How Will Tablets Impact Your IT Strategy?

Introduction

Gartner recently unveiled the top trends that enterprise IT should be strategically focused on.  One of those is the growing use of tablets in the work environment.   This post will take a look at the implications of increased tablet and smart phone use in the enterprise and hopefully deliver some insight into this trend beyond just a capacity replacement strategy for PCs and laptops.

Implications of Tablets and Smart Phones in the Enterprise

Let’s skip the obvious background and trend information and launch straight into the implications.

1. Printer exit strategy – Think of tablets as electronic paper.  That’s one of their utilities. Plenty of technology gurus have struggled to manifest using technology in lieu of paper only to be vexed by the utility, versatility and permanence of the 8.5 X 11 parchment of industry. So what’s different this time?  Portability, usability and eventually….sharing.  Right now it’s a little cumbersome to share notes, reports, and other virtual-papyrus artifacts with everyone in a room.  It’d be nice if my tablet recognized all those other tablets in the meeting auto-magic-ally and allowed me to share documents with them with little more than a button click.  A kind of permanent “LiveMeeting” or “WebEx” with RFID/GPS type sensory to recognize my location relative to the meeting schedule for that room.  It’s not there yet, but you can see it coming.

That alone won’t shut down your printers and get rid of the reams of stock in your office closet. Nor will it stop “Ed” at IKON solutions from frequenting your micro printing press to unclog the jam of a decade.  It will take you, the CIO, pushing, selling and implementing a bold strategy:  get rid of them.  All of them.  I’m talking about your printers.  People won’t stop using printers unless they’re gone.  Once they’re out of reach….they’ll find, and use the alternatives.

If you’re Hewlett Packard or Lexmark,  yesterday would have be a very good time to rethink your business model.  Kodak is foreshadowing you.  Tablets will get thinner, more collaborative, increasingly better at power utilization, and super cheap.

2. Embrace video/audio recording – Does anyone else see the paradox in someone with a tablet typing or writing meeting notes on his device when it’s fully capable of recording the visual/audio representation of that discussion?  Tablets and other devices can transform how your organization captures information and knowledge and shares that with others.  Written/readable documents don’t go away, but moving an organization toward a video/audio strategy should improve the quality of your work.  So much context is lost in written notes, documents, requirements, and emails.  How much does that quality cost?

Go with this strategy and here’s what changes:

  • A premium on presentation and verbal communication skills becomes essential.
  • This strategy augments your move to paperless ( number one above )
  • You need more storage and network bandwidth to capture all the videos / photos / audios:  think cloud here.
  • A tool to version, track and search this knowledge will be essential.  A wiki makes an ideal candidate.
  • Digital video and editing skills are now a key requisite on resumes.
  • Corporate policies need to be rewritten.
  • You might want to invest in pico projectors for everyone, but I think eventually tablet and laptop makers will make this a standard feature.

3. From office to work lounge –  Look at your desk/cubicle.  If you’re mobile and paperless…why do you need this space?   Work places are still relevant.  Collaboration and communication happen best in a common physical environment.  Working from home is like working in a really thick cubicle.  But to encourage the freedom and interaction that mobility and paperless bring to the office, the furniture and interior should be living, playful and open.  Many employers have already made this move:  mobile whiteboards, open touch down areas, couches, plants, and open space with lots of natural air are some of the interior elements that seem to work well for a work lounge.

The implication of work lounges and the increased interaction is that work is not work anymore.  People aren’t laborers, they’re….well….people.   Work, fun,  friends, co-workers, ideas, and profits will begin to blend.  This poses some challenges to stodgy HR policies and Tayloristic views of management.  Those who’ll succeed in this environment will be leaders, not managers and the org chart will flow around them in an organic way.   Corporate empire builders beware.

4. Office supplies / telecommunication equipment reduction –  In addition to dropping your printers and paper supplies you can now chuck your sticky notes, paper clips,  desk phones, and almost everything else in that closet.   Again, if you keep it around people will use it.  If you dump it, then they’ll get creative and use the tools they have.  Force the change.  Be the leader and save the company money.

Office Depot, Staples and others should plan their exit strategy.  Maybe they begin selling the work lounge concept and the supplies for that.  To date, I see little evidence they *get* this.

5. Killer App Coming……Plan for it -> Intersection of Identity / NFC – An earthquake is coming to the landscape of identity and access management.  Check out my earlier articles on this for background.  Your mobile device is an abstraction of you.  People will come into your employment with their credentials and data already digitized and ready to be transferred and used in your environment.  You’ll pull this data from LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+…….and using those same tools you can give them rights/permissions to systems on your cloud.    Kaboom!

