The next BriefingsDirect innovator interview targets how the recent and rapid evolution of mobile and client management requirements have caused considerable complexity and confusion.
We’ll examine how incomplete solutions and a lack of a clear pan-client strategy have hampered the move to broader mobile support at enterprises and mid-market companies alike. This state of muddled direction has put IT in a bind, while frustrating users who are eager to gain greater productivity and flexibility in their work habits, and device choice.
To share his insights on how to better prepare for a mobile-enablement future that quickly complements other IT imperatives such as cloud, big data, and even more efficient data centers, we’re joined by Tom Kendra, Vice President and General Manager, Systems Management at Dell Software. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: Dell is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Here are some excerpts:
Kendra: There is an enormous amount of conversation now in this mobility area and it’s moving very, very rapidly. This is an evolving space. There are a lot of moving parts, and hopefully, in the next few minutes, we’ll be able to dive into some of those.
Gardner: People have been dealing with a fast-moving client environment for decades. Things have always changed rapidly with the client. We went through the Web transition and client-server. We’ve seen all kinds of different ways of getting apps to devices. What’s different about the mobile and BYOD challenges today?
Kendra: Our industry is characterized by speed and agility. Right now, the big drivers causing the acceleration can be put into three categories: the amount and type of data that’s available, all the different ways and devices for accessing this data, as well as the evolving preferences and policies for dictating who, what, and how data is shared.
For example, training videos, charts and graphs versus just text, and the ability to combine these assets and deliver them in a way that allows a front-line salesperson, a service desk staffer or anyone else in the corporate ecosystem to satisfy customer requests much more efficiently and rapidly.
The second area is the number of devices we need to support. You touched on this earlier. In yesterday’s world—and yesterday was a very short time ago—mobility was all around the PC. Then, it was around a corporate-issued device, most likely a business phone. Now, all of a sudden, there are many, many, many more devices that corporations are issuing as well as devices people are bringing into their work environment at a rapid pace.
We’ve moved from laptops to smartphones that were corporate-issued to tablets. Soon, we’ll get more and more wearables in the environment and machine-to-machine communications will become more prevalent. All of these essentially create unprecedented opportunities, yet also complicate the problem.
The third area that’s driving change at a much higher velocity is the ever-evolving attitude about work and work-life balance. And, along with that ... privacy. Employees want to use what they’re comfortable using at work and they want to make sure their information and privacy rights are understood and protected. These three items are really driving the acceleration.
Gardner: And the response to this complexity so far, Tom, has been some suite, some mobile device management (MDM) approaches, trying to have multiple paths to these devices and supporting multiple types of infrastructure behind that. Why have these not yet reached a point where enterprises are comfortable? Why have we not yet solved the problem of how to do this well?
Kendra: When you think about all the different requirements, you realize there are many ways to achieve the objectives. You might postulate that, in certain industries, there are regulatory requirements that somewhat dictate a solution. So a lot of organizations in those industries move down one path. In industries where you don’t have quite the same regulatory environment, you might have more flexibility to choose yet another path.
The range of available options is wide, and many organizations have experimented with numerous approaches. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we have the unique opportunity—today and over the next couple of years—to think about how we consolidate these approaches into a more integrated, holistic mobility solution that elevates data security and mobile workforce productivity.
None of them are inherently good or bad. They all serve a purpose. We have to ask, “How do I preserve the uniqueness of what those different approaches offer, while bringing together the similarities?”
How can you take advantage of similarities, such as the definition of roles or which roles within the organization have access to what types of data? The commonalities may be contextual in the sense that I’m going to provide this kind of data access if you are in these kinds of locations on these kinds of devices. Those things we could probably pull together and manage in a more efficient way.
But we still want to give companies the flexibility to determine what it means to support different form factors, which means you need to understand the characteristics of a wearable device versus a smartphone or an iPad.
I also need to understand the different use cases that are most prevalent in my organization. If I’m a factory worker, for example, it may be better to have a wearable in the future, rather than a tablet. In the medical field, however, tablets are probably preferred over wearables because of the need to enter, modify and view electronic medical records. So there are different tradeoffs, and we want to be able to support all of them.
Gardner: Looking again at the historical perspective, in the past when IT was faced with a complexity—too many moving parts, too many variables—they could walk in and say, “Here’s the solution. This is the box we’ve put around it. You have to use it this way. That may cause you some frustration, but it will solve the bigger problem.” And they could get away with that.
Today, that’s really no longer the case. There’s shadow IT. There’s consumerization of IT. There are people using cloud services on their own volition without even going through any of the lines of business. It's right down to the individual user. How does IT now find a way to get some control, get the needed enterprise requirements met, but recognize that their ability to dictate terms is less than it used to be?
