders are establishing policies and avoiding trouble by getting ahead of this trend. Be wary of potential legal—and brand reputation—ramifications regarding where corporate data resides. On the other hand, considering that the level of offerings from managed service providers has improved significantly, along with their security, do you really need to spend your precious and diminishing time managing servers? Consider outsourcing commoditized services such as e-mail and calendaring.
Invest in the users’ experience. Projects often deliver their intended functionality, but stumble or fail because they do not allocate enough resources to ensure a good user experience. Remember “focus on the end user?” The next time a project is being planned, look at the end-user’s perspective—and then consider getting some of them involved in the project early. Invest in creating an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and then provide good training. No one is completely comfortable with change, so strong change enablement will help ensure that the project is successful and users accept the new application. Set end users up for a win and the business will be rewarded many times over.
Clearly, powerful consumer devices and applications have raised expectations on the corporate side. Rather than fight this powerful headwind, it should be embraced to accelerate progress toward the digital business of the future.
Larry Socher is global managing director of Accenture’s Network and Workplace practices.
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March 11, 2014
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