How consumerization of IT affects product design

Consumerization of IT is driving change in professional expectations, having a direct affect on how all OEMs design and develop their products

In an ever demanding world, the lines between work and home are blurring, and technology is becoming an integral part of how we live our lives. New, more advanced and feature -- rich mobile devices and applications are launched each day. At the same time, mobile working continues to increase.

The enormous choice and high -- level functionality of modern consumer form factors has led to a significant shift in the expectations professionals have of their corporate technology. In fact, Gartner predicts that consumerization is the trend that will make the largest impact on enterprise IT in 2012 and the coming years; challenging CIOs and IT to balance employee wants and business needs.

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Slideshow: Top 7 Truths About Consumerization of IT

The new business class

The Generation Y professional is career motivated, while maintaining a strong self-identity and sense of personal style. The shift in the way professionals use and perceive technology, together with the consumerization of IT, has seen the emergence of a new business professional; one who considers the chosen device to perform at optimal levels and be a reflection of his or herself, whether that be at work or at home.

As employee demands evolve, corporate IT is challenged with managing and supporting an ever -- growing number of devices and empowering employees with the tools they need to work more efficiently and securely, wherever they may be.

End-user expectations are focused on choice

At the end of the day, end -- users want a range of choice and flexibility, which must be made available by employers and IT departments. Dell recently underwent a significant redesign of its entire business computing portfolio and conducted extensive research to uncover the most important choices for end -- users when it came to corporate technologies: style, comfort and performance.

  • Style: The image portrayed to clients and colleagues is increasingly important to Generation Y professionals  -- black boxes and grey suits are no longer the norm in a world where creativity and individuality is highly praised.

Knowledge workers expect to choose from a range of form factors that measure up to the sleek and stylish design features of its consumer-focused counterparts, as well as the task at hand. One participant in the study explained that he would like his device to be more of an expression of himself, highlighting the need for corporate devices to reflect personal style and convey levels of responsibility.

Further, today's professionals no longer consider their laptop to be a tool, rather an extension of themselves and part of how they communicate and collaborate with colleagues around the world. Design is key; superior finishes, authentic materials and refined touch points are essential to ensure consumer appeal.

  • Comfort: The adoption of mobile working shows no signs of slowing down, and it is predicted that the number of mobile workers in Western Europe will top 129.5 million by 2013, which is approximately 50.3 percent of the total workforce¹. Large, heavy devices that are easily damaged are not conducive to this new, flexible way of working and, of course, they do not portray the stylish image professionals now expect.

Furthermore, professionals not only expect, but are beginning to demand products with consumer appeal and business ergonomics such as an ISO keyboard, track pad and point stick. Ensuring these features are in place enables professionals to conduct their work from wherever they may be, in comfort and style.

  • Performance: With their office being wherever they are, modern professionals are particularly demanding users. Devices need to be durable and hardwearing, with clean bold lines and offer exceptional connectivity, performance and reliability. To enable knowledge workers to access enterprise data in a secure and compliant manner wherever they may be, security needs to be a key pillar in the design process. Enterprise products should be able to offer secure access and data protection bundled into a device with consumer appeal but without sacrificing on performance.

Business needs and design requirements

This level of choice for end -- users creates some challenges for IT. As the number of devices managed by the IT organization continues to rise, so does the time and resources required to manage and maintain these devices. In many instances the practical challenges of managing an increasing variety of devices, operating systems and set-up is leading to resistance from the IT department to allow the use of alternative devices. However, by 2013-2014, those corporate IT departments who have not enabled a diverse population of devices and end-user choices through emphasis on manageability, policy enforcement and security evaluations will become hopelessly outmoded and struggle to function²; this will cause chaos and substantially raise the TCO of the organization.

During the redesign of its business client portfolio, Dell gave careful thought to the needs of the IT manager to help them balance employee choice with the expectations of the business  -- and designed the range from the ground up to deliver a choice of attractive form factors which also allow complete end-to-end manageability. Following that process, Dell uncovered that the key design requirements for enterprise computing in the era of consumerization should focus on the following:

  • Common platform capabilities take the pain out of managing a multitude of devices. Centralized management is made possible with one tool and a common image, dramatically reducing the time and resources required to deploy and manage the workforce's devices; enabling IT to provide functionality in a much more efficient and cost effective manner.
  • Desktop virtualization is rapidly becoming the mainstream way to power the next generation workforce, who are increasingly mobile and expect to be able to work from wherever they are in a productive, secure and hassle-free way. Thin client solutions offer seamless connectivity and flexibility for employees, while remaining secure and manageable for the IT team. Even better, devices should be designed with built-in technologies like desktop virtualization to help with device management in an increasingly heterogenous world.
  • Security is more important than ever and, with the average cost of a data breach at $4 million, the need for an integrated and comprehensive data protection solution is clear. With the device landscape continually growing and evolving, CIOs need to ensure that their chosen security solution is able to encompass the multitude of devices  -- and that devices are designed with security in mind. For example, factory integrated endpoint encryption can offer a flexible, manageable and auditable solution, enabling organizations to protect data on laptops and desktops as well as external media.

Balancing employee wants with business needs

The consumerization of IT is clearly driving a change in professional expectations and what IT must do to deliver on those requirements. A recent Unisys study indicated that a large percentage of workers ranked technology tools as a critical factor in choosing an employer, and in turn, the way vendors approach the design of commercial products. For CIOs and IT professionals, finding the design balance between employee choice and expectations, and the practical solutions for management can be challenging. Forward thinking vendors are responding by keeping the modern workplace in mind and developing business computing products designed to facilitate productivity, simplify management and be aesthetically pleasing to the workforce.

Paul D'arcy is Executive Director for Dell's Public & Large Enterprise business.

This story, "How consumerization of IT affects product design" was originally published by CIO.

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