Kendra: You’re bringing up a very big issue. Companies today are getting a lot of pressure from individuals bringing in their own technology. One of the case studies you and I have been following for many months is Green Clinic Health System, a physician-owned community healthcare organization in Louisiana. As you know, Jason Thomas, the CIO and IT Director, has been very open about discussing their progress—and the many challenges—encountered on their BYOD journey.
As part of Green Clinic’s goal to ensure excellent patient care, the 50 physicians started bringing in different technologies, including tablets and smartphones, and then asked IT to support them. This is a great example of what happens when major organizational stakeholders—Green Clinic’s physicians, in this case—make technology selections to deliver better service. With Green Clinic, this meant giving doctors and clinicians anytime, anywhere access to highly sensitive patient information on any Internet-connected device without compromising security or HIPAA compliance requirements.
In other kinds of businesses, similar selection processes are underway as line-of-business owners are coming forward to request that different employees or organizational groups have access to information from a multitude of devices. Now, IT has to figure out how to put the security in place to make sure corporate information is protected while still providing the flexibility for users to do their jobs using preferred devices.
Shadow IT often emerges in scenarios where IT puts too many restrictions on device choice, which leads line-of-business owners and their constituents to seek workarounds. As we all know, this can open the door to all sorts of security risks. When we think about the Green Clinic example, you can see that Jason Thomas strives to be as flexible as possible in supporting preferred devices while taking all the necessary precautions to protect patient privacy and HIPAA regulations.
Gardner: When we think about how IT needs to approach this differently—perhaps embracing and extending what's going on, while also being mindful of those important compliance risk and governance issues—we’re seeing a similar shift from the IT vendors.
I think there’s such a large opportunity in the market for mobile, for the modern data center, for the management of the data and the apps out to these devices, that we are seeing vendor models shifting, and we’re seeing acquisitions happening. What's different this time from the vendor perspective?
Kendra: The industry has to move from a position of providing a series of point-solutions to guiding and leading with a strategy for pulling all these things together. Again, it comes down to giving companies a plan for the future that keeps pace with their emerging requirements, accommodates existing skill sets and grows with them as mobility becomes more ingrained in their ways of doing business. That’s the game—and that’s the hard part.
The types of solutions Dell is bringing to the market embrace what’s needed today while being flexible enough to accommodate future applications and evolving data access needs.
The goal is to leverage customers’ existing investments in their current infrastructures and find ways to build and expand on those with foundational elements that can scale easily as needs dictate. You can imagine a scenario in which an IT shop is not going to have the resources, especially in the mid-market, to embrace multiple ways of managing, securing, granting access, or all of these things.
Gardner: That’s why I think this is easily going to be a three- to five-year affair. Perhaps it will be longer, because we’re not just talking about plopping in a mobile device management capability. We’re really talking about rethinking processes, business models, productivity, and how you acquire working skills. We’re no longer just doing word processing instead of using typewriters. We’re not just repaving cow paths. We’re charting something quite new.
There is that interrelationship between the technology capabilities and the work. I think that’s something that hasn’t been thought out. Companies were perhaps thinking, “We'll just add mobile devices onto the roster of things that we support.” But that’s probably not enough. How does the vision from that aspect work, when you try to do both a technology shift and a business transformation?
Kendra: You used the term “plop in a MDM solution.” It's important to understand that the efforts and the initiatives that have taken place have all been really valuable. We’ve learned a lot. The issue is, as you are talking about, how to evolve this strategy and why.
Equally important is having an understanding of the business transformation that takes place when you put all these elements together—it’s much more far-reaching than simply 'plopping' in a point solution for a particular aspect.
In yesterday's world, I might have had the right or ability to wipe entire devices. Let’s look at the corporate-issued device scenario. The company owns the device and therefore owns the data that resides or is accessed on that device. Wiping the device would be entirely within my domain or purview. But in a BYOD environment, I’m not going to be able to wipe a device. So, I have to think about things much differently than I did before.
As companies evolve their own mobility strategies, it’s important to leverage their learnings, while remaining focused on enhancing their users’ experiences and not sacrificing them. That’s why some of the research we’ve done suggests there is a very high reconsideration rate in terms of people and their current mobility solutions.
They’ve tried various approaches and point solutions and some worked out, but others have found these solutions lacking, which has caused gaps in usability, user adoption, and manageability. Our goal is to address and close those gaps.
Gardner: Let's get to what needs to happen. It seems to me that containerization has come to the fore, a way of accessing different types of applications, acquiring those applications perhaps on the fly, rather than rolled out for the entire populace of the workforce over time. Tell us a little bit more about how you see this working better, moving toward a more supported, agile, business-friendly and user-productivity vision or future for mobility.
