Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Next Device – if ever a reason not to solve problems with the same thinking we used to create them

Windows XP is due to retire next year.  This a irrefutable fact.

The Next Device is a concept and is the basis of this post.

Someone – lets call him FRANK who is a stakeholder with influence when presented with supplementary ‘facts’ on the landscape facing the decision to ‘migrate from Windows XP to a new Next Desktop’ uttered the following claim ” typical scaremongering and not helpful. This decision is easy. We will do what we did last time”.  When I heard this I felt a cold shiver as Albert Einstein entered the room. His words “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” came rushing into my consciousness.

The supplementary facts were things like ;

  • the number of applications compatibile ( or not ) with the Next Device the number of non supported applications running business critical data services but NOT supported by IS teams
  • the number of applications with no data relating to who can support and remediate on its journey to the Next Desktop
  • the drain of skills who know what specific applications do
  • the cost to discover, analyse and present all this data
  • the cost to validate the impact
  • the cost of the infrastructure to support the change
  • the balance between this and real business IT projects
  • the extent of the licensing change if the application is moved/upgraded
  • the impact on training and support
  • and ……………………………..so on an so on ………………
  • Life is too short to list them all to be honest.

What is the Next Device by the way ? it doesnt actually matter. The point is this – It wont be Windows XP and it will very different than it was in 2003.

Actually we all know the Next Device does truly matter as it now empowers users to do smarter things faster and more efficiently, but for the first time ever IT organizations face a massive challenge selecting the right Next Device and the tools, processes and controls. This challenges tranlsates to a simple but actually incredibly difficult thought process. This thought process goes something like this – if the Next Device actually means multiple different form factors, usage scenarios, security considerations and support options then how do I (1) produce a cost budget (2) select the tools (3) migrate the estate (4) support the estate (5) maintain service and the hardest one of all (6) innovate!!!!!! ( musnt forget this word)

Lets go back to FRANK for a minute who thinks its just like last time, and therefore, pretty straightforward. Probably a big fan of  KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID 🙂

Firstly when was last time, FRANK? 10 years ago? Sure you may have refreshed the hardware a couple of times since then but come on the knowledge and impact of buildling a Windows XP environment compared to what the Next Device of 2013 looks like totally reaffirms Albert’s quotation. Just because you ‘know how to deploy thousands of Windows XP machines from a gold build and get the apps installed by hook or by crooks 10 years ago” doesnt mean you can use ‘that approach and thinking” which actually caused “more underlying issues and support problems then youwould like to admit” to “assess, design, build, deploy and support” our Next Desktop concept.

I would ask FRANK to playback where his business was 10 years ago. Who works for a business that looks and feels the same as it did in 2003? This is a key point. Your business no longer solves problems the way they did way back in 2003 so why the hell should you with your desktops and laptops! Because in my mind the Next Device  is being identified as so much more than a desktop PC and a laptop. it is so much more than a cable stuck in the back. it is so much more than applications installed from CDs, DVDS or fancy tools. it is so much more than a support person doing a bit of remote control. It is so much more than a device to support the real business applicaions which run on nice client server platforms controlled by the IT guys. IT IS SO MUCH MORE.

What is more relevant and immediate is that  people already have their Next Device. It runs on their smartphone. They have it on their PC at home. Their tablet used for social networking and web surfing is running it. People are comfortable. They know how to so smart things quickly and easily. They can be agile. They can be flexible. They share. They collaborate. Their friends and family have the same Next Device. They can swop devices. They can exercise choice. Their kids have it. Those kids have grandparents who also have it. Not having it is now a social negative. ( OK Im being a little dramatic now )

Then these people  they go to work. Ouch! When they do they  go back 10 years. FRANK is waiting for them but they dont like it. They use it as a reason to leave and find a job where they get the Next Device. They even use it to select whether to join a company. The demographics and IT experience is now an influence. Sadly not a fact for the gentleman above but definately an influence. They marginalise FRANK and he doesnt see it happening.

So what do we do as influencers, consultants and advisors. We do this. We give them a rationale. A different way of thinking. Call it a question set. Or decision tree. Something that takes what we know of the past but aligns to the what the future will be. It takes the reality of the 3 Ps – people, process and technology – and blends in what we know of the future. It isnt hard. It just needs focus. It doesnt need emotion. It doesnt need irrational statements. Come on FRANK. It needs somewhere to start. Wherever this may be it has to be somewhere. Throwing all the issues, risks and challenges up in the air like a deck of cards and expect the answers is foolhardy and irresponsible. Equally just focusing on one narrow stream like security or applications without taking a wider view is daft too.

You see the Next Device is a big shift change. Dare I say Paradigm Shift!! Businesses are at a significant crossroad. They should be asking themselves 3 simple questions.

A. Do we do what we did last time? ( my friend above )

B. Do we develop a way of thinking and questionning that lets us make the best decisions with the knowledge we have of the past and the future?

C. Do we do nothing and find a work around?

Of course B is my recommended approach. But remember the audience has to understand that B has some pain and hard work to get right. Why? Well because unbelievably the number of ‘people who have done it before successfully’ is a very small number.  And it exacly this that in fairness to FRANK above too often A and C present an attractive option. However option C is running out unless the business is looking to totally fall off a cliff and Option A may no longer be the most optimal ( financially and operationally ) route to take. And this is because the last 10 years have moved on from mundane decisions on desktops and applications. IT has grown up. Organizations have made decisions outside IT that embrace cloud, web services, social collaboration, innovative workspace management, B2B trade, knowledge management and self service capabilities. None of which demonstrates ‘lets do we what did last time” and more importantly, none of which seeks a desktop that looks like “what we did last time”. Get the point FRANK?

