I’ve been in IT long enough that I have seen many different revolutions. Sometimes they start small and grow, while other times they start out as a huge tidal wave that you get swept up along in whether you like it or not. The last year has been one giant conversation about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), whether it is happening, whether we should embrace it, or if we even have a choice. We have seen the rise of other models COPE (Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled) and the push back for the models of old, corporate owned. The real problem with these conversations is that they always start with the wrong question. What model do we need to move to in order to be successful…and it is a binary question. Do you go with BYOD, do you go with COPE, Or stick with the legacy model…?
Anyone who thinks that you can take a strict technology model and apply it to your work force and cover everyone hasn’t worked in IT long enough. These types of arguments are nothing new; they’ve been going on for years. In my previous position I had a responsibility of the data center and servers and we were looking at cloud computing. We had the stalwarts who proclaimed that doing anything less than public cloud was doing it wrong. Then we had the other side. The idea that was very popular a few years ago, claimed that private cloud was just fine and public cloud pundits could preach their wares somewhere else. Finally, you had what some would term as the voices of reason saying that everyone should move to a hybrid cloud that consisted of workloads in the public and private clouds. You had three different models and you had to pick only one.
This sounds quite similar to the BYOD vs COPE vs traditional corporate owned conversation. There is even the same set of people who tell you to do both based upon level, title or need of the users involved. In both battles, and let’s be fair they are battles, there is name calling on all sides and everyone knows that they are right. On the public cloud side, the big pull was always, “you know there are people at your company (might be users, could be whole departments) who are buying public instances anyway, you might as well embrace it, you’re already on your way.” The same argument is heard on the BYOD side, “you know, you already have people who are using their own devices, whether you allow them or not.” These pundits aren’t wrong, there are people doing this right now in your organization. The other side is convinced, as they came from the data center or corporate devices, why mess with something that we know works. How hard can it be to just setup a private cloud or buy mobile devices for your employees? It is, after all, something you have been doing for years. They claim the other side is full of security breaches, malware and who knows what else. Why worry about those things when we can be safe and secure all the time (or so they say). Maybe it costs more money and maybe it saves some. Is peace of mind worth it?
Those who know you can only save money through public clouds and BYOD programs counter this immediately. Amazon can setup instances far faster and for much less money than you ever could thanks to cost sharing (multi-tenancy) and economies of scale. Employees are buying their own phones or in this case instances anyway, why should we pay for them.
It becomes a battle where each side hits each other with the latest bit of research or FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt)that makes their case better for them and will hopefully sway you into the proper choice (where the proper choice is whatever their side is). If you are in IT though, it’s a completely different story. You get left with the battle scarred pieces that you have to implement and make work, which need to prove the deciders answer out, whether they are right or not. It isn’t hard to imagine why so many businesses are struggling to have cohesive strategy these days.
The question should never be which model is the right model that we have to fit the variables to and make the math work. You remember doing that in school don’t you? You had a question and you had the answer but the teacher wanted you to show your work. You puzzled through the equations and hoped you could find one that fit. If it didn’t, you found a way to muddle the numbers so at least it seemed to work out correctly. The question that you should be answering all along is “what is the right tool to enable my users to be the most productive and efficient they can be?” The goal of technology should be to enable users and IT has to learn to live this or risk the rise of shadow IT. The answer can never be a stringent model that doesn’t take into account the work that your employees do. It becomes a question of what allows them to be flexible and agile, which helps increase their productivity and efficiency, while still being able to have a life. Once you start looking at what your employees are doing and how they fit into your business, you can look at the overall tools that you want to use. It may make sense to let employees buy their own devices because the apps that they are going to use will work well on any device; they are agnostic to the OS and will let them be productive. In other cases, you may have your employees going into hostile environments that need ruggedized devices that can withstand their daily job, or managing personally identifiable or other sensitive information that you need to keep secure at all costs. You may have apps that are only designed for one or two devices. In some cases, the correct answer may be they need a tablet instead of a phone. You see, the correct tool isn’t just the device, but the combination of the device and the app. It’s the experience that allows them to tap into a properly made backend API that gives them the appropriate information in the best way on the right device that makes it the best tool.
The same thing happens in the cloud arena. There are times that a public cloud makes the most sense and other times when a private cloud makes more sense. It depends on what type of workloads you are running and what the boundaries are, whether they are regulated or not. You may have workloads that don’t fit into a traditional cloud and legacy applications that it will be so expensive to rewrite, that it makes more sense to keep them in the traditional data center or in your own private cloud that was designed for those legacy workloads. You may need response times that you just can’t guarantee on a public cloud. It doesn’t matter what the parameters are, you are looking for the best tool that fits those parameters.
Let’s stop continually debating along these IT battle lines and start looking at what the best tools are. Let’s start looking at our business goals and how employees are equipped to achieve them. Let’s figure out the best tools that give them the best UX (User Experience) and allow them to be more flexible and agile, producing better results faster. Let’s stop worrying about over-arching models that are inflexible and instead embrace the chaos that breathes life into our enterprises. Only through asking the right question do we give ourselves the opportunity to lap the competition and stay ahead in this crazy world of business. We all have access to the same toolbox when we start, it’s really a question of what tools we decide to put in it that informs our future success.