IT organizations of all sizes have never been confronted with as much diversity and complexity in terms of the devices they are being asked to support.
The average end user has access to a smartphone, tablet, and PC. But very rarely are they from the same manufacturer or for that matter run the same operating system. That's why enterprises should consider pick your own device (PYOD) over BYOD.
To make matters even more complicated, Microsoft is getting ready to pull the plug on what has for the most part been a source of desktop stability. Come April of next year Microsoft is going to make it a whole lot less financially attractive to stay with Windows XP. As a result, IT organizations are not only contemplating what desktop environment to move to next; they are taking a good long look at how to manage those devices regardless of who may actually own them.
This emerging "Post PC Era" is about the force a lot of IT management issues out into the open that a lot of organizations have been hesitant to confront. To tackle these issues IT organizations clearly need to invest in a spectrum of technologies that includes everything from desktop virtualization and mobile device management to new service desks and application storefronts.
But the first hurdle may be simply getting organizations to standardize on a basic client computing platform that from an IT perspective is actually manageable. In that context, instead of a BYOD approach, what IT organizations should be moving towards is more of a PYOD strategy based on a limited, yet attractive, array of devices that IT can practically support.
One of the things that senior managers, of course, really like about BYOD is the idea that employees will essentially absorb not only the cost of acquiring the computing device, but also often the data plan that goes with it. But as attractive as that may sound, "There are a lot of invisible BYOD costs," says Jack Gold, principal of the IT research firm J. Gold Associates. "A lot of people are either blinded by the facts or simply don't want to know."
One of the primary reasons that a lot of these facts get overlooked today is that managing IT has become a popularity contest. Not only does the line of business executive control a much bigger percentage of the total IT budget, IT executives are frequently judged by how satisfied end users in their organization are. Given the fact that most end users want mobile computing access at almost any cost, any IT executive that stands in the way of allowing that to happen is likely to incur their wrath.
The good news is that things from an IT management perspective are starting to finally get better.
"The pendulum is definitely starting to swing back towards IT," says Gold. "A lot of that has to do with how mission-critical mobile is becoming."
As part of an effort to regain control in the post PC era many IT organizations have taken to creating their own application stores as first step towards regaining control.
Citrix, for example, just made available the Citrix Worx App Gallery, which consists of over 100 applications that can be provisioned via Citrix XenMobile software.
"We're trying to make provisioning a one to two step process," says Chandra Sekar, director of product marketing for XenMobile. "We're providing a unified app store for the enterprise."
As part of building an app store, IT organizations also gain more visibility into who is actually using what.
"One of the biggest challenges IT now faces in these BYOD environments is what software is actually being used," says Lisa Richardson, senior product marketing manager for endpoint systems management at Dell Software. "An application catalog provides real-time software metering through which they can true-up on licensing costs at the end of the year."
Whether it's deployed in the cloud or on-premises, an application store by definition starts to impose order on the end user experience in a way that focuses on how the applications are actually being used.
"It's becoming a lot more about the lifecycle of the user," says Jeff Fisher, vice president of strategy for RES Software, a provider of workspace management software for virtual desktop environments. "The expectation is that there will be a lot more a lot context about the usage scenario."
As a result, the challenge organizations now face is to decide whether to make this shift themselves or take this opportunity to shift the burden of managing these devices on to a service provider that has greater expertise.
"Managing IT-as-a-service isn't really about the devices," says Jay Fiore, vice president of marketing at Digital Management Inc., a provider of managed IT services. "Applications, content, and the users are becoming increasingly more important."
Additionally, it's not easy to manage IT-as-a-service given all the configuration issues, the need to manage distributed images in the cloud, and proprietary protocols such as the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) used in Windows 8.
"There are massive challenges; there are a lot of issues down in the weeds that need to be dealt with," says Deepak Kumar, CTO of Adaptiva, a provider of IT management software built on top of Microsoft System Center. "That level of complexity often leaves IT in an unenviable position."
What is clear is that the way IT manages devices in the Post PC era will never be the same, especially as the true costs of BYOD become better understood. The difference between success and failure is the degree to which an IT organization can create an adaptable framework for managing the complete end user experience regardless of the device being used. There's no doubt that means not only new tools to manage those devices, but actually more importantly new processes for supporting them.