Future Workplace

The Latest

31 January 2022: Private equity firms Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital, announced their acquisition of virtualisation tech firm Citrix Systems. Citrix’s secure digital workspace and hybrid work environments will be merged with the market data management and business intelligence features of Vista’s TIBCO. The all-cash $16.5 billion acquisition, which is expected to be formally closed mid-2022, will impact Citrix customers, amounting to approximately 100 million end-users.

The buyout will make Citrix a private venture and address its debt after reporting a 1 percent decrease in annual revenue at the end of 2021. Reports of the deal have been in the news for quite some time, despite Citrix acquiring Wrike last year to further support hybrid work models for its clients.

Why it’s Important

At the start of the pandemic, demand for Citrix’s digital workspace solutions increased to allow secure access to corporate information systems through web traffic isolation, as well as remote access to devices in physical offices for employees on a work-from-home setup. However, there have been concerns that Citrix has not been at the forefront of innovation in the last few years.

The acquisition has the potential to provide Citrix with an opportunity to invest in new features now that its Desktop-as-a-Service tool competitors (Azure Virtual Desktop, Amazon Workspaces and VMWare Horizon DaaS Platform) have outperformed the Florida-based virtualisation tech company.  

However, history of previous acquisitions suggests that that potential will only be partially realised, if at all. IBRS has observed that among venture capital firms that have bought tech companies, users should not expect any new features to be released any time soon since private equity managers often prioritise profitability on existing customers using the same range of products. 

Conversely, with Citrix being consolidated with TIBCO, there is an opportunity to repackage the brand, add sophisticated integration and workflow capabilities to an existing market that’s maturing. 

In the near term (2-3 years), IBRS does not expect much direct impact on current clients.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Desktop / EUC teams
  • Business stakeholders dealing with workforce management and project delivery

What’s Next?

Since many organisations have adopted digital workspace architectures (as opposed to end user computing architectures), they should review their current service contracts that may be impacted by mergers and acquisitions in relation to workspace technologies. One strategy is to centralise vendor management activities and develop a set of governance policies. 

IBRS also recommends organisations running Citrix review the papers below, and then schedule a consultation session with IBRS to identify the next best courses of action for their enterprise.

Related IBRS Advisory

1. Mergers & acquisitions require federated service providers governance

2.Running IT-as-a-Service Part 46: Mergers and acquisitions impact on service contracts

The Latest

18 November 2021: AWS recently announced the launch of AWS Skill Builder, a digital learning platform which provides free Cloud computing skills training globally. It currently has over 500 free, on-demand courses - including nearly 60 new Cloud computing classes added this year. 

This expands AWS’s free access Cloud skills training programs in the region, in addition to last year’s launch of the AWS re/Start program - a free, 12-week full-time skills training program that prepares the unemployed, and underemployed, for careers in Cloud computing. Training is done in partnership with Indigenous training companies Goanna Solutions, Academy IT, and FDM in Australia and Te Pūkenga, the largest tertiary education provider in New Zealand. 

In addition, AWS is collaborating with local institutions such as The University of NSW’s (UNSW) CyberSECurity Education Network (SECedu) to teach both professional and practical cyber security skills in response to the growing demand for Cloud-oriented security skills.

Why it’s Important

Cloud skills are in hot demand, with competition for talent driving up salaries. 

Furthermore, IBRS has noted a growing dissatisfaction in paid programs for Cloud training and certification, though this is more a matter of perceived quality of delivery than concerns over the material in the training programs. Tech training is a booming industry right now, and the quality of independent training suppliers is mixed.

Therefore, it is no surprise that there is some scepticism about the quality and effectiveness of free Cloud professional training. If the paid programs are struggling to get it right, how will free programs deliver?

IBRS believes that scepticism is healthy. However, after a review of the AWS strategy and offerings, IBRS has concluded the program is robust and addresses some of the most critical skills gaps organisations are facing with Cloud migrations. Rather than treating these programs as ‘free’ organisations should be evaluating the available programs and building them into their internal skills development initiatives.  

AWS’s Skill Builder initiative is based on the concept of micro-credentials (small, granular certifications) which make it relatively easy to insert into organisations' existing skills development programs.

Reviewing and inserting Cloud training programs (from any of the major hyperscale Cloud vendors) into an organisation's internal skills development program is where the tight training budget can be spent effectively.

