Disruption: from a trickle to a flood
Whether IT leaders or management care to admit it, large organisations have been deeply affected by the consumerisation of IT.
This is one of the most telling findings from Dimension Data’s most recent research, The Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business. Of the 850 business and IT leaders we spoke to, 98% said their organisation has a policy regulating how consumer technology can be used in the workplace. And these policies are increasingly relaxed in comparison to the stricter device management policies that went before.
So, what is going on here? Why are IT departments across the globe allowing more flexibility to staff who want to use their own devices and applications at work? Have they simply admitted defeat—that keeping control of all those devices is just impossible? Or is there something more significant happening here; a new understanding of how technology can fit into the workplace?
Dimension Data sees a real change in how technology is integrated into the enterprise. Until recently, such technology has held a distinct position in the business:
- Employees would go to separate and specific meeting rooms for conference calls.
- Work was carried out at specific terminals.
- Employees had to be present to collaborate.
Today however, the technology has gone from a trickle of ‘separate’ technologies to a flood of almost ubiquitous IT, affecting all employees and changing every aspect of their work. This represents a step-change in our relationship with the workplace. Let’s explore just how significant this evolution is with two key technologies that have really directed this change.
Video conferencing is now the norm
One of the key findings of our research was that 50% of organisations report that conferencing technology has significantly improved business processes. Today, video conferencing is universal, and so there’s no surprise that this kind of technology has affected how organisations work. We’ve seen a huge drop in the upfront cost of video, with bandwidth now cheaper and more available than ever (in most locations, although some discrepancies remain), and the cost of video end points are much lower than in the past.
This drop-in cost has meant video can now be treated as OPEX rather than CAPEX, since video conferencing software can now be downloaded onto most modern devices and paid for on a low-cost, monthly basis. What’s more, video conferencing assets can be leased from providers, saving firms the upfront cost of buying expensive hardware, only for it to go out of date within a year or two.
Yet while costs have reduced, the most remarkable thing about video today is just how easy it has become to use. In the past, an IT support person would very often have to be on hand to support users as they tried to organise a conference call. Today’s tools are so intuitive that, with little to no instruction, people can begin setting up conference calls and start collaborating.
What we’ve seen with video is that a technology can begin as a fairly distinct part of the business (you’d have to go to a separate room and call on IT to help), yet within a matter of years it has become ‘part of the furniture’.
The deluge of mobile
Another key finding from our research is that 42% of respondents said they are embracing multiple device ownership models, and half of businesses say that embracing consumerisation of IT for collaboration and productivity apps is important. This again shows a radically different appreciation for where and how work can be completed. Mobile devices have gone beyond being a tool for calls, texts and social media, and are instead being recognised as legitimate productivity tools, letting people do their work from anywhere.
This significantly changes how we work now.
- Need to send your boss an attachment? Why bother with a formal, more time-consuming email when you can simply send a PDF via WhatsApp?
- Need to update a spreadsheet? Who needs to go to the office when you can simply make changes from your iPad?
An upshot of this development has been a growing concern from IT departments about how to manage the proliferation of devices accessing the corporate network. The benefits are clear, yet many are rightly concerned about what this means for data security and device lifecycle management. In the past, IT departments at large companies might buy their handsets and plans from one of the major telecoms providers in their country. Yet today, we’re seeing a situation where organisations turn to a systems integrator like Dimension Data to manage the full lifecycle and security of devices. Take our recently announced relationship with Apple and Cisco. Businesses are increasingly looking for device plans which will provide end-to-end managed services for mobile devices, both in terms of security, but also in terms of their physical management.
Once again, with mobile we’ve seen a technology go from having fairly limited use cases in the enterprise (typically, checking emails and calendars) to being a prevalent productivity tool, used inside and outside the office.
A trickle to a flood
The most exciting thing that our research shows just how well businesses and people adapt to rapid change. It’s inspiring how fast technology which begins with the most limited use cases can soon become pervasive. Our research revealed that many firms are expectant of the same fast-paced potential for new tools like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality Blockchain. If video and mobile are anything to go by, we think they may well be right.
To learn more about how digital technology is changing the workplace, download our research report, The Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business, today.