OK so deep apologies to FRANK but my pont is deadly serious. For those reading this who have nailed the Next Device then I applaud you. For those who havent then I implore you to think about your rationale first. Work with people with like minded thinking. Widen your circles. Dont go narrow. Dont go wide. Be reasonable but be prepared to be bold. Hard decisions are needed.And for FRANK let me conclude by saying this – “does your organization have time, desire, budget and risk appetite to experience the same transition to Windows XP that they went through 10 years ago”.

This is the crux of the post and I hope something to chew on.

Brummie.

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It’s 2013. Where did the Power Users go? Or the Knowledge Workers for that matter?

I cant exactly remember but there was a time when those of us in IT responsible for ‘designing solutions’ often spoke about the end users in nice convenient buckets – Power User, Knowledge User and Task User. We did this of course for many reasons but at the end of the day the categories served one purpose – to allow IT to allocate suitable compute power to meet the ‘IT demands’ of each category. As we all know this was done to ensure the people with the most ‘IT processing needs’ got the beefy equipment in terms of RAM, CPU, disk and Graphics. Those who had occasional use or low level IT application input/output ( task users ) were often given low specification equipment. This balancing act of matching supply and demand was the lot of the IT Manager and served the industry very well for the last 20 years. This situation allowed new technology to be introduced to those in greatest needs whilst sweating older equipment to serve those in less needy situations.

Until now? Well I dont know if this has changed for many organisations but there is a defintately changes afoot. And not just in the names we use.

Firstly, organizations have stopped using the categories of Power, Knowledge and Task User. In my most recent employment the words never came up when talking about IT.Perhaps this was because the cost of ‘device power’ was ‘assigned’ to the cost center who decided on their ‘processing needs’. So the principle of “well if you are paying for it you can have what you like” prevalated. Plus also the equipment and the applications were optimized to run well for all types of usage patterns; and the newer hardware was ‘beefy’ for nearly everyone. Improvements in memory, CPU and disk became so cost beneficial that coupled with improvements in the operating systems meant the lines between Power, Knowledge and Task user blurred. Sure there was always the ‘Power’ user who needs oodles of RAM and graphic power for CAD workstation activity but in most organizations these were ( and remain so ) a small number.

According to Wikipedia A power user is a user of a personal computer who has the ability to use advanced features of programs which are beyond the abilities of “normal” users, but is not necessarily capable of programming and system administration. Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Typical examples may include software engineers, architects, engineers, scientists and lawyers, because they “think for a living”. I couldnt find an easy definition for both a ‘normal user’ or a ‘task user’ but it is safe to say it is the ‘rest’.

Secondly, HR organizations now take the lead on employee categorization that differ from the out dated categories used by IT. More accurately, HR departments now factor in hours worked, space needs, travel patterns, performance measurements, peer levels, mobility needs, pay grades etc to map an individual employee to their ‘grade’. As a result the ‘IT’ is now part of this wider categorization and no longer an isolated look up that took place in IT – “it says here mate you are a Knowledge Worker so you are entitled to a Pentium II with 2GB RAM, a 350Mb hard disk and a remote access dial in between 5pm and 8pm on Sunday evenings. Thats your lot. You only get more if you get promoted”.

Forward thinking organizations are now thinking in the language of The Business Device which incorporates not just the hardware and software but also the environmental conditions that a modern employee now needs – tablet devices, collaboration tools, meeting spaces etc.

And it isnt only HR that is now a major factor here. Real estate managers are now involved. These guys talk about your personal desk, someone elses and meeting spaces. These guys want to measure the amount of space you need at different times of the day. They look at who needs to talk to who and work out the optimal sizes for desks, meeting rooms, atriums and break out areas. As they do this they are also picking up the responsibility for the IT. Woah! Hang on? Yes these Estate guys are including the location of wireless access points along with the location of toilets, coffee bars, vending machines and lounge furniture. Why wouldnt they? These guys have a methodology, tools and reporting that helps them maximises the buildings they have to fill. Remember these guys have big budgets to reduce as organizations seek to streamline the workplace. IT no longer is the main player in building layout. They are now a service partner. Just like electrical contractors, furniture suppliers, mechanical engineers and security services.

Why is this important? Well if all the indications point to a revolution in the way we consume IT – tablets, smartphones, BYOD, demise of Windows XP and cloud – then having a smarter way of categorising an employee from an IT perspective may be long over due. Given that the tools we need to collaborate with each other are already probably a cloud service and that all we need is a 4G or WiFi connection to be able to collaborate anywhere, the concept of being a Power Worker seems a little old-fashioned. Especially as all the devices have boundless capability.  So if this is where we are headed how would we categorize a business user in 2013. And if we did could this be a Starter for Ten below.

end user

This picture is just that. It shows four groupings based entirely on that individuals definition i.e. how long they are in the office, or out of it. How long they are at their personal desk versus meeting colleagues around the building they operate in. As a result their Business Device is depicted. Of course more could be done to this little picture but as most of my readers are IT sort of people I will leave it here.

In conclusion, I sense that as IT organizations look at their migration plans from legacy desktop ( Windows XP ) environments they may want to hurry down the corridor to their friendly HR and Estates colleagues to make sure there is not another way to look at their device strategy.

Good luck.

Brummie.