Who’s Impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Adoption of Cloud computing across multiple industries is predicted to spawn a huge number of new roles over the next decade. Organisations should consider supporting a workforce education program. Their investment in digital skills training will not only help organisations achieve their digital transformation goals but also improve employee retention.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

22 October 2021: Google introduced the Work Safer program at the Google Cloud Next ’21 event. The new program includes the Google Workspace suite of products, and adds several third party cyber security services for endpoint security and access to legacy solutions. In addition, Google unveiled upgraded devices, including new Chromebooks from HP.   

A new in-house Google Cyber security Action Team was also introduced in the event. The group will take the lead in developing cyber security and digital products by leveraging the capabilities of the Work Safer program and developing training and policy materials..

Interestingly, Google is offering a whopping 50% discount for the term of the initial contact for all products (its own and third parties) within the Work Safer program.

Why it’s Important

The aim of the Work Safer program is to reinvigorate interest in the Google Workspace ecosystem.  

Microsoft continues to have a near monopoly on the office productivity space, and is using that position to drive organisations towards its Azure Cloud ecosystem and its security ecosystem. Microsoft’s strength is its breadth of services, support for legacy solutions and resistance to change by both desktop teams and office staff.  Creating sufficient impetus for change to a light-touch, collaborative environment of the magnitude Google proposes is hard.

Google Workspaces has a far smaller attack vector compared to Microsoft. Its architecture has been firmly rooted in zero trust since its inception - from the devices all the way to the apps, storage and access controls. However, organisations that have not yet gone down the Google path retain a significant array of existing network investments, legacy solutions, mixed access controls and identity management, devices and so on. To meet these clients' needs, Google has partnered with CrowdStrike and Palo Alto Networks to come up with endpoint protection and threat detection solutions. The partnerships should not be viewed as “Google is backfilling weaknesses in its ecosystem” (which is something we expect to hear from Google’s competitors soon. Instead, these partnerships should be viewed as Google recognising its ecosystem will need to sit alongside ecosystems based on architectures that were conceived several decades ago and retain complexities that need to be addressed.

With more businesses shifting to a remote or hybrid work setup, the risks of ransomware attacks through phishing campaigns, malware infections and data leaks pose a threat to these companies’ data security practices. As such, Google easily benefits from its product’s value proposition already being consumed.   

Therefore, it would appear that Google’s messaging is on point. 

However, from roundtable discussions with digital workspace teams held this month, IBRS has confirmed that Australian organisations’ ICT groups and senior executives continue to resist a major step-change in the office productivity and device space. Rather, most organisations continue to look for ways to extract more value from their existing Microsoft contracts, increasingly looking to expand their investments into Microsoft’s E5 security offerings.  

In short, Google’s challenge is not convincing organisations they have a better, leaner security model. It is not even being less costly than Microsoft.  

It is literally resistance to change.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Even if an organisation is unlikely to switch to Google Workspace, it is beneficial to review Google’s architecture and which aspects can be applied to the existing architecture.

Organisations should also consider running Google Workspaces experiments with groups of remote / hybrid workers that have less connection with legacy solutions.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Deciding between Google G Suite and Microsoft Office 365
  2. Considering Chromebooks Part 1: Show me the money!
  3. Chrome OS: Follow the money

The Latest

22 October 2021: Microsoft recently unveiled the latest versions of its Surface line of devices with versatile form factors to cater to different use cases. Highlights include the redesigned 13-inch Surface Pro 8 tablet with 11th generation Intel processor, the portable Surface Go 3, the laptop/tablet Surface Pro 7+, the pocket-sized Surface Duo 2, and the highly anticipated Surface Laptop Studio.

Why it’s Important

Microsoft released its redesigned Surface lineup form factor alongside its rollout of Windows 11 earlier this month. While there are plenty of improvements in the new lineup, most are best described as evolutionary: more computing power, refinement of form factors, etc. 

However, two products stand out as potential new niche market makers: the Duo 2 and the Surface Laptop Studio.

The Duo 2: Win-Win or Double-Trouble?

IBRS has obtained a Surface Duo 2 and finds it fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet… yet not quite matching either role. While Samsung found some success with its Galaxy Z Fold device as a smartphone, the Duo 2 tends more towards the tablet end of the market.

If the Duo 2 is to be successful, it will be due to Microsoft defining a new niche for mobile prosumer (professional- level consumers). The success of the device will indicate that there is no single market niche for foldable devices (as they are currently being touted), but several sub-niches tied more to screen size, onscreen keyboard capabilities and photography prowess.

On the flip side (pun intended), first impressions of the Duo 2 suggest it may be a workable alternative to the semi-ruggedised, larger format smartphones which are making inroads against traditional fully-ruggedised tablets. 