In time this destroys internal LDAP systems, multiple id and password issues,  corporate HR systems and physical security access control.  These will be thrown into a social mobile nfc blender and become the domain of mega vendors.   The tech war to control the identity market will have no comparison to previous epic battles.  Those who scale this out will capture the lucrative enterprise IT market.

The implications are vast and will touch every corner of the enterprise IT market.  Plan for this NFC hurricane to shake out vendors through 2012-2013.   You’ll want to embrace those software vendors that do NFC, cloud and social identities for access.  My prediction?  Microsoft’s collapse is right around the corner.

6. Build vs Buy vs…….Download for Free.  The implication of app markets is that you now have a third generic system strategy:  download for free.   Any options analysis for system planning should consider this.   While it hasn’t happened yet, that i know of, we could well see a big vendor crash as a freely available mobile app does the approximate functionality for none of the cost.

The download for free option should also be used as a development strategy.  Maybe you find something that ‘kind of meets’ your needs.  Download, play, experiment, trial and get a feel for it.   Then, approach the developers of that app and say you have some ideas to improve it.  They might do it for free.

App markets are consumerization of IT writ large.  Our work force will be our IT department, and our IT department will turn into technology strategists, gurus, enterprise architects.  High caliber, well paid business technology talent will replace the ‘system analysts’ of today and IT departments will shrink.  Invest in your best.

7. Email’s days are numbered – Email gave us a huge productivity boost in the 90s.  Indeed it was the killer app of the first internet explosion.  But as we’ve moved through time its weaknesses are costing us.  The loss of context in email, as apposed to physical presence undermines quality of work.   Mis-understandings, multiple interpretation, cultural differences and poor writing lead to *email threads* that are a semiphore of poor quality.  Think ,just for a second, how many issues you deal with daily that revolve around clarifying what someone meant in a cetain email?   It’s astounding and it’s holding us all back.

There’s a better way, but it hasn’t been built yet.  Google’s Wave initiative is a bold attempt at remaking communications tools.   It’s close, but the email replacement will incorporate the cameras, microphones, and NFC chips that are built into tablets and smart devices.

Any CIO will want to watch this space and price out the latent, untapped potential cost savings in boosting communications quality across the enterprise.  Combine this vision with implication #5 above, and you can see the scale of change coming towards us.

8. POS industry: look out you’re about to be remade –  Tablets can be turned into POS terminals.  Enough said.  If you’re a POS vendor and you don’t realize this: what in the name of clam chowder have you been doing the last 2 years?  With NFC in 2012 an avalanche of slim, mobile terminals will usher in tap-pay while still accepting swipe pay.

Cash and checks will be digitized too and while the exact shakeout is still fuzzy to me; private digital currencies ( Ven, BitCoins ) are going to play a role here.  As I professed in my article about the externet ( internet of things ), the combination of an amorphous, unaccountable virtual world and the ability to pay with a tap lower and free the barriers to entry for those enterprising enough to believe they can challenge the global fiat currency oligarchy.  Nation states, banks, and the overlords of international finance will surely capitalize on this opportunity in some way.  Watch my blog for future posts on this….I’m still noodling on it.

9. Healthcare – Goodbye clipboard, hello iPad.  It’s all over the place, and doctors and nurses are demanding that all their software tools run on tablets.  FINALLY technology understands healthcare’s unique needs.  God bless Steve Jobs and the Apple-neers.  Steve, this was truly your greatest gift to the world…..not the iPhone.   You’ve given doctors a tool that will help them treat and solve the very problem that took you from us too early.  Rest in peace.

Taking this further, digitizing medical records and sharing that with patients is the bonfire lit by the meaningful use regulations passed in 2009.  NFC, smart devices and tablets will make the sharing part real time and collaborative.  People will really know and understand their health.

Summary

Surfing the waves of enterprise tablet integration has great possibility for the visionary C-level executive.  Will you be one of them?   My consultation to you:  tear up your current IT strategy document and vest your talent with the authority and energy to make these nine implications happen.   If you don’t…your competitors will.  You can be sure that some of the finest minds in IT are reading and following this blog.  Numbers don’t lie.  Be part of the revolution rather than a victim of it.

The Externet

The internet connected our computers together and created a virtual world along with a tsunami of change and innovation.  The externet will connect the physical world to the virtual one and complete the circle.  Everything will be connected, communicating, updating, and aware.

How will this happen?

Near field communication will bridge the two worlds together.   Most notably NFC is bantered about in the media as a way to enable the ‘eWallet’.  While it does this, there are competing technologies that could do this today without NFC.  Check out Square’s card case for instance.

Regardless of who wins the eWallet race, NFC enables much more.

