October 4, 2011 by Jim Morton
The last post was about how ICT needs to understand that the consumer market is now more than capable of providing software solutions for business/public organisations. Also that we should learn to live with and exploit this rather than acting like a bunch of old reactionaries, barricaded in our server rooms and refusing to come out until everyone agrees to go back to Windows 3.1.
The last ten years have seen personal computers change from something that a fair proportion of people had in their house and used fairly regularly to something that almost everybody has in their pocket and uses almost constantly. In line with this, the computer has become first a lifestyle product and then a fashion accessory thanks to the machinations of a certain Mr Jobs.
This expansion in the take-up of ICT devices, growing consumer requirements and the need to innovate in order to keep revenue ticking over has changed the device market. New types of devices keep appearing with shiny new designs, greater portability and a choice of operating systems which (while only marginally different in the grand scheme of things) inspire the kind of partisan group forming, fractious debate and outright abuse usually reserved for the Italian parliament – which probably says a great deal more about human nature than it does about technology.
In short people are now far more interested and concerned about what computing device they use than they were ten years ago.
When the choice was between a dirty beige box on your desk or a comically named ‘laptop’, that could not be deployed to the ‘lap’ without a fair chance of severe bruising and second degree burns – very few people could care less about what they used to do their computing. Now everybody wants an iPad.
Of course the IT department is not keen on this – historically there are a whole load of extremely sensible, if slightly dull reasons that you closely control both the devices that you give users and the desktop deployment of applications to them. So in general ICT departments continue to provide a slightly sexier version of the beige box/two-tonne laptop service – with tech-savvy users now demanding upgrades galore: “Yes, I realise that my job description is solely based around the re-stocking of lavatory paper in the toilets on the sixth floor – but it is crucially important that my new laptop has a 17” 3-D high res screen, blu-ray player, 12 terabytes of solid state hard disk and enough processing power to run a medium size Balkan state. Or else I just won’t be able to do my job.”
However to pick up our second point, software and services can now be delivered using the web/cloud using open standards – negating any specific physical dependencies of the type that we have had to deal with in the past.
Web delivery and tiered application architecture means that we don’t necessarily have to install/manage software on your specific device for you to get access to a service. In fact if you are consuming that application as a service from the cloud, we don’t necessarily need to be involved in the physical side of things at all.
Naturally this raises a great many questions around information security – all of which are currently under discussion as we move forward with our planned move to cloud e-mail via google.
Without pre-judging the outcome of this work, or the general need for cloud providers to provide comfort to organisations like WCC and our citizens regarding information safety, we have already been thinking about how these changes can provide benefits to WCC users.
Our draft User Devices Strategy (prepared in conjunction with Customer and Supplier Services) is intended to fully embrace the opportunities offered by abstracting away the physical dependencies between device and application.
Potentially this will allow us to deliver our services to a wide range of devices across a wider geographical footprint, take advantage of how new device types can improve service delivery, let people use technology that they are most comfortable with and reduce the cost and complexity of our procurement, management and support operation.
More info on this and how it links to our vision for applications and the web will be forthcoming in the next couple of months as we develop our new ICT Strategy for 2012.