IT Cost Transparency 2.0

IT Cost Transparency

Bring your own application (BYOA): Addressing the challenges

Recent research publications do suggest there is an increase in the number of employees using their own applications for work purposes. With so many publications discussing the ‘bring your own applications’ phenomenon but with many of them lacking any new insight or substance, it is no wonder that technologists and non-technologists alike look at the industry and find it befuddling.

Whilst the antecedent of ‘BYO’ suggests that BYOA will originate from an employee, the concept is not entirely new. Business units (mainly in financial services and institutions) have always devised ways of meeting their own business requirements by creating applications e.g. MS Excel add-ins, add-ons to vendor supplied applications etc. A recent publication suggests that [1]70% of organisations already have applications brought into the enterprise by employees.  Although the publication does not provide information on the number (volume) of employee owned applications as a percentage of total number of applications deployed in enterprises, it is not uncommon to come across up to 25% of applications within organisations that are not supported by the Technology function. Such applications are owned by either the business units or the employees, and mainly installed by the employees. The scenario is commonly encountered during operating system migration projects (it is the only time the Technology function sometimes does a total and end-to-end software inventory and audit of applications in use).

With the impending growth in BYOA according to research carried out by [2]LogMeIn, organisations must think through the potential challenges BYOA will introduce and provide a governance framework and structure to manage the adoption of BYOA in their organisations.

Some of those challenges and questions that arise as a result of this phenomenon are discussed below:

  • Fragmentation and Data Integrity.  When multiple users bring their own applications to work in order to process the same set of data, how would it affect data integrity? What is the impact of multiple applications on the defined business processes? How do other users within those business units who continue to use an application provided by the business access data contained in the user owned application? Will the data be shareable?
  • Security. Despite the application being owned by the user (it does not matter if it is a vendor supplied or user created) the same security considerations and governance framework you adhere to when procuring software should be adhered to. You do not want to wait until after a security incident to find out that the user owned application is a malware.
  • Support Cost. There must be an agreement with the user on how the cost of supporting the application will be handled. Who will pay for upgrades? Is the application still supported by the vendor? Does the user have a support contract with the vendor?
  • Process Deviation. Will the introduction of the application cause a deviation in the business process? How will this deviation affect other stakeholders?
  • Licensing. Are there specific terms and conditions in the licensing agreement prohibiting the use of the application for business purposes? Is it a single user, single device license?
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity. Is the source media for the application available in the organisations’ software catalogue (it might be required to be re-installed in an emergency)?
  • Criticality of Service. The criticality of the associated processes needs to be defined. All interfaces into business processes that form part of a critical service need to be known and if a user owned application is being utilised to undertake any task, it is time to re-evaluate the user and business requirement.

These trends – consumerisation and prosumerisation will not go away; in fact some say it is [3]unstoppable. The technology savvy generation (generations Y and Z) are in the workplace and technologists cannot ignore their demands. Generation Z will even be more demanding than the generation before them. Technology service providers within organisations have to be forward thinking and become value adding partners to the business. This entails proactivity; it is time we loosen the [4]shackles we impose on the business in their drive for consumerisation and prosumerisation. Technologists in organisations also have to embrace the advisory function in order to remain relevant otherwise employees will continue to bypass them when procuring services (applications).

[1] LogMeIn. 2014. Managing applications in the age of BYOA: Reclaiming IT’s strategic role. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blog.logmein.com/byoa/byoa-report. [Accessed 04 September 14].

[2] LogMeIn. 2014. Managing applications in the age of BYOA: Reclaiming IT’s strategic role. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blog.logmein.com/byoa/byoa-report. [Accessed 04 September 14].

[3] CIO. 2013. Bring your own applications. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cio.co.uk/insight/devices/bring-your-own-applications/. [Accessed 04 September 14].

[4] TechRadar. 2013. ‘Bring Your Own App’: risks and solutions. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/policies-protocols/-bring-your-own-app-risks-and-solutions-1162372. [Accessed 04 September 14].

Unchaining the chains in your change management process: A pragmatic approach

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was introduced with very good intentions and many organisations seeing the potential realisable benefits different from their once very chaotic, unstructured and haphazard approach to Information Technology (IT) service management adopted the framework. Some of those organisations are so fully ITIL compliant now, but at what cost?

One very particular aspect of the ITIL framework which gets IT practitioners grumbling is the change management process. Without saying, change management has brought relief to many IT managers and IT Directors who have had to explain a loss of service due to some uncontrolled changes that had been carried out by someone they oversee. Now, that is the good aspect of change management in IT service management (ITSM). However, many organisations have very cumbersome and complex ITSM change management processes and procedures that make you start questioning the potential benefits of the function and if it is indeed worthwhile going through the process before making changes.

From the interviews I conducted, some of the key causes of the disenchantment by those implementing changes are:

  • Lack of understanding of the impact of the change by the change advisory board (CAB).
  • It is a “process for the sake of process” activity with no real tangible benefits.
  • Not all changes being made should go to the CAB.
  • IT Managers and their peers from other functional units are better equipped to assess the impact of the change than the CAB in most organisations.
  • IT Managers are not empowered to assess the impact of changes and decide which ones should be escalated to the CAB.
  • The process is not a guarantee of successful change implementation.