The additional screen space and size of the on-screen keyboard, positions the Due 2 slightly above most of the large format phones for field workers. It is even passable (just) for running remote virtual desktop applications. 

Surface Laptop Studio: Solves the problem you didn’t know you had

IBRS has also trialled the Surface Laptop Studio. IBRS believes this device serves a new niche between more traditional laptops (such as the Surface Book) and hybrid devices (such as the Surface Pro).  

The Laptop Studio has a hinge at the back to help set up the device in three versatile constructions: a regular laptop, a ‘stage’ mode where the screen is closed when streaming or engaged in video calls, and the ‘studio’ mode where the screen slides out flat, effectively turning the device into a graphic-intensive tablet.

From observations during ‘digital workspace’ consulting engagements, IBRS has noted that the Surface Pro is often used as a ‘primary desktop’ (meaning, used mostly when seated as a staff-members regular desk and in the home office). The weakness here is that the device is better suited for mobile (nomadic) work.

The Laptop Studio is more geared towards a desk-top experience, while also providing for flexible user configuration. For example, it features more connectivity ports, but less focus on the battery 

Microsoft is not the only company implementing a new form factor to cater to users’ needs for devices that straddle between existing designs. Acer’s ConceptD 3 Ezel and HP’s Spectre Folio also share the same form factor as the Surface Laptop Studio. 

It is likely this ‘desktop oriented yet flexible’ form factor will gain ground as more organisations adapt to the demands of hybrid working. It is not enough to consider someone working between multiple office locations as being a ‘remote worker’. Rather, they are full-time office workers that may wish to move between locations, while gaining the ability to host video conferencing, engage in pen / tablet creative work, and switch back to having a more traditional desktop experience.

Who’s impacted

  • Procurement
  • Digital workspaces / end-user computing teams

What’s Next?

The evolution of end user devices is ongoing - albeit slowly and with more than a few dead-ends. Manufacturers continue to experiment with new market niches, as organisations become more selective with devices that meet specific needs.  

The upshot of this is that care should be taken when developing ‘personas’ for digital workspaces. Keep in mind that a persona is not solely related to a staff member’s ‘job’ (which is really multiple different types of jobs). It needs to factor the environment, the tasks performed in the context of the environment, and the staff's ability to switch between different devices based on needs at any given time.

In addition, when determining mobile force field device needs, do not limit the evaluation to the features of fully rugged products. Instead, consider the lifecycle of the products and software dependencies. Only then should an organisation decide which available devices on the market can best cater to the work contexts and personas you have.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. The use and abuse of Personas for end-user computing strategies
  3. Examples of Persona Templates
  4. VENDORiQ: Samsung unveils new smartphones

The Latest

28 July 2021: During Inspire, Microsoft unveiled Windows 365, which it positions as a Cloud desktop service. IBRS views Windows 365 as an evolution of existing virtual desktop solutions. 

In addition, Windows Virtual Desktop services have been rebranded as Azure Desktop Services. With this rebranding, Microsoft also introduced a number of enhancements, including closer integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Endpoint-Manager, with the ability to deploy applications across both physical devices and Cloud-based desktops based on roles. 

Windows 365 is built on top of Azure Virtual Desktop service. The difference between Windows 365 and Azure Desktop Services is that Windows 365 has more automated, easier deployment and administration options. It is well suited to organisations with minimal VDI specialisation and more akin to a ‘fully managed virtual desktop environment’.  

In contrast, Azure Desktop Services is better suited to larger organisations that have a need for a high level of customisation. It is more akin to a virtualised Citrix farm.

Why it’s Important.

In 2019, Microsoft quietly changed the licensing conditions for running virtual servers in the Cloud, which hindered VMware’s ability to migrate VDI (among other services) to hyper-scale Cloud services. Since then, IBRS has had reports of efforts to migrate VDI into the Cloud stifled by rights, with Microsoft partners steering organisations to an ‘all-in Azure’ approach.

The introduction of Windows 365 and the rebranding of Azure Virtual Desktop certainly fits a strategy of selecting alternative virtual desktop environments less compelling. 

This is not to say that Microsoft’s VDI capabilities are not solid offerings. Windows 365 certainly addresses a problem in the Australian market, where fully managed VDI has suffered greatly from vendors under-scoping the resources needed to run a client's environment in order to come in at the lowest possible cost. Autoscaling in the Windows 365 environment largely eliminates this issue. The level of automation is also impressive, as is an application cook

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Windows 365 is a viable option for specific use VDI cases, and it may be considered against traditional fully managed desktop vendor solutions. However, it may not be cost-effective at scale. Solutions from AWS, VMWare and Google should also be examined, though it is important to consider the total cost of operation of this type of VDI, not just the licensing / service costs. Be sure to factor in human resources for administration, application compatibility testing and packaging (which are significant hidden costs and often overlooked, as well as help desk and support.

