We all work differently.
Years ago, “work” meant we went to our office, wherever it was, and we sat at our desk. That’s where we did work.
If we had a laptop instead of a desktop, we could work in a variety of places, but that usually meant somewhere with an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. Work was a place that you were chained to (with the benefit of a water cooler or a coffee machine that you could hang out at for conversations).
Applications were simple. You had your Microsoft Office apps and then a few monolithic client-server apps that were your “work apps,” like SAP or others. They were heavily customized and usually required a network connection and a different username and password to get in. It was rare that a company had single sign-on (SSO), and all your colleagues had plenty of sticky notes.
You also weren’t supposed to use your system for personal things like surfing the internet or online shopping (and yet that’s how Cyber Monday came about). Some would call those the good old days, when you walked up hill both ways to get there—in the snow, without a jacket.
Today, it’s completely different. Work has morphed from a place you go to a thing you do. You’re always online as you walk around with email on your smartphone and/or tablet. Your Wi-Fi/cellular connection allows you to access the office from anywhere, from your local Starbucks to the park around the corner.
Chasing the Single Device Dream
To enable today’s anywhere, always-on workforce, many enterprises chase the same dream: “How do I give my employees just one device and a single image to enable them?” Enterprises only want to buy one device for each person to save money, and IT only wants one image to create, manage, secure, support and update.
The problem is that people just don’t work that way anymore, either. Companies are either buying multiple corporate devices or allowing employees to “bring your own device” (BYOD), and each worker has gone from working on one device to, on average, three devices. (Gartner anticipates employees will soon use five or six devices per person with the adoption of wearables and the Internet of Things.)
On top of all these disparate devices and this new paradigm of work, enterprises are deploying both public and private apps. Some are homegrown and connect internally to the company’s data center, while others are SaaS-based (Software-as-a-Service) and have a cloud backend. Depending on the endpoint the employee uses, apps appear differently and may have different ways to log in.
This is the wrong approach to the problem. It is based on legacy thinking, fewer devices, fewer images and complete control.
This leads to employee frustration and shadow innovation. (What some call “shadow IT” is really just people trying to find better ways to get their work done.)
There are certainly ways to fix different parts of this mess of issues: Concentrating on employees’ user experience (UX), implementing an SSO tool, trying to find apps that work similarly across all devices, using tools like Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). This is the wrong approach to the problem. It is based on legacy thinking, fewer devices, fewer images and complete control.
Adopting a Common Experience Strategy
Companies need to stop chasing the single device dream and start focusing on the common experience strategy.
Change your goal to delivering a similar (it doesn’t have to be identical) experience across all screens. Those screens can be different sizes (smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC with external monitor) and have different capabilities (touch, mouse or trackpad). As long as the experience is similar, the user will concentrate on getting work done, not getting their device to work.
This is the concept behind VMmware Workspace ONE. You deliver a digital workspace with SSO to the user, which, utilizing the capabilities of the hardware, secures and authenticates the user on whatever device fits the time and place of where they are working. The perimeter of this digital workspace is defined by the user’s identity, and the way their experience is delivered is based upon the device.
On a laptop the user may open Microsoft Word locally or via a remote session, and on a tablet or smartphone they may use the native Microsoft Word app for iOS or Android. They may use the SaaS instance of Concur on their PC or tablet but switch over to the native app on their smartphone. The digital workspace enables it all with their identity so there’s no need for knowing different IDs for different systems.
As long as the experience is similar, the user will concentrate on getting work done, not getting their device to work.
There should be no difference between a BYOD and a COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) user. (The only caveat is that the device has the appropriate security capabilities to keep the data safe.) The goal is for the technology that a user needs to become transparent.
The user knows it’s there, but they just concentrate on getting the job done. They don’t spend time worrying about which device allows them to do what. They have the confidence to use the device that makes the most sense to them, knowing that their workspace is available to them and makes the best use of the device they are working with.
When you change your priority to delivering a common experience across many screens, you get to spend more time following the FUN principle (“Focus on the Users’ Needs”) and less time worrying about the device or app of the week. Your focus on the workflow of the user and their UX also means that you cut down on help desk calls. Your IT staff gets to spend more time moving the organization forward rather than resetting someone’s password for the umpteenth time.
It’s important to remember that your employees are your customers, too, and the same way that they are delighted at home, using apps like Uber or Waze, is the same way they want to work.
Tweet me at @bmkatz, and read more of my thoughts and mobile musings on the AirWatch Blog: