SoMoClo Driving Worksocial Enterprise

Data center managers must anticipate the emergent trends of social, mobile, and cloud and facilitate a collaborative work environment.

By Michael Beckley

It’s the post-PC era. Mobile, social, and cloud are changing enterprise systems -- and employee expectations.

The increased use of mobile, social, and cloud technologies has become a fact of life at most enterprises. The upside is that employees are more productive when technology encourages collaboration, ease of deployment, and mobility, and many businesses have taken steps to enable these technologies to that end. Yet, although users expect more control over the provisioning and use of their applications, IT is still expected to protect the business from external threats and to maintain the integrity of core systems.

From inside the enterprise to outside in the vendor world, there are varying levels of awareness of what these social, mobile, and cloud technologies mean to data center managers. Some who have looked at the problem holistically have deployed business process management (BPM) to foster a more user-controllable type of application that follows business rules and data governance. Such BPM-infused social and mobile applications have converged, facilitating collaboration and execution of business objectives in the same environment. That environment can be split into small workgroups or distilled for use on the road. This new paradigm is called “worksocial.”

Implications for the Data Center

How will this change what happens in the data center? Here are some of the implications of these trends.

Volatility will be the new normal. The worksocial enterprise will have widely varying needs from day to day. A high level of variability will exist in data traffic within and between apps, as workgroups form and disband, promotions are run and canceled, and strategies are tested. The infrastructure supporting these apps must scale out quickly and retract just as quickly when assets are no longer required. The need for flexibility doesn’t stop at the technology itself. In addition, the operational style of the data center will also change, resembling the iterative, frequent, small steps forward taken by DevOps practitioners, as opposed to the centrally managed six-month plans of the past. In this new mode of responsiveness, the enterprise data center will begin to look more like a consumer-oriented business.

Device management will become more complex. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are quickly overtaking desktop and laptop computers as the preferred productivity tool for consumers and enterprise workers alike. This creates new challenges for IT, which must determine how to protect core assets while enabling new devices. As the footprint and quantity of devices expands, IT won’t be relieved of its traditional duties. Instead, it must add device approval, enablement, and protection to its responsibilities -- while allowing end users to collaborate in increasingly significant ways.

Applications will arrive from many sources. Employees no longer expect IT to provide all the tools they need to perform work. Applications may be introduced into the work environment from external sources. Again, you must decide which applications will be purchased or developed in-house, which will be tolerated if obtained from outside IT, and which will be disallowed. In many ways, Enterprise IT will become a kind of IT store, an app store in which apps from all sources are classified by IT as supported, approved but not supported, or banned. Policies will need to be written accordingly.

APIs will become very important. The explosion of apps, whether internal, third-party, mobile, on-premise or cloud, has the potential to confound management unless some mode of dealing with them consistently is developed. Application program interfaces (APIs) will become more critical than ever. When managed well, APIs provide standard, consistent platforms for delivering a high level of service in multiple formats, to an unpredictable number and variety of apps and users, while sparing core assets from a deluge of requests and possible security risks. In the coming years, API management, scaling, and security will be core IT competencies, whether the technology is purchased or built.

Security will be layered. Because users are coming from virtually anywhere, security won’t be isolated behind a rigid firewall. Users could access enterprise systems from potentially any device, whether company-issued or their own, and a variety of user characteristics will be in play. Thus, security must be deployed conditionally, based on, among other factors, the user profile (e.g., level of authorization or clearance) and the context in which access is requested (is it from a restricted nation or unauthorized location?). Authentication, as a consequence, will also be more layered, as the work of the Open Group on the Jericho Forum anticipates in its concept of a “rapidly de-perimeterizing” world.

Data and content will be distributed. Data won’t live only in a centralized database or data warehouse but will flow in and out of mobile devices, collaboration sites, and partner portals. This increases the necessity for a granular, layered approach to authentication as well as to backup and disaster recovery.

Remedies

Several trends will help IT do its job better in the world of worksocial. The Jericho Forum has made great strides toward operational excellence with its “commandments” for secure business collaborations across global, open network environments. The cloud becomes more enterprise-ready every day, affording a wide range of operational controls and packaged services that can meet almost any SLA.

An increasing number of BPM tools now offer solutions for designing, managing, and optimizing business processes for all of the major mobile platforms. The most advanced of these BPM suites use a “write once, deploy anywhere” approach that minimizes the development and maintenance demands of coding separate apps for different platforms. They also remove many mobility security concerns through secure network communication and authentication, storing only the minimum amount of data required for local processing on the device. These BPM suites also provide cloud security levels that can be tough to match in even the strictest on-premise deployments.

Conclusion

The consumerization of IT shows no signs of abating. A responsive, agile and flexible IT department is critical to business survival in the worksocial age. The data center manager, who anticipates the emergent trends of social, mobile, and cloud and facilitates a collaborative work environment, will become an increasingly indispensable asset to tomorrow’s competitive business.

Michael Beckley, an industry visionary and pioneer in cloud, mobile, and social business process management technology, serves as Appian’s chief technology officer and is a co-founder of the company. Beckley is responsible for guiding and evangelizing Appian’s BPM product vision, advancing BPM industry standards, and overseeing Appian’s government solutions group including acquisition business management, HR, case management, and mobile workforce enablement. Prior to Appian, he was a product manager at business intelligence software firm MicroStrategy. You can contact the author at mailto:michael.beckley@appian.com.

comments powered by Disqus