Monthly Archives: June 2013

I.T may think it counts the data going out, but too often it doesn’t – because the data wasn’t there in the first place

data in out

Unlike the famous phrase from the Falklands War when Brian Hanrahan, the  BBC correspondent acclaimed “I counted them all out and I counted them all back” , the modern IT organization no longer has the confidence to be able to say the same.

Wind the clock back.

Decades ago it was easy. Data never left the confines of the coax cables connecting the mainframe to the 3270 terminal.  We could probably count the bytes of data going out and count them coming back in and keep a tally in an exercise book!

Even when we got into client server the concept of balancing the data ins and outs was still very much within the control of the IT organization with the exception of a few rogue ‘techie geeky’ users and those people who used to write ‘viruses’ that told us all our data had been transferred to the bad guys. We even shielded cables from interference! Moving data about in these days was like going into the public library. I borrowed it and I returned it. We were programmed into this behaviour. The technology made it easy to do. In fact we couldn’t actually do anything else other than squirrel away a few files on a floppy disk and make out we were all ‘secret agents’. When we went home the data was securely tucked away on a disk spinning away safe from prying eyes and ears.

Then we got remote access because bandwidth was getting better. Tings got a little more interesting now because we could work outside the office wherever there was a POTS line, and eventually we could work offline. But again we still followed  trend by ‘returning’ the data because (1) it wasn’t very interesting to anyone else, (2) the applications only really worked that, (3) online email was not a trend (yet)  and (4) and frankly, we had a private life. And if IT were worried about losing data ( like the books ) they gave us a thin client connection so all those lovely keystrokes were captured and contained with their data center thus keeping everyone happy that again IT were counting data going out, and counting it back in.

Then the  internet explosion made a difference to a point,  but  early on it matter very little because we using the web for some business to business transactions and consumer interaction, while the heavy lifting business engine applications were still in this ‘data secure’ state.  Still Back Office. IT organizations were happy they were protecting their internal organization and other than the ‘web site hackers’ they knew where their data was. Whatever was happening in the Front Office still came up the gaze of IT as they had all these tools to monitor traffic and examine what we were doing.

Then we got the  social IT boom. We still used the corporate tools to do our days jobs but now we could talk on Facebook, tweet about things at work and start to share information safe in the knowledge that corporate IT could no longer see what we were doing. For the first time on a massive scale IT could not see what we were doing because the content we were creating was never there in the first place.

Then we got the socio-corporate IT boom which saw an avalanche of cloud based business services all aimed on a Freemium model that offered a fantastic way to neatly side step corporate IT completely and allow us to use our personal devices, creating imaginative content, sharing with colleagues and friends and storing for ever. We could even move between clouds as we perhaps changed jobs ( or got bored ) all without anyone from IT being able to see what the content was, what corporate IP it contained and who we were sharing it with.

Now we have the always on cloud connected socio-corporate-personal IT boom where the blend ( or not depending on your perspective ) means that our ability to create content outside the corporate IT walls is enormous, and the value we get from going round IT far outweighs the risks and potential compromise situations we may be heading towards. Often without a care in the world 😦 We create our own intellectual property (IP ) on the fly and store it in multiple places ( that we forget about ).

When it comes to individual files and documents, there’s absolutely nothing stopping  us  from  creating content on a device and saving it to their preferred cloud service. ( Preferred at that point in time – because we can move files between clouds just like we try different deodrants and yoghurt).  The industry of software providers and SaaS vendors make it easier and easier for us to just “pop in” to their apps to jot down some thoughts . Meanwhile the IT organization tries to  wrap more and more authentication and security around our “enterprise social” apps.

Now for the paradox. IT has lots of methods to protect the corporate network all with imaginative names like IPS, IDS, DLP, DRM that sit on the edges of our networks looking for threats from outside and looking at key words and phrases. All these methods talk about Intrusion, Data Loss, Protection, Rights Management and Prevention.

But what if the IP wasnt actually created inside the network? How will all these IPS, IDS, DLP , DRM tools protect us?  Perhaps they did 5 years ago but now? In today’s world, enterprise data isn’t in the enterprise. It’s created with a camera, Google Docs, or Evernote.

It’s no longer about data leakage. In fact its about a clash of opposing forces.

We thirst for mobility and new ways of working. We thrive to use our own devices. We plead for policies that allow us to be agile. We desire to work as we travel. In fact, when anything prevents us from doing this we get ‘narked’. Sure we can use tools to lock down and protect ‘back office’ generated data from corporate heavy lifting applications but as our organizations change the mix of back and front office applications, the propensity of ‘data created outside the network’ just increases exponentially.

