Readjusting the view on end-user computing: the rise of do-it-yourself IT

According to a survey of 100 UK senior IT decision makers, by analyst house Ovum, commissioned by Dimension Data, employees are trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools.

An increasing number of employees are ‘doing IT’ for themselves, using ‘freemium’ products when employers do not provide the tools they need.

For instance, 65% of the employees in medium to large enterprises using file sync and share products for work are using freemium consumer products.

Moreover, 48% of IT departments are trying to accommodate these end-user technologies to some extent, at their discretion.

While allowing staff to use their own tools and devices can lead to productivity advantages, an ad-hoc approach to supporting end-user computing environments means that IT departments can become overwhelmed by the need to support multiple, niche environments.

>See also: How the cloud is helping contact centres face consumerisation

Additionally, this hinders their ability to build longer-term plans for the strategic introduction of new technologies to the business. And yet, an ad-hoc approach is what we are seeing in practice; 37% of senior IT leaders admitted they are struggling to design a coherent strategy for supporting end-user computing environments.

IT directors see the importance of developing an end-user computing strategy, yet they are inhibited by a number of challenges including: risk and compliance issues, skills shortage, lack of resources, and multiple business and user priorities.

To take a best practice approach to the evaluation of end-user computing requirements, IT departments must go beyond tackling immediate IT issues and challenges, and focus instead on aligning the support of end-user technologies and subsequent benefits – increased engagement, better customer service and productivity – with their business priorities. In doing so, they will be thinking strategically and acting tactically.

The consumerisation opportunity

The consumerisation of IT can deliver many well-documented benefits to an organisation including efficiency, productivity and workforce innovation.

In fact, these are well recognised by senior management: 90% agree that adopting an end-user computing strategy has a positive effect on the productivity and contribution of the workforce.

IT departments should employ a forward-looking, end-user computing strategy; this would help deliver a future competitive advantage via the creation of a mobile-enabled, device-agnostic workforce.

Indeed, 88% believe that this type of strategy is an important enabler of business innovation as, over time, the tools used by the workforce shape the processes and products of the organisations that employ them.

An end-user computing strategy would also provide data through the cloud and social tools being utilised that can be analysed to ultimately shape future business models.

These models will help shape a more productive, flexible and mobile (available) workforce that is able to provide better customer service – particularly important in competitive markets.

The IT department has the opportunity to deliver these broader business benefits, but at present are being prevented from doing so.

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, CIOs and IT Directors need to assess what consumerisation can do for their businesses and how IT should be placed at the heart of a business’ growth strategy.

Increasing workloads: can IT cope?

The demand from the workforce to support a more dynamic environment is growing, but with IT departments limited by issues around risk and compliance, as well as a lack of resources, they are struggling to deliver on it.

Without the support from senior executives, and an understanding that end-user computing is a priority across the business and the resulting investment, IT is stuck between a rock and a hard place; growing IT support demands, and little resource to tackle them.

In fact, when it comes to end-user computing, 52% of UK enterprises are demanding more than the IT department is currently able to deliver, according to the same report.

This increasing demand comes from the continued growth in the use of employee-owned devices and self-selected applications that is changing the face of the end-user computing environment.

For example, the Ovum report points to the fact that many employees are implementing their own enterprise social networks using freemium offerings, adding to the variety of computing scenarios IT is being asked to support.

Based on these ever-increasing computing scenarios, it is little surprise many organisations continue with outmoded, desktop-only computing strategies. For example, 92% of UK enterprises are running Windows 7, but Windows XP is still more prevalent than Windows 8. Furthermore, despite the low cost of iPads and other tablets in comparison with ultrabooks and laptops, these devices are still considered the preserve of senior management.

Equally, IT is also starting to become overwhelmed by the support needed for technologies that employees introduce to the workplace themselves; 48% of organisations stated they accommodate employee-owned devices at the discretion of the IT department.

>See also: CIO buying patterns shift with consumerisation

This is bolstered by the fact that employees are increasingly acquiring devices for themselves, using them to “work-shift” and boost productivity through the continuity of multi-screen behaviour.

Supporting end-user computing on an ad-hoc basis, without a clear plan in place can mean more IT departments are stretching their limited resources further.

Mobile is not going anywhere

Ovum advises that CIOs do not ignore the changes in attitude that are coming about as a result of innovation in consumer technologies.

Just as the PC changed the place where data processing took place (on the desktop), tablets along with other device form factors and computing models are changing where applications and data are accessed.

High-performing organisations pay close attention to all aspects of the mobile environment to support this advantage; combined with cloud, these companies seize the opportunity to fundamentally rethink different business processes, specifically in the areas of field sales, in-store customer service and administration.

In addition, these successful businesses extend communication and collaboration tools well beyond the traditional desk-based employee and corporate network.

These tools include enterprise social networking and platforms from the likes of Jive Software and Microsoft’s Yammer to provide a platform for ideation and innovation. However, to be truly useful they need to integrate with the end-user computing environment in an effective and purposeful manner.

The right tools can only be integrated in a purposeful manner if companies map back their use to an end-user strategy and technology roadmap.

Rather than taking a piecemeal approach to providing and supporting end-user devices, a user-centric strategy will help organisations to understand how each implementation helps the workforce achieve overarching business goals.

Yet, according to Ovum 37% of businesses lack a coherent end-user computing strategy.

To put a strategy in place, IT must holistically review the entire ICT environment. IT departments often need the help of strategic partners to complete this task.

For example, issues relating to business risk and compliance, which are holding back the advancement of an end-user computing strategy, are not always best dealt with by adding another layer of technology. Sometimes an external perspective is best.

Additionally, IT does not always have the resource or skill at hand to assess cost vs. risk and business priorities when creating the roadmap needed for an end-user computing strategy.

According to the Ovum report, the IT skills gap is looming large within 45% of enterprises: skills, knowledge, and insight are all in short supply.

These issues can be relieved by a strategic partner so that business innovation can be cultivated and the workforce kept engaged.

The roadmap should be accompanied by workforce training and should include tools that are user-friendly and, as Ovum suggests, ‘joyful to use’.

Employees are known to disengage with the business and its customers if they feel ill-equipped or untrained; a fact the majority of managers will be aware of.

Businesses should also actively listen to the voice of the workforce when it comes to matters of IT. The democratisation of IT is becoming an increasingly popular trend – this is opening up the decision of where IT budgets are spent and on which priorities to the wider workforce and different departments.  

This trend will become increasingly important if businesses want to reap the productivity benefits from the consumerisation of IT that they hope for.

Understanding the user

A majority (71%) of the respondents to the survey agreed with the statement that it is important from a revenue and profitability perspective to have a flexible workforce, able to access applications and data any time, from any place, using any sanctioned device.

To do this, businesses must review their priorities holistically; create an end-user computing strategy and roadmap that delivers new, consumer-friendly technologies to the front line.

>See also: The time is now to get to grips with the digital workplace and manage consumerisation – Gartner

These will help employees use their tools flexibly for tasks that map back to the organisational goals.

Ultimately, only this will deliver the flexibility, productivity, efficiency, innovation and profitability advantage that companies seek in an ever changing and increasingly competitive business environment.


Sourced from Jim Barrett, Dimension Data

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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