In addition, if staying within the Microsoft stack, Azure Desktop Services can provide a more flexible and scalable solution. Again, be sure to factor in the total cost of operation.

Overlooked by many discussions of Cloud VDI is the rise of Cloud application virtualisation services from the likes of Cameyo. Rather than presenting an entire desktop, these services only stream a configured application, either in a manner that makes it appear as a native application or within a web browser. Such an approach is significantly lower cost than traditional VDI. When considering a new virtual environment for your workers, both VDI and Virtual Application Delivery (VAD) options should be considered.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Should You Outsource Your Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
  2. When to Consider Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  3. VDI trends for 2021–2025
  4. End-user computing managed services: 3 initial things to consider for the RFP
  5. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  6. IBRS Compass: Beyond the Desktop: Creating a Digital Workspace Strategy for Business Transformation

The Latest

28 June 2021: After a leak of an early pre-release version of Windows, Microsoft formally announced Windows 11 and have followed up with a series of posts, most aimed at promoting the new user experience of the operating system. A quick look on YouTube will find dozens of reviews and tests of the pre-release version of Windows 11, and from early tests, it appears as if there is little performance impact for the OS. Reviews of Microsoft’s documentation suggest that there is no significant change to how Windows 11 can be deployed. The bulk of the changes appear to be related to how Microsoft’s Office 365 products are put front and centre within the desktop experience. Teams, in particular, takes centre stage. As with the release of Windows 10, Windows 11 will start by building new expectations among consumers, which will in turn drive staff to demand the new environment from their ICT groups. In this sense, the key issues for ICT look to be identical to those faced in 2015.

Why it’s Important

While Microsoft executives famously touted that Windows 10 would be the last Windows, a clear reference to enterprises’ frustrations with continued hardware/software refresh treadmill and the expense of upgrading fleets of desktops en-mass, the statement was never officially enshrined in the product lifecycle. This means that enterprises, at least for the foreseeable future, will need to plan for generational shifts in desktop upgrades, complete with the demands of change management and the potential bulk hardware refreshes.  

The common driver for most organisations looking to refresh their desktop environment (device management, security, application deployment and change management), is to ‘flatten the investment’ needed to keep users up to date. From a device asset management perspective, the goal is to move away from four-to-five year bulk buys and move to a rolling schedule of device refreshes. For software deployment, it's a move to a self-service model. And for the OS, it's a move to a gradually updated, evolving platform.  

All the above have become critical enablers of hybrid working and by extension business continuity. 

Microsoft’s Cloud-based approach to deploying devices and software with Autopilot is highly attractive as it supports the new digital workspace model. How best to migrate to Autopilot from the legacy ‘tiered’ desktop management approach is by far the most common question IBRS is asked in relation to digital workspaces.

Microsoft has noted that Windows 11 can be managed using all current tools and processes that are used to manage Windows 10. This means Windows 11 can be managed using the Cloud-based Autopilot approach and the ‘standardised desktop’ approach via SCCM (System Centre Configuration Manager). Third-party tools such as Ivanti are also expected to work without problem. Therefore, based on available information, there appears to be little additional benefit to Windows 11 over Windows 10 when it comes to deployment and management.

This is not to say that Windows 11 will not have other benefits to enterprises, but the (current) benefits appear to be more related to putting Office 365 services forward.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Desktop / end user computing teams
  • ICT asset management teams
  • CFO / ICT financial planning teams

What’s Next?

Enterprise desktop teams do not need to rush into Windows 11 planning. Device and software compatibility is expected to be high (despite some initial negative assumptions on YouTube). Instead, organisations should continue to focus their efforts on migrating from the standardised desktop management model to the ‘digital workspaces’ model which focuses on offering self-service capabilities and zero-trust security. In addition, adopting an iterative and ongoing approach to Office 365 change management is needed. Moving to the digital workspaces model will not only reap significant operational benefits over the older standardised desktop approach, but will also ensure a smoother transition to Windows 11 before the 2025 end of support deadline.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Digital Workspaces Master Advisory Presentation
  2. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  3. How will you deal with Microsoft’s Pester Power strategy for Windows 10?
  4. The journey of Office 365: A guiding framework Part 3: Post-implementation

The Latest

28 March 2021: MaxContact, vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Teams clients. Similar vendors of call centre solutions have announced or are planning similar integration with Teams and/or Zoom. In effect, the most common video communications clients are becoming alternatives to voice calls, complete with all the management and metrics required by call centres. 

Why it’s Important

The pandemic has forced working from home, which has in turn positioned video calling as a common way to communicate. There is an expectation that video calling, be it on mobile devices, desktop computers or built into televisions, will become increasingly normalised in the coming decade. Clearly call centres will need to cater for clients who wish to place calls into the call centre using video calls.

But there is a difference between voice calls and video that few people are considering (beyond the obvious media).  That is, timing of video calls is generally negotiated via another media: instant messaging, calendaring, or meeting invites. In contrast, the timing for voice calls are far less mediated, especially when engaging with call centres for service, support or sales activities.

For reactive support and services, video calls between a call centre and a client will most likely be a negotiated engagement, either instigated via an email or web-based chat agent. Cold-calling and outward bound video calls is unlikely to be effective.

The above has significant implications for client service and support processes and call centre operations.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

The adoption of video calls by the masses is here to stay. Video calling is not a fad, but it will take time to mature. 

Having video support and services available as part of the call centre mix is likely to be an advantage, but only if its use makes sense in the context of the tasks and clients involved.  

Organisations should begin brainstorming the potential usage of video calls for serving. However, adding video calling to the call centre is less of a priority than consolidating a multi-channel strategy and, over time, an omnichannel strategy.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance
  2. Evolve your multichannels before you try to omnichannel
  3. VENDORiQ: CommsChoice becomes Australia's first vendor of Contact Centre for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

The Latest

9 March 2021: Dropbox has acquired DocSend for US$165 million. This is a welcome addition to managing the risks associated with information management in a collaborative environment. 

Why it’s Important

Dropbox’s acquisition is not about organic growth, as DocSend’s client base of 17,000 users is dwarfed by Dropbox’s estimated 600 million. The deal is more about positioning Dropbox against the likes of Adobe Document Cloud, by allowing organisations to track what happens to information once it is shared. Being able to manage and track document access is a critical aspect of modern, enterprise-grade file sharing which is needed for secure collaboration. It is a feature missing in most collaborative platforms - at least out of the box. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Being able to manage access and track who’s accessed a document is a good start for closing the governance issues of most collaborative platforms (e.g. Teams, Slack, Zoom, Zoho, etc.)  However, organisations should look at adopting a zero trust model for information assets, involving identity management linked to access controls and an ‘encrypt everything by default’ mentality.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Did Dropbox just break knowledge management?
  2. IBRS survey exposes Teams risk - The Australian - 21 January 2021
  3. Microsoft Teams governance: Emerging better practices
  4. Data loss by the back door, slipping away unnoticed
  5. Workforce transformation Part 2: The evolving role of folders for controlled collaboration

The Latest

23 February 2021: Creatio has just taken US$68 million in funding, joining the current investment frenzy in low-code platform vendors. 

Why it’s Important

Creatio started life as a BPM vendor in 2011, and introduced its low-code platform in 2013, making it one of the better established of the new generation of low-code vendors. This round of investment is relatively small, compared recent activity in the low-code platform market. Even so, it is yet more evidence that the market for Cloud-based low-code is on the boil. These low-code platform vendors are spending their new-found cash on the following, in order of priority:

  • global market expansion: setting up new offices and hiring channel managers, which means more vendors will be entering the ANZ market more aggressively
  • buying additional elements of the ‘low-code everything’ stack: including business process mapping / management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), API management (APIM) and rules engines
  • buying market share with acquisitions: as we saw recently with Nintex procuring K2

The challenge for buyers of low-code platforms is that while the market is beginning to see a great deal of change and competition, their ICT investments need to be considered for the long-term - at least a decade. This is due to the need to invest the skills, processes, governance and change management to get the promised returns on whatever low-code is selected. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When considering low-code platforms (and it is likely your organisation will have more than one, in order to meet different needs) look for the investment and development road map of the vendors. In particular, determine if the vendors have a viable strategy to develop skills and support resources locally, either directly or through channel partners. Also, explore their road map for delivering more than just eforms and workflow, but moving to acquire or develop a ‘low-code everything’ platform. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million
  2. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need
  3. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  4. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape

There is more innovation going on behind the scenes in Australian organisations than they are being given credit for. IBRS advisor, Dr Joseph Sweeney, who specialises in the areas of workforce transformation and the future of work stated, Australian organisations have led the world in the uptake of virtualisation which now has Australia leading in terms of Cloud adoption. 'World-leading Australian innovation was emerging in how Cloud-based services could be used to make internal operations more efficient, which was less glamorous than some of the consumer-facing apps being developed by emerging fintech companies, but equally worthwhile." said Dr Sweeney. 

“One area of innovation IBRS has identified over the last year is a rapid update of low-code platforms to allow less-technical staff to be involved in digitising business processes,” he said. Citizen developers aren't just limiting themselves to e-forms but are using a full range of low code tools and vendors are reporting sales growth of over 30%.

Full story.

The Latest

17 February 2021: At the Learning with Google global event, the Cloud giant announced a slew of new education-oriented features for its education productivity suite. Previously called G Suite for Education, the Google Workspace for Education is now being aggressively commercialised.  

What’s included

The free tier service - now called Google Workspaces for Education Fundamentals, had found strong acceptance in Australia by providing educators and students with collaborative learning capabilities. 

This free tier now has three paid tiers, each with increasing levels of security and manageability. 

  • Standard: Adds security and analytics capabilities. The new features are aimed at improving traceability and providing more nuanced access rights to information.
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade: Adds features to better manage the classroom experience.
  • Education Plus: Combines all the features of the previous tiers, in addition to extra management capabilities. 

In addition, Google increased the baseline storage capacity for educational institutions to a whopping 100 TB, and added online-learning features to Google Meet.

Why it’s Important

Google and Microsoft are locked in a fierce battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in education. Both vendors know that student’s experiences with their productivity platforms today, will set expectations and habits for the workforce of tomorrow. This battle extends beyond the productivity suite to device, operating systems and ultimately, the entire digital workspace.

By introducing features that have been much in demand by education (especially K12) into commercial tiers, Google is fundamentally changing its stance in this war. In most State K12 and private education systems, Principals have the final say on the extent to which Google or Microsoft is used in classrooms. Often the decision is delegated down to the teachers and often both vendor’s offerings sit side by side.

Google’s evolving commercial stance means that this can no longer be the case. Given the total national cost (as ultimate schools are funded through State and Federal funds) educational policy setters now need to consider taking a side in the battle. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policy makers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Stakeholders within education need to immediately begin the laborious task of evaluating Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings, not just from the perspective of current offerings, but from their likely future directions. While the need to rationalise to one platform today may not be a burning priority, the need will increase over the next decade.

Stakeholders outside of education should monitor the decisions of education networks, as the platforms they select will impact new staff expectations and work habits. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

The Latest

20 January 2021: In its 2020 Q4 quarterly earnings report, Citrix announced it is buying Wrike, a Cloud-based, collaborative project management service, for US$2.25 billion.

Why it’s Important

The market for collaborative workforce management tools has grown sharply in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, products such as Write were generally procured by business stakeholders. The ICT group’s ability to mandate a specific collaborative workforce management tool was limited due to the ease of acquiring such tools, strong user preferences based on past experiences with tools and waves of vendor’s branding activities. As a result, most organisations have a myriad of collaborator workforce management tools, including: Wrike, Monday, Trello, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Planner, Plutio and others. 

However, as outlined in IBRS’s whiteboard session on Disruptive Collaboration, this situation is unsustainable. These Cloud-based tools can not only create pockets of documents and sensitive information, but also act as barriers for different teams to work together when they each have different tools. 

Citrix’s acquisition of Wrike is a sign that the market for such tools may be starting to consolidate.

However, for existing Citrix customers and for Wrike customers, the acquisition will have little direct impact at this time.

Who’s impacted

  • Project managers
  • Business stakeholders involved with workforce management / project delivery

What’s Next?

  • ICT groups should seek out which workforce collaboration tools are in use across the organisation. Longer term, plans should be in place to begin limiting the number of tools in an effort to improve information management and compliance, collaboration between disparate teams and reduce the security footprint.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Disruptive Collaboration (whiteboard session)

The Latest

15 January 2021: Samsung released a set of three Galaxy S series smartphones, aimed at the consumer market. All models support 5G. The high-end model - the Galaxy S21 Ultra - has features that rival its flagship executive-level smartphone, the Galaxy Note. In addition, the announcement stressed Samsung’s workplace features:

  • Wireless DeX for using smartphone as desktop
  • Office 365 integration
  • Knox Suite for device management and end-point security.

Why it’s Important

Despite the market for smartphones declining sharply in 2020 (a drop of 16 percent), Samsung gained around 5% market share. The decline in the market is due to consumers retaining their smartphones for longer periods of time due to the increasing costs of premier devices.  

Samsung’s efforts to sell into enterprises - blending consumer and enterprise features - are proving effective in shoring up its strength against rivals. The vendor has been making inroads into the enterprise space with both consumer-grade devices and semi-ruggedised devices. The S21 series of devices support Samsung’s enterprise security features, DeX and the Knox (as well as third-party) end-point management services. 

The devices also include new cameras that make them attractive for field-based asset management activities. The S21 Ultra is a large format device that supports pen-input (via an add-on pen and case) positioning it against Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note.

Who’s impacted

  • Field support teams
  • Telecoms / comms teams
  • Workforce transformation strategists
  • End-point / security teams

What’s Next?

While Samsung’s DeX feature is interesting, IBRS has seen very few organisations launching DeX desktop experiences from smartphones. For now, this remains an ‘experimental’ idea, limited to tech. However, launching DeX desktop experiences from tablets is growing in popularity.

Samsung is betting heavily on 5G, especially in regard to new services on its devices. The new cameras can produce not only high-resolution images, but high-colour sensitivity (12-bit) RAW images and depth of field information, which open up new applications for asset management, field maintenance, and design. Any files that leverage these camera capabilities will be large. 5G networks will make such files viable in field applications.

From recent client research, IBRS notes that organisations using premium consumer-grade devices (namely Apple and Samsung) for field force tasks overestimate the battery life of these devices, and as a result, the replacement cycle needed. When such devices are used for ‘typical’ consumer use, batteries last for 3-4 years before their capacity diminishes to a point where they are problematic. In contrast, such devices used for field-forces result in batteries decaying within 2 to 2 ½  years. Therefore, buyers of enterprise smartphone devices need to monitor device health, adjust their device procurement lifecycles - and budgets - accordingly.

Samsung’s new S21 range supports enterprise features and cameras that make them attractive for field use. The range of price points for the S21 series make them attractive against their rival in enterprise smartphones.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. Keeping your mobile device strategies up to date

The Latest

2 December 2020: DXC Technology is partnering with Microsoft to create modern workplace experience. This effort is aimed at addressing the demand by enterprises to improve workplace agility, which has come into sharp relief during the pandemic.

Why it’s Important

This announcement clearly shows Microsoft’s strategy for securing not just segments of the enterprise architecture of the future but the lion’s share. 

Enterprise companies are driving the business transformation to enhance collaboration, increase mobility, and improve customer engagements. This announcement comes as competition such as Salesforce heats up through several acquisitions, and Microsoft’s long-time rival, Oracle, makes inroads into new models of SaaS.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO / CTO
  • Enterprise software architecture team

What’s Next?

Microsoft, like all vendors, has a strategy to extract ever more revenue from its clients.  However, Microsoft's unique position in the market gives it huge power. Understanding how Microsoft will evolve its services and licensing models is essential for keeping budgets in control.

As explored in this week’s Salesforce Slack announcement, IBRS sees that one option for the future digital workplace architecture is based on five platforms.

  1. A platform consisting of central systems of record (e.g., CRM, ERP, etc.) in the Cloud or Cloud-like environments
  2. An integration platform that surrounds the mentioned platforms 
  3. A one (or likely two) low-code platform(s) 
  4. A platform that provides the needed collaboration tools  
  5. A federated information management platform.

Indeed, Salesforce is buying the platforms it needs and integrating them then, leveraging its strength in selling it to both technical and non-technical executives. On the other hand, Microsoft is starting from a position of technical strength and deep connection with the systems integrators. 

This is evident with the DXC agreement, which is a classic strategy. Leveraging larger SIs as a strategy to deliver a future digital workplace architecture, with Microsoft 365 and Teams (collaboration), Dynamics 365 (core systems), Power Platform (low code and automation), and Power BI (business intelligence).  

Related IBRS Advisory

IBRS analyst Dr. Joseph Sweeney provides best practice-advice on working from home in the current pandemic situation. Dr. Joseph Sweeney discusses current working from home policies which are mandated due to public health reasons, and explains how he has helped many organisations to adopt proper work-from-home practices.

Full Story.

Is your Working From Home Policy causing you grief?

Most organisations’ Working From Home policies are created under the assumption that people would be seeking permission to remote work. As a result, they focus on things that are simply not applicable to, or even blockers for, mandated working from home and self-isolation. 

Worse, many policies have clauses that are impossible to enforce during this pandemic, go against government recommendations and potentially open the organisation up for workplace challenges. At the very least, older WHF policies can confuse and worry staff.

To help, IBRS has created a template for a simple, practical WHF policy, written in staff-friendly language. You can quickly customise and download this policy template as a Microsoft Word file.

Click here to create your Working From Home Policy template

 

Workforce Transformation: Complimentary Whiteboard Session
 
One of the key themes at IBRS is the workforce of the future and workforce transformation. Organisations are grappling with how they transform their workforce and what role technologys play in the next iteration of the future workplace.
 
Over the past 24 months, Dr Joe Sweeney has interviewed over 200 C-suite executives from Australian organisations, facilitated peer discussions at over 14 executive roundtables and has presented at many conferences on this topic.
 
As an attendee of Digital Edge, we would like to extend an invitation to run a complimentary 90 minute whiteboard session for your organisation on the workforce transformation, and the future work. This invitation is limited to the first 15 to register below.
 
Who should attend?
  • IT
  • HR
  • Marketing
Why is IBRS offering this?

1. We want to help you and your team gain an understanding of where technology and the workforce is heading, including

  • what are the critical technologies that are driving change?
  • how to develop a digital culture?
  • how will ICT roles change in the next decade?
  • what is the impact on organisational structures of digital workspace and deep collaboration?

2. We are genuinely interested in what Australian organisations are doing in this space

3. We want to give back to those who have participated in our research

4. We want to highlight the capability of IBRS and how we can offer practical advice

We hope that you take up this offer. IBRS would welcome the opportunity to guide and advise you in this complicated and evolving topic.
 

To request a workforce of the future whiteboard session, please provide your details below and we will contact you shortly to arrange a date and time for the session.


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The Future of Work: The Role of People

Foreword by Joseph Sweeney, IBRS Advisor
 
For the past 30 years, organisations have applied technology to people to make the workplace more productive. But despite substantial investments in technology, productivity has grown annually on average at just 1.8 percent.  Something was not working.   
 
During the last few years, we’ve seen a shift in power. Instead of organisations dictating technology, increasingly people are choosing the technology they wish to apply in the workplace. Initially seen as a problem, shadow IT, is now accepted and embraced.    
 

In December 2017, IBRS joined eight globally recognised thought leaders to discuss the Future of Work as part of Adobe's Think Tank series.

IBRS advisor, Dr Joseph Sweeney, not only presented a view of how technology is impacting the workforce during the live panel discussion but also moderated the pre-event brainstorm session and assisted with pre-event briefings.

The discussion examined the long-term ramifications of the changing workplace, including:

  • technology's impact on traditional jobs

  • which jobs are under threat

  • opportunities for new roles

  • changing hiring and work practices

  • the disruption caused by the gig economy

  • the role of governments
    how education must change

    For more, click on the video below.

 

Two years ago, mobile device management (MDM) was the buzz. Mobile security was an essential part of a mobility strategy, and every enterprise needed one. Today, not so much.

"About 18 months ago at least, businesses across the whole market realised that the issue wasn't around mobility. Mobility was subsumed by this idea of 'any device, anywhere'," according to Joseph Sweeney, an advisor with IBRS who specialises in end user computing, including mobility, future workplace strategies, and enterprise solutions.

"We're now starting to treat the desktop and the tablets and all these other devices as one and the same thing. Most of the strategies I'm working with do not distinguish between mobile device and desktop," Sweeney told ZDNet.

"What's changed is that instead of trying to say that here's a bunch of untrusted devices, and here's a bunch of trusted devices, people are realising that everything is an untrusted device, including the stuff in the office."

Full Story

By Guy Cranswick

The standard method to assess the future is through the type and function of technologies. The starting point is the way new technologies modify processes and thereby rebalance requirements and outputs. An alternative approach is to examine how executive management will adapt to technological innovation, because management maintains longstanding principles and objectives that are noteworthy in the implementation of technologies.

The rate of change can appear dazzling and complicate accurate perceptions and understanding of long-running forces. The way to solve this common problem is to use fundamental principles, or axioms, in order to forecast a plausible view of the future. This method was done in a 1958 Harvard Business Review article (‘Management in the 1980s’, Harold J. Leavitt & Thomas L. Whisler, https://hbr.org/1958/11/management-in-the-1980s), in what transpired to be a remarkably prescient examination on the state of management in the 1980s. The article is also notable for using the phrase ‘information technology’ for the first time.

We propose, in similar spirit, a generational look into the future using the same principles. It should not be read literally. Twenty-five years is too distant to be confident of any forecast and the 1958 paper more closely modelled the 1990s, which demonstrates that forecasts can miss, although not be entirely useless.