The pace of change is accelerating – and strategies needs to keep up

By Brian Gammage, - Future Workplace

Strategy is all about direction.

Businesses are on a journey. And the tactics they employ represent individual steps – important, but they won’t get you to your destination on their own. It’s the direction of travel that ensures success. So having that clear, holistic vision of where you want to go vital.

In the world of end-user computing, the ultimate goal is for technology to facilitate a productive, engaged workforce that can keep pace with changes in the world around them. But the pace of that  change is accelerating, forcing businesses to adjust their approach to challenges like complexity and security.

And that means nailing down their strategy.

Change has been rife over the last decade. So in this blog, I want to explore the key trends that are shaping end-user computing, and discuss how businesses need to realign themselves to meet their objectives.

 

An evolving industry

One key thing to bear in mind is just how far we’ve come.

Twelve years ago, there were no tablets, and smart phones were still in their infancy. The world was primarily PC-based. And that brought with it a very specific way of dealing with complexity.

The focus wasn’t on adapting to complexity, but rather controlling it. Putting it in a box and trying to manage it as best as possible. And this led to paths of reinvestment that weren’t very strategic. Look at the language that we used: ‘update cycle’, ‘replace’, ‘refresh’. Businesses were merely iterating on their existing capabilities, rather than exploring fresh territory. They were more focussed on the end of life of existing technology than on the promise delivered by the new technology they acquired.

In other words, this wasn’t a strategic way of operating – it was a tactical one. And as the years rolled on, this way of working was simply no longer feasible.

Part of the reason for this was the rise of the smart phone, as well as the other devices that have since become staples of society. Businesses could no longer be PC-centric, but instead had to cater to phones, tablets, and a variety of other screens.

But there are further layers of complexity to add on top. The widening of IT estates and the emergence of cloud-based services meant authentication had to be fundamentally reimagined. VPNs, single sign on, cloud access – none of these solutions are simple. Yet in a world where businesses employ a variety of cloud and on-premise infrastructure to house their data, seamless access is critical to secure operations.

And then, finally, you have the applications themselves. And it goes without saying that application architecture has changed dramatically over the years.

In effect, the technology of the workspace has been split across four areas of IT activity:

  • Desktop
  • Mobile
  • Access technology
  • Applications

The complexity has been multiplied across these. Each of these areas have their own asset bases and lifecycles. And while businesses could carry on refreshing the infrastructure in each subgroup independently, as the complexity scales, this won’t be a long-term solution. They will need to coordinate across them and eventually bring them together.

Rather than a tactical, step-by-step approach for each subgroup, businesses need a strategy that ties them all together.

 

A change of direction

One of the biggest strategy shifts in modern times is towards universal endpoint management (UEM).

This is simply the idea of converging the desktop and mobile areas into one. No more siloed teams working towards their individual lifecycles. By taking a converged, holistic approach, these subgroups can support each other and be managed together. The shift towards UEM provides a platform for convergence with the access and application areas too, allowing organizations to realize the vision of accessing any application from any device at any location.

It’s also about being flexible enough to work with complexity, rather than against it. The number of devices we use is only going to grow. The infrastructure we rely on will expand. And cyberthreats will become more sophisticated. IT needs to move to a place when it can embrace these demands – not fight against them.

How are organisations adapting so far? Well, a trend in recent years has been crises to accelerate change. America’s Hurricane Sandy for example really hit the financial industry hard. Banks weren’t able to open. So they compensated by investing in their remote infrastructure and online experiences and by removing barriers to the use of mobile devices for work.

The same is true of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digital transformation has been on the cards for some time, it has now dramatically moved up in priority. The risk of change has been outweighed by the risk of doing nothing – and businesses are focused on adjusting to the new normal.

So strategy is a really hot topic, as businesses can’t afford to put things on the backburner right now; decisions need to be made, and they need to be made as soon as possible.

Everyone is at a different stage on their journey – some have successfully moved to remote working, while others are still in the process of pivoting. But the one thing tying everyone together is the need to start thinking long term, and chart the direction for a more strategic future.

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