Addressing those concerns and key causes of disenchantment will empower the change management function within your organisation and improve outcomes. Do not let things grind to a halt within your organisation before reviewing your change management process.

Enterprise app store: Do you really need it?

The runaway success of Apple’s App Store has fuelled the optimism and enthusiasm of other app store enthusiasts who now see an app store as the standard medium for delivering / provisioning applications. Yes, Apple’s App Store has been a resounding success, but this success is within the consumer space. Advocates of consumerisation, BYOD etc. have noticed the ease and simplicity of provisioning applications to consumers in the Apple App Store, and want this ease replicated within enterprises too.

Some products e.g. Microsoft SCCM2012, Citrix Cloud Gateway, Flexera AdminStudio, Symantec Altiris Notification Services etc. contain some form of services akin to an app store through which requests for applications can be fulfilled.  Some of the benefits being advocated by these vendors are: increased customer satisfaction and time saving, because it removes the requirement to phone the service (help) desk to request applications and also automates the endless non-automated tasks which sometimes have to be fulfilled before applications can be delivered to customers.

One other factor driving the enthusiasm behind the adoption of the enterprise app store is the move towards a “user centric” management. In the past IT had concentrated solely on “device” management but the move towards “user centricity” is in fact a late realisation by IT that the customer is indeed “the KING”. This move towards a “user centric” management makes it imperative that “customer satisfaction” despite the associated difficulty in quantifying it,  has become one of the key requirements any new IT service must meet.

However, before you invest in an enterprise app store, you should remember that application delivery  is not the only user and systems management activity in the end user management landscape in an enterprise. The following factors should have an impact on your decision making process:

  • Role based application delivery: Organisations with matured enterprise technology services already have processes in place to ensure that applications are delivered to consumers based on their roles and functions, independent of their devices. In such organisations, what will be the benefits of having an app store when consumers already have all applications they require? What is the purpose of consumer searching through the enterprise app store to discover applications that has nothing to do with their current role?
  • Operating System (OS) Patching: The recent quarterly result from Microsoft is indicative of enterprises still being deeply Windows centric (over 525 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold since launch) and despite the trend and growth of consumerisation, operating system patching is an activity that will not disappear over night. Most organisations have tool sets which incorporate functionalities for operating system patching, application delivery etc. and use cases will continue for these tool sets.
  • Operating System (OS) Build: Again, organisations still remain Windows centric and  having a common operating system build in organisations does lower the total cost of ownership of end user support. This does not take away from the fact that consumerisation is a growing trend but activities such as OS builds, OS patching etc. make it imperative to keep your systems management tool set.
  • Delivery of “core or base” applications to everyone: Core or base applications are normally delivered to everyone in an enterprise. With consumerisation, this may not be the case and users may indeed be given the opportunity to select and choose what they want. However, if your organisation uses a common set of productivity software, would you want someone using a different one because the device belongs to them? Would you want them also not using the productivity software because the device belongs to them? If they choose not to have those set of productivity software, are they really participating in work activities?
  • Patching or delivery of emergency hot fixes for applications is likely to continue to be a “push” process: A “pull” process is not ideal in a world of security breaches and emergency patches would have to be delivered asap using a push mechanism. Are you willing to give your consumers the ability to select and choose when they want to receive an emergency patch which is intended to prevent a security breach?

Organisations should be aware of the fragmentation that building a standalone app store may cause; if you must build an enterprise app store, you should ensure it is integrated with your existing or future systems management tool, otherwise you might have to resort to managing multiple application deployment / provisioning solution.  Furthermore, you should consider a role based application delivery solution before jumping on the bandwagon of the enterprise app store, because it may be all you need.

Additional Reading

Onlive Desktop: Is it indicative of a demand for Microsoft’s Operating System on Tablets?

It is no longer news that Microsoft is indeed struggling in the tablet ecosystem due to the lack of a suitable and compatible operating system for tablets. The fundamental issues have been the power requirements for Microsoft’s operating systems and the touch incapability.

Apple’s current lead with her iPad product looks unassailable, with over 40 million devices sold since the product release almost 2 years ago. However, the successful debut of the Onlive Desktop service, which provides Microsoft Powerpoint, Excel and Word through a “cloud” instance of Windows 7 to iPad users is indicative of a demand for applications that run on the Windows platform by tablet users. In fact, Onlive had to postpone the release date of the Onlive Desktop due to unexpected voluminous demand for the service.

The release of Windows 8 is an opportunity for Microsoft to claim some territory from Apple and Google in the tablet world.  Although tablets are yet to penetrate enterprises due to manageability concerns and availability of enterprise applications, having a Windows tablet with an ability to port enterprise desktop applications will be a winner, as seen in the demand for the Onlive Desktop, which currently offers just Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word.

What is stopping User Installed Applications in your enterprise?

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