It wasn't long ago that a tool like a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or support for wireless access might be required only by a few executives or specialized professionals in an organization. But there has been a dramatic shift, and we are in the midst of a transformation in the end-user workplace. Increasingly, jobs are defined by what must be done, not by where they are done or even by what technology is used to do them. And mobility, once a luxury, is becoming a necessity for end users in businesses of all sizes.
The trend is toward a new end-user workplace. For companies in every industry, there are many changes driving this trend. Some businesses support telecommuting to offer flexibility to their workforce and to save re-location and facilities costs. Mergers and acquisitions are creating dispersed teams who need to collaborate effectively across great distances. Increasingly, globalization is requiring colleagues, customers, partners, and suppliers to work closely in a time-zone-neutral world.
While the driving forces--and the timelines for the change--are unique to each business, in every case the Information Technology (IT) team is challenged with meeting these needs. The challenge is familiar: there is a transformation occurring in the business world, and IT is being called upon to help businesses adapt in cost-effective and productive ways. The pain point is also familiar: as technology becomes more complex and diverse, IT is tasked with meeting demands for increased service levels with limited resources.
These familiar issues have new urgency as the transformation from an office environment to a mobile end-user workplace picks up speed. The Gartner Group reports that by 2006, 50 percent of global enterprises will adopt highly mobile work styles [Michael Bell, Gartner, "The Agile Workplace Report: Gartner Presents Conclusions," 2002]. IT must lay the groundwork now to provide a flexible environment that delivers not only the right solutions, but delivers them at the right prices exactly when they are needed. This article will address strategies to help IT address these changes and support the new end-user workplace.
A Challenge and an Opportunity
The transition to a new end-user workplace is not something that will happen in the future; it's an evolution in progress now. At the Gartner Expo Symposium in 2003, Michael Bell of the Gartner Group told the audience that by the year 2006, 80 percent of knowledge workers will be absent for their assigned work stations at least 50 percent of the time. This presents a daunting challenge to the IT teams required to support these workers, but it also offers an opportunity.
A well-designed program for flexible work is likely to have dramatic impact on productivity. IT teams that are proactive in providing the tools, technologies, and processes to support the transformation of the end-user workplace will play a vital role in increasing productivity for individual employees and across the entire business enterprise.
As IT faces this opportunity to help business thrive, the expertise needed is extensive. Just a few examples of the required expertise include knowledge of a wide range of Web-based collaborative tools and applications, mobility and wireless solutions, messaging, and up-to-date awareness of all of the related security and regulatory compliance issues. And, of course, these are not individual projects. This transformation requires an integrated, holistic approach to providing end-user solutions.
The fact is that most IT organizations are not prepared to take this on effectively or cost-efficiently. As a result, many businesses are turning to outsourcing. IT can share these mission-critical aspects of keeping the business running with outsource partners that have the required specialized expertise and technology. By outsourcing, IT has the opportunity to maintain its focus on core business applications that are strategic to the organization overall--while ensuring that end users are supported at every level.
Balancing End User and Senior Management Needs
As IT teams recognize the need to be proactive, they need to think about how--and when--to transform their company's workplace into a more flexible environment.
The end user may be in the administrative pool, on the factory floor, in a manager's office, in the executive suite, or on the road in a sales capacity. Each one has unique needs. Understanding these needs is a vital aspect of adapting to the new end user workplace.
First, an IT department must assess how users are working now versus how they can work in the future to become more productive. In general, most end-users want technology to connect, communicate, and collaborate where and when they need it. They want less hassle and increasing reliability, and they need access to the latest tools and technology.
IT must also consider the priorities of senior management--financial predictability and greater return on IT investments. They want a cost-effective evolution as change occurs. IT is often caught in the middle, trying to meet these needs and provide end users with the technology to do their jobs effectively.
In delivering on this difficult balance, key goals are to reduce complexity and drive costs out of the environment with such approaches as process automation, increased self-service capabilities, and advanced best practices for software distribution. For an "anywhere, anytime" workplace that facilitates end-user collaboration and mobility, IT must provide the support services and technologies that give employees choices as to how, where, and when they can work. Today's workplace that is not a place but a "network of places," so IT needs to offer end users a set of workplace options that provide office settings, meeting places, administrative support and high-performance infrastructure for backups. An outsource partner can help by providing strategic elements such as global capabilities and experience with technology innovation that correlate with increasing productivity and collaborative capabilities.
A Holistic Approach to Employee Productivity
The important first step toward creating a new end-user workplace is analyzing how organizational effectiveness can be enhanced, how individual productivity can be increased, and how to leverage new technology while reducing financial and security risks. This analysis must involve a holistic approach to productivity, taking into account the full range of employee needs. Specifically, in the new end-user workplace, IT departments must address all of the following employee requirements:
Desktop needsâ€¦Even in today's mobile business world, many employees have office PCs, workstations, or docking stations. The planned lifecycle can vary dramatically across employee responsibilities and types of desktop devices. IT needs to create a plan and manage accordingly for procuring, deploying, managing, and supporting these devices as well as the specialized core business and collaborative software applications that run on each device.
Mobility and wireless needsâ€¦From cell phones to wireless Internet access, IT must support an expanding array of mobility and wireless requirements. The IT team or an outsource partner needs expertise across the entire mobility infrastructure, including application server hosting, wireless network, mobile device management, and end-user service desk.
Messaging and collaboration needsâ€¦For employees to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, partners and customers, they need a wide range of messaging and collaboration solutions. IT must manage or outsource the management of a messaging and collaboration infrastructure that includes the applications themselves, the servers they run on, and the fixed and wireless networks involved.
Help desk needsâ€¦ Most businesses find that support needs rise with more mobile workforces. As end users move away from office environments, IT must be prepared to help keep productivity high and costs down by providing a range of support from self-service to proactive outreach.
Imaging needsâ€¦While businesses still strive for paperless environments, the proliferation of devices and technologies in today's workplace means that printing and imaging needs have become more complex, especially in a mobile workplace. IT must be prepared to support a wide range of hardware, device integration, maintenance, and workflow issues. Lifecycle planning and management are required for imaging and printing devices in order to maximize hardware life and reliability with cost predictability.
Global business trends are driving increased collaboration of geographically dispersed teams and requirements for real-time information by mobile workers are increasing. The workplace is shifting away from a physical office environment to a new end-user workplace, and IT must respond.
The answer is a holistic approach to serving end users that encompasses the desktop, messaging and collaboration, wireless and mobility, help desk, and imaging and printing solutions. Outsourcing the efforts that are mission critical--yet not core to the business--can be an effective route to delivering solutions at the right prices exactly when employees need them.
There is urgency: the evolution to an end-user workplace is already occurring, evidenced by the fact that mobile devices outsell desktop equipment today. IT must be proactive and take control, leveraging new technologies to get the full value from end-user mobility, and work with outsource partners to find the most efficient and effective approach to helping the business achieve the ultimate goal of increased end-user productivity and decreased costs.
Tim Hines leads the worldwide End User Workplace Business Solution organization in HP Services. He is responsible for the development of the strategies, initiatives, and alliances for the End User Workplace Solution. Prior to his current position, Mr. Hines was an executive at Compaq Computer and Digital Equipment Corporation where he led the development of new offerings and opened new markets. Mr. Hines has over 25 years of IT experience in numerous positions in field service, sales and sales management, business development and marketing.