Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.
Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one day a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.
We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.
Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.
If you're an I&O professional, what comes to mind when you say "end user"? If you're like most of us, your mind has a conjured-up impression of a cosmically clueless person who actually gave you a hard time once, and the picture is now your mind's own avatar for everyone you support. It's not usually a positive image, is it? I used to picture a middle-aged, BMW-driving executive with his hair parted on one side wearing an LL Bean sweater, probably an Ivy-league grad, who couldn't be bothered to actually take responsibility for his own personal computing destiny…he always had servants to take care of trivialities…and hence he was ruining my day with his incompetence. Let's call him Ascot Rothschild III.
An image like that is a powerful thing, and the painful memory of this individual's willful, arrogant ignorance then pervades our future thinking about what we're up against when we set IT policy like BYOC. Ascot becomes the poster child - in our minds anyway - for every garden-variety corporate doofus that we'll have to deal with if we give people any more rope than we already do. They also give us plenty of reasons to take more rope away. In my case, I used to sit on a helpdesk for Remedy customers, and my team had a collection of "special" customers we wondered how they managed to get dressed and find their car keys in the morning. As I later designed Remedy and Peregrine applications, I did so with these "edge cases" in mind.
My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers. We have downloaded, installed, and used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and we have had hundreds of conversations with I&O professionals in the past year on Windows 7 (and now Windows 8) adoption — from those looking for guidance, as well as those with strong opinions already formed. As you might expect, we have formed some opinions of our own.
For those who haven't talked with Ben Gray, he is a fantastic authority on Windows adoption trends with complete mastery of the data. He has closely watched Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 go through the cycles of preparation, migration, adoption, and operation. Ben was the first at Forrester to point out that Windows 8 is an "off-cycle release," coming too soon on the heels of Windows 7 for companies to be ready to adopt it. He and I authored a document on Windows adoption trends for 2012, which will be published shortly and provides additional data and context. Ben has also dissected the Forrsights Workforce Employee survey data in dozens of ways, and he delivers a fantastic presentation for Forrester customers on what he's learned.
7:30 AM, on Monday, December 5th, 2011, flight 1052. As I took my seat in Southwest Airlines' "Business Class," otherwise known as the exit row, I gave a nod to my new seat mate and noticed his MacBook on the tray table. He was reading something on his iPad and set it down for a second to send a text message from his iPhone. Now there's a Kool-Aid connoisseur, I thought. "Going to Salt Lake or beyond?" I asked. "Salt Lake. Gotta visit some customers, and after that I have to go to Boise to train our western region sales team."
And so the conversation began. I learned that his name is Jamie, he is in sales, travels every week, loves his job and his company, and is the top sales performer. $3M in quota last year and his secret sauce is knowing his customers' businesses better than they do, and delivering value with every interaction. He said, "Last week I had a meeting with a new prospect for the first time, and they couldn't believe I showed up without slides, and we spent the meeting talking about their situation instead of throwing up all over them about what we do." Jamie is a HERO. His world revolves around delivering customer value, and he has neither the time nor the patience for anything that gets in the way.
Naturally, I asked him some questions about his MacBook Air and the applications he uses. His answers, while fascinating, echo what I hear from many others like him:
Q: How do you like your MacBook Air? A: I love it.
Q: Does your company issue those or is that one yours? A: Hell no! It's mine! They gave me a huge Dell.
Q: Where is it? A: It's in the closet at home, still in the bag.
Q: Does your company support the Mac?
A couple of weeks ago, I proposed that I&O Professionals should repeal Mac prohibition and find ways to empower employees who are choosing Macs in increasing numbers and bringing them to the office. This was based on fresh 2011 research with Forrester clients, vendors and survey respondents, and concluded that not only were the numbers of Macs in enterprises increasing rapidly, but that the people choosing their own technology for the office, are often the highest performers.
Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune's Apple 2.0 picked it up right away and made a very astute observation: that Forrester's stance on Macs in the enterprise had seemingly flip-flopped. His conclusion was based on a 2007 Forrester report on enterprise desktop trends in which Forrester observed: "Macs can be ignored for all but niche business groups." The conclusion was based on the data of the time, which showed Microsoft's enterprise desktop market share at 95%, but also noted that Apple's had doubled. We also observed in the same report that "Microsoft is not innovating," and "Vista is having a tough time in enterprises," based on data which showed slow uptake of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.
Tablets are a red hot topic since the launch of Apple’s iPad more than a year ago. Tablets are the most visible aspect of a broader topic on the minds of vendor strategists – the consumerization of IT. Consumerization is defined variously as using personal devices for work, pay-per-use payment models, spending personal money for work-related cloud services, and employee self-provisioning of IT capacity outside the oversight of IT. In our annual Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010, we asked IT infrastructure buyers responsible for supporting end user computing about a variety of topics related to consumerization of IT and learned that:
The IT organizations in 26% of enterprises (firms with 1000 employees or more) were planning to implement or had implemented general purpose touchscreen tablets such as the Apple iPad. Of that total, 4% reported they’d already implemented, and 17% were already piloting by Q3, 2010, approximately 6 months after the launch of this brand new category. SMBs, firms with 999 employees or less, were lower at 18% planning or implemented.
Only 2% of firms, large and small, reported implementing or piloting bring-your-own-PC models, despite several years of hype among the desktop virtualization software vendors about this model. We expect this PC deployment model to grow, but it’s not a broad trend yet.
Firms are using more consumer-style Web applications on PCs, with 84% firms increasing their use of Web applications. But they’re not abandoning locally installed applications. 55% of firms are increasing or staying the same on their use of installed applications, while only 4% are seriously reducing use.
Every spring I’m faced with the wonderful opportunity – and challenge – of choosing the best questions for Forrester's annual 20 minute Web survey of commercial buyers of IT infrastructure and hardware across North America and Europe.
As technology industry strategists, what themes or hypotheses in IT infrastructure do you think we should focus on? What are the emerging topics with the potential for large, long term consequences, such as cloud computing, that you’d like to see survey data on? Please offer your suggestions in the comments below by May 21!
This year, I’m proposing the following focus areas for the survey:
New client system deployment strategies– virtual desktops, bring-your-own-PC, Win 7, smartphones, and tablets
Hypothesis: Early adopters are embracing virtual desktops and bring-your-own-PC, but the mainstream will proceed with standard Win 7 deployments