How to innovate with IT: think about the user, not the machine

Don't think about equipment, but user needs instead
Don't think about equipment, but user needs instead

Most organisations want to deliver innovation through IT. And a lot of folks talk about transformation as being the way to do that – to refresh their IT estates so that IT really delivers tangible business benefits rather than simply providing "more of the same".

I think that's absolutely the right idea. But I see people really struggling to make that vision a reality.

If you think about it, maybe we can see why. Building and managing an End User Computing (EUC) estate is a mature and well understood activity. Since the mid 90s, hardware refresh with an updated operating system (almost certainly a Microsoft OS) has been the strategy. Virtualisation has added to the mix but the basic principles are the same.

Two unstoppable trends are combining to disrupt this status quo: firstly, an explosion in device types and secondly, the rush to cloud platforms and SaaS delivery by application providers. In the future, most business apps will be available – and possibly only available – via the cloud over a browser.

So, what does this mean for innovation? We have to be realistic about how much change is possible in one go. Clearly, for many organisations, there are real obstacles to transformation in people's minds: cost, risk (security), the fact that the new model just seems too radically different from the current way of thinking and so on.

You know that the days of one-size-fits-all desktop procurement are over… but honestly don't know what to do about that.

A matter of perspective

There are two points to consider that might help.

Firstly, start moving from an equipment/kit perspective ('John will need a desktop PC') to a user profile/persona perspective ('John has these application needs to do the job we are hiring him for' and 'John uses these applications to do his job').

This is really the best way to unlock the door to transformation: how to provision the user in the most efficient manner – in terms of the right software, device, applications, connectivity, database access and so forth. Does John really need, for example, the same level of gold-plated security as Jane, his boss, or would it be more efficient for the company and for John to have a more flexible, cloud-based working environment?

And the second thought: if you are serious about innovation and estate transformation, you need to put change at the centre of all your thinking and planning going forward.

People's roles are changing. ICT is now used by everyone in the company or public sector service delivery organisation you work for. You need to meet that demand in a way that you can manage. How people work can also change, dynamically, over time: if you took a snapshot of everyone's ICT needs in January, I'll bet you a big sum of money that by July at least some of those needs will be radically different.

Ongoing process

To get to the user profile level of ICT delivery, as well as the ability to flex and change as user requirements do, you need to be building an ongoing management process that looks at how people work and which devices and applications they really use.

Identifying what resources are out there and, more importantly, how they are used and what each individual user needs to do their job, must be a constant process happening every day of the year.

So, in summary, if I have one message, it's this: the transformation journey starts with understanding the user as an individual. Get this right and you will be well prepared for the disruption ahead!