So what do we do.

Think outside the box? Think inside the box? Bury our heads? See the wood from the trees? Take a reality check? Or Pill? Damned if we do damned if we don’t?  It is what it is? Go with the flow?

I DONT THINK WE HAVE INVENTED THE PHRASE YET TO EXPLAIN THIS PROBLEM – DO YOU?

Brummie.

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Being called an end user just isn’t PC anymore

I may be still called an End User by people who provide me IT but rarely do I feel a customer.

 

end user1

From a variety of sources,  most notably a UK Government report on End User Computing and the way software people refer to their customers , I began to feel that the term end user is actually no longer valid. Whether it is Microsoft with their EULA ( end user license agreement, Apple or Google the world still views the person who buys a product from these people as an End User. And I don’t like it 😦

So why am I bothered?

Well I do smile inwardly that despite all the talk about paradigm shifts in technology, cloud, mobility, consumerization and so on that the person who consumes the device and the software supplied by these organizations are still referred to as an End User.

So where did the phrase come from? Without thinking I expected to be a Mainframe type source because it sort of made sense that in the days of dumb terminals hard wired into a mainframe locked in a room and managed by the clever programmers and data handling specialists that the person at the other ‘end’ was merely an operator of the output and therefore not very important. Hence the phrase End User.

However according to Wikipedia the term originated from the fields of economics and commerce where “a product may be purchased by several intermediaries, who are not users, between the manufacturer and the end user, or be directly purchased by the end user as a consumer. For example the end user of a pharmaceutical product is the patient who takes it, rather than distributors, pharmacists and physicians who may purchase it in their behalf; or the user can buy the product at a drugstore.”
But then a search for End User Computing appeared to be closer to my original submission with the following statement ..”End-user computing (EUC) refers to systems in which non-programmers can create working applications. End-user computing  ( EUC ) can range in complexity from users simply clicking a series of buttons, to writing scripts in a controlled scripting language, to being able to modify and execute code directly.”

Based on this identifying a 21st century individual who consumes information and collaborates with others both socially and at work as an End User may not be the correct approach. This is what I am putting forward in this post.

Sure having a way to ‘contract’ with someone for goods and services may not necessarily be the same as the way the person uses the product. Look at cars. If I buy a BMW I am not seen as and end user. I am seen as a customer and all the paper work refers to the word customers even though I am an end user of the car. Perhaps because I own the car whereas we don’t own the IT hence the phrase end user. We are not entitled to be called anything else. Is this it?

Hang on though. Perhaps as we all become ‘All In’ the cloud we will revert back to being the ‘End Users’ and that the clever stuff will be done by the guys in the cloud datacenters. I suppose this is partly true when you consider what amazing things the guys from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple are doing for us now.

All very interesting. Because the word End suggests final, closure, being complete and for most of us we certainly don’t feel that we are at the end of anything. We feel we are at the front especially now we can do nearly everything we need to from a device that gives us all the control and power. Banking on line is an example. Using our mobile devices to book a flight. Browsing the internet to buy something while travelling. Connecting to friends around the world while waiting for a bus or train. The Anytime Anywhere experiences we now expect every day whether at work or play is not the habits of end users. If we stopped people in the street ( especially younger ones  ) then I would be shocked if any more than 10% would call themselves an end user.

Now an IT organization will have end user policies and profiles to control the IT service they deliver to their end users and I suppose so long as there are ‘back office’ systems like email, ERP, CRM and others to deliver the term ‘end user’ is still valid but wait one.

What do you call a person who says get 50% of their IT from the traditional back office data center and the rest from the cloud as a Cloud Service. Still an end user? How about a End Consumer?  Half and half? Mixed up! 🙂 Perhaps its a bit of both.

Does the IT Service Desk define the End user term. Probably they do. Deep rooted in support level agreements and managed service contracts the people who build and support the classic IT infrastructure are more comfortable with the end user phrase.

But what is the right word or phrase? Consumer? Customer? User ( plain and simple )? Its not easy it is. Subscriber is how NIST ( the US Standards People )  see the user. Someone who subscribes to the service.

What does Microsoft say now they are moving to the cloud subscription model with Office 365. They too talk about Consumers though the license agreement does have a couple of ‘end user’ sentences. So perhaps not totally moved across but at least Microsoft appear to be on the move with how they treat their customers.

Well I think the jury is still out on this one. What do you consider yourself to be? For me I think I am sometimes treated as end user by IT Support; other times I feel like a Consumer and other times a Subscriber.

Interestingly rarely a Customer 🙂

Brummie.