Kendra: Giving users the ability to acquire applications on the fly is hugely important as users, based on their roles, need to have access to applications and data, and they need to have it served up in a very easy, user-friendly manner.
The crucial considerations here are role-based, potentially even location-based. Do I really want to allow the same kinds of access to information if I’m in a coffee house in China as I do if I am in my own office? Does data need to be resident on the device once I’m offline? Those are the kinds of considerations we need to think about.
What’s needed to ensure a seamless offline experience is where the issue of containerization arises. There are capabilities that enable users to view and access information in a secure manner when they’re connected to an Internet-enabled device.
But what happens when those same users are offline? Secure container-based workspaces allow me to take documents, data or other corporate information from that online experience and have it accessible whether I’m on a plane, in a tunnel or outside a wi-fi area.
The container provides a protected place to store, view, manage and use that data. If I need to wipe it later on, I can just wipe the information stored in the container, not the entire device, which likely will have personal information and other unrelated data. With the secure digital workspace, it’s easy to restrict how corporate information is used, and policies can be readily established to govern which data can go outside the container or be used by other applications.
The industry is clearing moving in this direction, and it’s critical that we make it across corporate applications.
Gardner: If I hear you correctly, Tom, it sounds as if we’re going to be able to bring down the right container, for the right device, at the right time, for the right process and/or data or application activity. That’s putting more onus on the data center, but that’s probably a good thing. That gives IT the control that they want and need.
It also seems to me that, when you have that flexibility on the device and you can manage sessions and roles and permissions, this can be a cost and productivity benefit to the operators of that data center. They can start to do better data management, dedupe, reduce their storage costs, and do backup and recovery with more of a holistic, agile or strategic approach. They can also meter out the resources they need to support these workloads with much greater efficiency, predict those workloads, and then react to them very swiftly.
We’ve talked so far about all how difficult and tough this is. It sounds like if you crack this nut properly, not only do you get that benefit of the user experience and the mobility factor, but you can also do quite a bit of a good IT blocking and tackling on the backend. Am I reading that correctly or am I overstating that?
Kendra: I think you’re absolutely on the money. Take us as individuals. You may have a corporate-issued laptop. You might have a corporate-issued phone. You also may have an iPad, a Dell tablet, or another type of tablet at home. For me, it’s important to know what Tom Kendra has access to across all of those devices in a very simple manner.
I don’t want to set up a different approach based on each individual device. I want to set up a way of viewing my data, based on my role, permissions and work needs. Heretofore, it's been largely device-centric and management-centric, as opposed to user productivity role-centric.
The Dell position—and where we see the industry going—is consolidating much of the management and security around those devices in a holistic manner, so I can focus on what the individual needs. In doing so, it’s much easier to serve the appropriate data access in a fairly seamless manner. This approach rings true with many of our customers who want to spend more resources on driving their businesses and facilitating increased user productivity and fewer resources on managing a myriad of multiple systems.
Gardner: By bringing the point of management—the point of power, the point of control and enablement—back into the data center, you’re also able to link up to your legacy assets much more easily than if you had to somehow retrofit those legacy assets out to a specific device platform or a device's format.
Okay, I think I have the vision much more clearly now. I expect we’re going to be hearing more from Dell Software on ways to execute toward that vision. But before we move on to some examples of how this works in practice, why Dell? What is it about Dell now that you think puts you all in a position to deliver the means to accomplish this vision?
Kendra: Dell has relationships with millions of customers around the world. We’re a very trusted brand, and companies are interested in what Dell has to say. People are interested in where Dell is going. If you think about the PC market, for example, Dell has about an 11.9 percent worldwide market share. There are hundreds and hundreds of millions of PCs used in the world today. I believe there were approximately 82 million PCs sold during the third quarter of 2013.
The point here is that we have a natural entrée into this discussion and the discussion goes like this: Dell has been a trusted supplier of hardware and we’ve played an important role in helping you drive your business, increase productivity and enable your people to do more, which has produced some amazing business results. As you move into thinking about the management of additional capabilities around mobile, Dell has hardware and software that you should consider.
Once we’re in the conversation, we can highlight Dell’s world-class technologies, including end-user computing, servers, storage, networking, security, data protection, software, and services.
As a trusted brand with world-class technologies and proven solutions, Dell is ideally suited to help bring together the devices and underlying security, encryption, and management technologies required to deliver a unified mobile enablement solution. We can pull it all together and deliver it to the mid-market probably better than anyone else.
So the Dell advantages are numerous. In our announcements over the next few months, you’ll see how we’re bringing these capabilities together and making it easier for our customers to acquire and use them at a lower cost and faster time to value.