What are the implications?

Let’s take an ordinary Saturday in my home town of St. Louis.  Waking up to the alarm on my Android or iPhone device at 7:30 am, I jump in the shower and get my son up for soccer practice.

When I get to my car I put my device in the NFC holster and my car’s app opens up.  It knows its me since my identity app conveys this to the car app.  All system diagnostics for this trip will be recorded with me as the driver.  My virtual keys are differernt from my wifes.  I press start and the engine is running a little rough.  The car app now gives me a menu:

1. Owner’s Manual

2. Diagnostics History

3. Music

4. Video

5. Climate

6. Navigation

7. Maintenance

8. Insurance

9. Trade In

I check the Owner’s Manual and it says I may be using the wrong oil.  The remedy is to let it run for a few minutes before driving.

After letting the car warm up a bit, I head to the soccer field.  I’m feeling jovial so I choose ‘Music’ at the stoplight and start playing one of my favorite 80s playlists.  I hardly notice the police lights behind me.  Apparently, I was feeling too jovial.

The police officer conveys that I was exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles an hour.  He asks for my license & registration, so I pop those apps open and tap his NFC reader to download that data to his device.   Within a couple of seconds his device verifies that I’m not a wanted criminal and that my insurance data is up to date and paid.  He then tells me the speeding ticket is $50.00.  I pay right there by tapping his reader.

At the field,  I notice Owen’s soccer shoes are looking a little old, so I tap the NFC chip to see the receipt, which tells me these were bought 2 years ago for $49.97 at the online Adidas store.  Furthermore, due to a small pedometer powered by a battery and tiny solar panel….I know that Owen has taken 224,321 steps in these shoes.  A link allows me to look at newer models and sizes.  But wait, I don’t know Owen’s shoe size.  I take his shoe off and take a picture of his foot and then ask the photo app to measure it.  It tells me he’s grown a size and now requires a 9.  I let Owen choose the style he likes after he models it on his foot picture, and then we purchase.

When the coach shows up he asks everyone to sign in.  He puts his tablet on the bench and enables the NFC registration app.  I tap the app and sign Owen & myself in using the Soccer League app.   Later the coach will use the registrations to post notes about each child’s progress, fees owed, and the upcoming schedule.  All of which I can view from my device.  Furthermore I’m banking on the notion that a solid record of Owen’s progress as a soccer player will make him a shoe in for the English Premier League.

During practice I strike up a conversation with one of the parents.  We have similar technology interests and he might make a good business partner some day, so I ask to exchange business cards with him.  He says sure, and we tap our phones together to do the exchange.

After practice we go to McDonald’s, Owen’s favorite.  We look at the menu and tap the selections we’d like to purchase.  As a bonus the menu also downloads the nutritional data into my Health app and registers the calories Owen and I will consume.  To get a 10% discount McDonald’s asks me to share some of my personal demographic information with them, so I press yes on the device, and the data is downloaded from my Identity application.  Anything to save a buck.

But wait did I pay with Visa, Mastercard, PayPal or AMEX?  Turns out I paid with a totally new virtual credit card called GOOG-EX.  Mobile payments made issuing credit and competing with existing credit card companies easier and lowered the barriers to entry against the major providers.  I chose Google’s brand new credit card because they tied my interest rate to my credit score.  Since I have one in the 800s they gave me a low interest rate of 5% and a penalty rate of only 7%.

After McDonald’s, Owen and i left and I started feeling bad.  In fact, I felt horrible. I drive to the hospital, and they ask me to tap my phone on the NFC reader to register at the hospital Emergency Room.  Instantly my health insurance is verified, my identity registered in all the downstream systems of the hospital, and my visit is appended to my health records on my Health Record App.

As I go through each triage station in the hospital they update my health record with their findings, lab results, x-rays, and notes.  All of this I can share with any healthcare provider.  Rather than the medical record database being housed with individual hospitals that never talk to each other…the data is stored with my Health Record App and I can share it with anyone I want….a distributed database of sorts.  At the end of my visit, my doctor notes that I ate at McDonald’s and he had several patients come from the same McDonald’s today with similar conditions.  He thinks it is food poisoning.

Conclusion

That’s a small smattering of the Externet.  Realize the technology change standing before us will move quickly.   The devices are there, the apps are being built, and the profits are ripe for companies and individuals who see the vision and can make it happen.  Other technologies, like NXP Semiconductor’s GreenChip will couple these worlds closer.

In time we’ll be able to schedule, monitor and control our physical world from our favorite Android or iPhone device.  NFC, while currently riding the wave of Mobile Payments, will open the gates to a truly connected world.  The Externet is the next logical step to wiring our universe.