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Why enterprise IT looks up to e-commerce

Why enterprise IT looks up to e-commerce

Choose your own app is the necessary complement to BYOD

For all the talk of bringing a consumer IT experience to the enterprise we are, still beset with frustratingly long lead times, unfathomable IT service desk processes and more often than not users creating shortcuts in order to solve their own problems.

This is not through malice, but because they simply can't face the three day plus wait for IT to respond.

However, there has been a shift among some enterprises in the last 12 months. Rather than talking about consumerisation, the talk is of a 'just like home' strategy that empowers employees to do everything they can at home in the workplace.

The driver behind this shift comes from e-commerce. In next to no time, e-commerce platforms have completely disrupted traditional models and created a customer experience that is king. And they've done it by putting consumers in the driving seat. They don't care about location or device, they focus on experience. Think about it. When you log on, your experience is personalised, recommendations are made on previous purchases and the site not only learns about your buying behaviours but responds to them.

The advantage that the enterprise has over e-commerce is that ecommerce sites start from scratch. When you first log on, they know nothing about you. They tease relevant information out of you over time. But from day one, IT knows your job role, those in similar roles and what apps they're using and the device you'll be logging on to the network from. Increasingly, organisations of all shapes and sizes are recognising that putting the user in control via an automated self-service model can help to make IT much more intelligent.

Seamless IT delivery that the user controls

Companies that adopt an online shopping approach to enterprise IT are making it easier for employees to do their job. Just like Amazon recommends books to me, IT systems today are perfectly capable of recommending applications or services based on my consumption habits or job role that will make it easier for me to do my job.

Imagine that rather than being stuck in a seemingly never ending cycle of lengthy approvals to get a license for six months, you could just request that it is added. Simple. Easy. No fuss. It just happens. Rather than being a barrier, IT instead morphs to make it easier to do your job and most precious of all, gives you time back.

For users too, this means that their interactions with IT fundamentally changes. Think about how you resolve an issue when you're using an Apple product - enterprise has the potential to leverage existing investments in order to create a similar previous experience. For example, integrating with an existing ticketing system would mean that employees could track the status of their problem, much like they do their online delivery, and be proactively alerted when it has been resolved.

A 'just like home' strategy isn't about ripping out and replacing what you already have. Far from it. An automated self-service style of IT relies on existing investments. In fact, it can extend that investment. Companies have spent a lot of money on their applications and services but, in many cases, aren't getting the most out of them. This is either because business people don't know how to use them or they aren't aware that they exist.

A self-service IT environment modelled on e-commerce helps to drive a higher usage of business critical apps because it can automatically link them to a user's profile where relevant or make a proactive suggestion.

Why now?

Self-service as a model of IT has been discussed at reasonable length before, so what is so different now? There are a couple of key factors. Firstly, what once was a desktop has evolved from physical device into digital workspaces that are totally app-driven - and ultimately controlled by the business. This is because today's desktop must be independent of device and delivery platform, and flexible enough to support an increasingly agile workforce - with mobile workers who move from place to place and use multiple devices.

This means that as business needs change, the new digital workspace must immediately adapt and deliver IT services when and where they're needed, while meeting the highest levels of security and regulatory compliance. And, because not everything can be predicted, people must be able to fulfil special needs through self-service capabilities - and when they do, they will expect them to be served instantly, as they are in the consumer world.

Secondly, the disruption that millennials are causing to the traditional model of IT delivery cannot be underestimated. They're demanding, pushy and have high expectations. They aren't used to being constrained and IT is having to adapt its model in the recognition that these expectations are only going to evolve further as today's graduates become management in just a few short years.

And lastly, whilst self-service has clear benefits for users, it also has a lot of offer the IT team. By making it easier for people to do their job, IT can show how it is maturing, that it is no longer a 'cost centre' but adding value to the bottom line.

Combined, these different elements mean that self-service is moving from a pipe-dream to a must have in a customer-centric economy, where agility and responsiveness are key.

Stacy Leidwinger is VP Product Marketing at digital workspace technology company RES Software

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