Post PC World: How to Prepare
The combination of mobility, social media and the cloud is creating a powerful new platform for innovation and growth.
by Douglas Neal and Jim Ginsburgh
Much has been written about the consumerization of information technology. However, it is only in the last few years that consumerization has moved beyond the committed early adopters and entered the fast-follower phase.
The mass-market era of consumerization is no longer far away. Obviously, technology is a major driving force. Smartphones and tablets are powerful, easy to use, and selling in record breaking numbers.
In the post-PC world, social media services such as Facebook and YouTube, the explosive growth of applications available in the ‘cloud,’ and ever-better mobile connectivity are changing the way we all live and work. Many of the latest cars from Audi and other manufacturers are available with their own WiFi hotspots. These improvements will continue.
But perhaps most symbolically, many individuals — even many top executives – who never wanted to use or carry a PC are enthusiastic iPhone and iPad customers. They want these new touch-enabled devices because these technologies are fundamentally different from previous generations of IT equipment.
Changing enterprise IT
There is something compelling about the touch interface that allows direct manipulation of an object. For the first time, computing seems to be appealing to the right side of the brain, and, rather than feeling like a chore, it is seen as enjoyable by people who are not ‘techies.’
This is an enormous change for our industry. There are also strong individual incentives. These days, employees need to be knowledgeable about technology as well as their jobs — what we call double-deep. To compete in today’s global economy, they need to maximize their productivity, and this often means using technology in ways that make sense for them. They don’t want to compete with their global rivals with one hand tied behind their back. The net of these technological, psychological and competitive changes is that we are entering a new, post-PC world.
The old world of standard-issue corporate PCs and BlackBerry devices, all controlled by a pervasive IT nanny state, is no more. During this transition, cherished practices and assumptions about enterprise IT will be radically altered. For example, businesses today increasingly collaborate with employees, partners and customers across the globe. But if we need to support a wide range of consumer devices as part of making ourselves easy to do business with, then why not do this for our employees as well?
The shift to the post-PC world will involve much more than just technology adoption. It requires a range of cultural and organizational shifts that challenge much of what enterprises currently think about IT. It would be counterproductive, and even dangerous, for IT executives to deny what is happening and refuse to engage in these post-PC change debates. The inevitable result would be that employees see enterprise IT and its policies as out of touch and increasingly irrelevant. This pattern must be avoided at all costs.
For example, when computers were expensive it made sense for organizations rather than individuals to buy them and take overall responsibility. Tomorrow, employees will be increasingly expected to be self-sufficient and responsible. In many cases this will include BYOT (‘bring your own technology’) policies, where devices are owned by the employee (perhaps funded by the enterprise), and with varying degrees of freedom in choice.
Each organization will make its own decision about how far it goes down this track, and it is reasonable to assume that more security-dependent firms will attempt to retain more control — although we found evidence that even some of these firms are operating a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ over the use of consumer technologies. But one way or another, every firm will need an effective post-PC strategy.
Implementing this strategy will be primarily an exercise in change management, paying attention to all the steps of change, from awareness of why change is needed through to reinforcement to make the change stick. If enterprise IT is to manage the needed transitions, it will have to think in both change and project management terms and concern itself with issues beyond its traditional territory — legal, human resources, procurement, finance, training, etc. In the post-PC world we will require different approaches to risk and security.
Balancing risk and opportunity in a post-PC world
We need to re-balance the perceived risks of consumerization against improved productivity. Employees, processes and social media must be an active part of our approach to security, not just technology. Devices and support will be moved outside the firewall in order to shrink the remaining perimeter and make it easier to defend.
Perhaps most importantly, business leaders should keep in mind that the post-PC world isn’t just about devices. The combination of mobility, social media and the cloud is creating a powerful new platform for innovation and growth. As employees and customers become increasingly connected with services that are location-aware, new applications and value will emerge in ways that are hard to imagine today.
Embracing these new opportunities will be much easier if they are part of a sustained process of consumerization that acknowledges the emergence and importance of a post-PC world. It is best to get on board early, or at least prepare for the mass-market phase ahead. The greatest benefits will accrue to those firms that rapidly take advantage of new technologies and concepts as they become available. Tracking these opportunities and strategies will be a major focus of LEF research over the next year and beyond.
DOUGLAS NEAL is a research fellow and JIM GINSBURGH, a research associate for CSC’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF).