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BYOD Bolsters Business

Posted by Alf Abuhajleh Jun 26, 2013
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Unhappy with the outdated BYOD policy at his work, a friend of mine just announced he’s leaving his job.

 

"Can't do my work properly if I am not able to interact with customers and the guys back at the office while I'm on the road," said the long-time sales engineer at a financial software company. "Management is asking for more output. Expectations are going through the roof. But we’re barely getting email on our phones. I'll never meet my quota this way."


Unfortunately, he’s not alone. Most workers are deprived of the modern tools required to successfully conduct business in 2013. While two-thirds of companies lack BYOD policies, those who've managed to craft plans usually miss the mark, worrying more about fencing off the enterprise than enabling its people.


It’s no wonder then that 30% of devices are sneaked in behind the back of IT.thiefwoman.jpg


Understandably, for most enterprises the consumerization of IT is a headache. The avalanche of mobile devices, personal email accounts and file-sharing services employees introduce to the workplace daily are neither secure nor standardized. But there’s little IT can do to slow down the intensifying BYOD movement.


At the same time, IT is tasked with building clouds of services that reach everyone, everywhere, not just staff at office desks. Today, communications need to be as social as Facebook, as reactive as Twitter. And business applications must always be at your fingertips.


So how do you tie it all together? How do you transform your business to meet employees’ evolving demands?


Well, if the staff insists on bringing phones and tablets to work, let’s leverage the devices by sticking business apps on them.


With a mobile IT app like MyIT from BMC, for example, you can transform the challenge of IT consumerization into a business advantage. Deflect routine help-desk calls by letting employees report problems and ask for services from an easy-to-use app. Drive productivity with geo-location services that match your whereabouts with the nearby resources, such as available conference rooms, warehouse containers and ECG machines at the hospital.


The benefits of context-based services stretch from the front-office, where employees and customers request services, report issues and ask questions, to the back-office where requests are granted, problems fixed and queries answered. While tools already connect self-service portals with fulfillment engines, we need mobility to truly take advantage of a consumerized IT front-end and industrialize IT back-end.


Location is probably the most familiar mobile technology available. From Google Maps to Yelp, the GPS coordinates tell us where someone is and where they've been. We also can use geographic information to expedite IT services.


Here’s one simple example.


lostmobile.jpgWhen a sales guy travels to his firm’s New York office, his mobile email stops working upon arrival. Instead of calling the help desk, he opens the self-service app on his smartphone and logs a ticket.


Because the ticket logged from the phone shows his location, the help desk assigns a nearby IT technician to resolve the issue. The help desk knew the tech was in the vicinity because of the GPS coordinates broadcast from the mobile incident-management app.


While context-driven engagements allow the help desk to maximize its efficiency, it significantly alters the end users perception of IT. Chris Rixon recently wrote a critique on Forrester’s report "Exploring Business and IT Friction: Myths and Realities," arguing that location-based service and support "is going to be one of the most important factors in genuinely transforming an end users experience (and perception) of IT.  You can ensure that the notifications you provide to Alice are timely and appropriate to her role and location."


"You can offer her support that’s specific to the facility she currently finds herself in. You can provide connectivity information, the location of key devices and how to connect them. You can even provide floor plans and maps of where everything so she can orient herself in unfamiliar surroundings."


"Modern mobile computing devices are opening up new kinds of contextual information about their users. This information can now be used to massively enrich the IT experience and eliminate a lot of the wasted effort both sides expend in tracking down the right services at the right time."

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I am an unabashed gadget freak and when my Pebble Smartwatch Kickstarter order arrived last month, I was like a kid in a candy store. After setting it up and a week of wearing only short sleeves shirts to ensure everyone would see it (and undoubtedly ask about it), I started to wonder if this is the next wave of I.T. device consumerization. The short answer is no and maybe.

 

As it stands now the Pebble and other smart watches are just second screens for a smartphone. Aside from standard watch functions, they get all their smarts from a Bluetooth connection. Functionality is limited: I get caller ID, SMS, and some email headers. There is no calendar support or ability to interface with other apps on the phone. The Pebble is conversation piece and likely to see VERY limited traction within the workforce. For now, I.T. can ignore employee wrists as a place to worry about device management, security or compliance.

 

Smartwatches like Pebble’s long term promise lies in the platform. Apps like fitness tracking, golfing rangefinder, and to do lists are in the works by the developer community. This is when it gets interesting from an I.T. perspective.

 

Having users with smart interfaces always on their person is something I.T. should take notice. For example, I.T. workers could get alerts when servers crash. Think MyIT in mini mode. For retail, arming (pun intended) front-of-the-house employees with smart watches would simplify shift switching and inventory management. No more “clean up on aisle 5” announcements; just ping the closest employee via their watch and they can take care of the issue.

 

Basically, a Pebble will become a programmable pager/smartphone second display and with that comes some great potential in the workforce. As developers within I.T. and other teams build out internal apps, think about ways to make the information glanceable and actionable that would work on the smallest of screens.

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Does your pulse quicken, just a little, as you glimpse your favorite computing device? Do you warm to the gentle and familiar glow of your home screen? Do your favorite apps shine like a cluster of precious jewels? If any of this rings true for you don’t worry, you’re not alone - owning technology is an emotional business.

 

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In fact, organizations are just starting to wake up to the complex emotional and even neurological factors behind trends like BYOD. As this article from Network Computing explains, we’re not only emotionally engaged with our devices and the applications they run, they’re starting to shape the way we think; perhaps even defining the boundaries of where we stop and start as individuals.

 

So what does this process look like? how do we get from our initial flirtations with a novel technology, to a deep and abiding love that will conquer all? And is there anything we can learn from this process that can help us shape the way we engage with consumers of corporate IT?

 

 

Phase 1 The Experiential

 

Ahh, the first flushes of attraction. Oh how you marvel at the balance of straight edges and curves in the design of the casing. The smooth animations are like the oil-damped eject mechanism of a tape deck (listen, I’m over 40, ok?). You’re not entirely sure what it does yet, but you’re pretty certain you need it in your life. At the very least, you feel moved to explore.

 

Design and aesthetics really matter in the snap decisions people make about whether to engage with a technology, be it hardware or software. And it’s not just about pulling people in for a closer look: good design can give a strong sense of usability and familiarity. As humans, we automatically equate pleasing form with ease of use; a phenomenon well documented in the aesthetic usability effect.graphic_design smaller.jpg

 

 

Many a self-service IT initiative has foundered on the rocks of design, aesthetics and usability. Even a well laid out and simple portal will often fail to attract a meaningful percentage of the workforce. Why? Because expectations these days are incredibly high. Just look at the quality of the apps people now use: an exquisite balance of design, usability and utility. This is where the bar has now been set.

 

Phase 1, the initial experience of technology, is the most important phase in getting people on board with a new technology or service; in fact, it’s one of the guiding forces that shaped our own MyIT app. The message is simple: if you want people to move beyond a brief and meaningless encounter with your technology, then make them want to use it. In which case, experience is everything.

 

 

Phase 2 Getting Engaged

 

Having got those awkward first dates out of the way, something tells you you’re into something good. In phase 2 of digital love, you find yourself turning more and more to the object of your new found affection. You start exploring its capabilities more fully, probing beyond the look and feel to see if this thing has genuine utility.

 

This is where trust is built, as you deliberately (and sometimes subconsciously) put the technology to the test. Is this worthy of greater emotional investment? or is it going to let me down badly when I need it most?

 

Remember, getting people this far was a small triumph, so make sure the substance and delivery of your service matches the promise of the interface. Something we explored in an earlier blog.

 

 

Phase 3 Feeling Empowered

 

In phase 3 your relationship with the technology deepens. You like interacting with it, it does something you find useful and you trust it; so now you start to incorporate it into your life. The technology becomes part of how you do things. It has real and tangible benefits: it makes you better at important tasks or perhaps it saves you from having to do those tasks at all. Maybe it tells you something about the world (or about yourself) that you wouldn’t otherwise know.

 

In short the technology has started to empower and enrich you; it has somehow both extended your capabilities and simplified getting things done. You can see some great examples of technologies doing just that for IT in this piece on inc.com. images-2.jpeg

 

Phones, tablets, apps, services, tools - regardless of what the technology is, the things that take people to Phase 3 (and beyond) are always well aligned to the audiences they serve. This sounds obvious, however, these days the trick is not necessarily being relevant, but staying relevant.

 

Like any relationship, you need to work at it. As a provider of IT services, staying in the hearts and minds of your employees in a world that is changing as fast as this one takes constant effort. They will always be comparing and contrasting the technology they experience outside the workplace with the services you deliver.

 

 

Phase 4 Ownership (aka: try to take this away, and I will hurt you, a lot.)

 

I’m not a man given to violent acts, but if someone decided to help themselves to my iPad, trust me, I would take it personally. There would be crying, gnashing of teeth and endless cups of tea to help me through the grieving process. My friends and relatives would be forced to listen to anecdotes that began with “Remember the time when I...”

 

A strong sense of ownership is the ultimate stage of falling in love with digital technology. There’s no longer a clear boundary between it  and you, something that is starting to be borne out in the neuroscience as we saw earlier. Here, we’ve crossed the line between usefulness and are now firmly in the territory of dependency.

 

Unknown.jpegCultivating this degree of attachment is not without risks though; this is where serious resistance to change can set in. The fickleness and relative fragility of phase 3, can be replaced with a kind of defensive zealotry. Things may not reach the almost religious heights of fandom exhibited by the Apple Newton (remember those?) community- but -just try taking away (or radically changing) a technology people feel they own. Not for the faint hearted.

 

So keep the channels of communication with your customers wide open, and make sure any planned improvements or changes are mutually agreeable and build on what got everyone hooked in the first place.

 

How about you?

 

Got any technology crushes you think might go somewhere? How about your true loves? what devices, apps or systems have become a part of what you do and maybe even who you are?

 

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or you can reach me on Twitter as @messagemonger

 

Until next time, be careful out there...

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This week, time traveler Chris Dancy returns from the future to talk about the quantified human and enterprise. With Big Data spilling out of our ears, available for anyone to measure, people need to take control of their own information, using it to optimize our lives and learning more about ourselves.

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In the mobile revolution, modern IT organizations can take advantage of the big loads of data spilling out of phones and tablets to work smarter and faster. These clingy devices are highly efficient information aggregators. By adding context to each customer engagement, IT can pair a specific job with the best available service agent, based on whereabouts and situation, experience and schedule.

 

While most sensory data, such as voice pitch, body temperature and handgrip pressure, would overwhelm our analytic needs today, it’s easy to capture four variables with immediate impact on IT. By including context factors, such as geographical location, opportunity to add value, skill set and time of day, when dispatching assignments and managing operations, IT can thrill customers with unmatched service and optimize efficiency with smarter processes.

 

The benefits of context-based service engagements stretch from the front-office, where employees and customers request services, report issues and ask questions, to the back-office where requests are granted, problems fixed and queries answered. While tools already connect self-service portals with fulfillment engines, we need mobility to truly take advantage of a consumerized IT front-end and industrialize IT back-end.

 

Location is probably the most familiar mobile technology available. From Google Maps to Yelp, the GPS coordinates tell us where someone is and where they’ve been. We also can use geographic information to expedite IT services.

 

Front-Office: Jimmy, a sales guy, travels to his firm’s New York office for a customer meeting. Upon arrival, his mobile email stops working. He opens the self-service app on his smartphone and logs a ticket.

 

Back-Office: Because the ticket logged from Jimmy’s phone shows his location, the help desk assigns Sue, a nearby IT technician, who resolves the issue with ease. The help desk knew Sue was in the vicinity of Jimmy because of the GPS coordinates broadcast from her mobile incident-management app.

 

For help desks and service providers, location-based services is an easy way to manage service-level agreements. A Washington, D.C. firm even claims to never have missed an SLA since IT armed service agents with mobile apps seven years ago.

 

Opportunity is more elusive. When we are no longer tethered to a desk, we change the way we work. Away from the monitor, we act faster and smarter. With the right tools, we seize new productivity-boosting opportunities.

 

Front-Office: In New York, Jimmy is showing customers his firm’s latest gadgets. The monitor in the conference room works but the Bose surround-sound system doesn’t. Instead of panicking and calling the help desk, Jimmy opens his mobile self-service app and scans the QR code on the audio controller. This launches the Bose user manual on his phone. Within minutes, the customer presentation is back on track.

 

The demand for more Do-It-Yourself IT is discussed in a recent episode of the weekly broadcast  “Alf’s Zoo,” where Rob Otto explains why the next-generation of “extremely mobile” workers don’t want to pick up the phone and call the help desk.

 

Back-Office: Once done with Jimmy’s email issue, Sue is ready for her next assignment. But instead of calling or walking over to the help desk, she uses her incident-management app to search for other issues in the vicinity. She sees that the printer down the hall is out of order and that an executive with a corner office is having Wi-Fi issues. She assigns both tickets to herself, accelerating response time, eliminating travel time and optimizing her team’s time.

 

With skills, we refer to training and certification, experience and natural talent. Most IT support organizations are divided into three support tiers from junior help-desk clerks to subject matter experts. Assigning the right skill to the right situation is paramount both for IT and its customers, who nowadays want more service choices.

 

Front-Office: While Jimmy is a great sales guy, he’s no tech savant. He prefers desk-side support to solve issues like the email problem. But for simpler tasks, like a password reset, remote-access support and knowledge articles will do the trick.

 

Back-Office: When Sue arrives at the corner office, the executive’s Wi-Fi error is worse than expected. Sue needs to bring in networking expert. But fast, this is a VIP customer. In the incident-management app, she can see a list of T3/L3 technicians currently on call. She assigns the ticket to Tim, who’s right around the corner.

 

Time is one of the most underrated factors in our mobile world. Accustomed to the speed of Amazon.com, service of Zappos.com and personal touch of Apple Genius Bars, today’s business consumers demand 24/7 tech support in the work place too. With always-on access to the business, and the additional expectations it feeds, users argue IT should support them anywhere, anytime.

 

Front-office: Jimmy needs to upgrade his glitchy video card. He open the self-service app and schedule an appointment with the help desk. It’s late so he sets it for next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. in his Miami office.

 

Back-Office: As Sue is wrapping up her day, she notices the last two items on her docket require more time than she has left on her shift. Instead of postponing, she assigns one of the items to a colleague who just started her shift.

 

“For example, from their smartphones, they go to their online banking sites and handle all of their banking business from a single access point,” Jason Frye of BMC’s CTO Office wrote in a 2012 whitepaper on enterprise mobility. “They view account balances, write checks, transfer funds, and perform a variety of other tasks. Or they may go to an airline site to make reservations, purchase tickets, select seats, and check flight status. The possibilities are endless.”

 

“It’s only natural that people would demand the same kind of experience in their professional lives. In fact, knowledge workers of the generation now coming into the workforce are called digital natives because they have grown up in a world in which technology is a natural part of their everyday lives. They expect the same kind of technology experience in their workplace.”

 

Now imagine you’d pull it together, leveraging the context factors in a super engagement. The help desk assigns a close by service agent, with the proper skills, who have sufficient time to complete the task – and ideally can capitalize on the situation by conducting proactive maintenance or pick up tickets in the vicinity.

 

While context-driven engagements allow the help desk to maximize its efficiency, it significantly alters the end users perception of IT. Chris Rixon recently wrote a critique on Forrester’s “Exploring Business and IT Friction: Myths and Realities” report, arguing that location-based service and support “is going to be one of the most important factors in genuinely transforming an end users experience (and perception) of IT.  You can ensure that the notifications you provide to Alice are timely and appropriate to her role and location.”

 

“You can offer her support that’s specific to the facility she currently finds herself in.  You can provide connectivity information, the location of key devices and how to connect them. You can even provide floor plans and maps of where everything so she can orient herself in unfamiliar surroundings.”

 

“Modern mobile computing devices are opening up new kinds of contextual information about their users. This information can now be used to massively enrich the IT experience and eliminate a lot of the wasted effort both sides expend in tracking down the right services at the right time.”