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August 11, 2011

The Consumerization of IT: an ITEXPO West Interview

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
The evolution within the telecommunications and technology spaces over the last year has not only responded to, but also generated significant trends. In anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO West event in Austin, TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani spoke with Chris Perret, CEO of Nukona Inc. to gain insight on the market. According to Perret, there are two main trends taking place in the enterprise: the introduction of the iPad and the development of value-added apps, and the switch to employee-liable policies. As for the next disruptive force in technology, Perret points to the consumerization of IT.

The adoption of the cloud model has made an impact at Nukona as all employees bring their own devices to work so the company can leverage varies pieces of the cloud infrastructure to reduce overall costs. Common requests from Nukona customers include the need to support corporate applications running on both business and personal mobile devices. Perret also highlighted that social media provides an opportunity to gain insight and feedback from a wide variety of customers. Whether or not Google+ will become bigger than Facebook, Perret felt this was a tough question to answer.

For the upcoming ITEXPO West event, Perret is looking forward to seeing the impact of the big three trends: mobile, cloud computing and social business. During the event, Perret will be addressing the consumerization of IT and how IT organizations need to be thinking about their needs.

Their entire conversation follows:

How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?

There is dramatic change due to the rapid evolution of smart mobile devices into more than just phones with email.  Two main trends related to this are occurring in the enterprise:

The introduction of the iPad has led many organizations to start designing and developing new corporate apps specifically for the mobile form factor, rather than just using mobile devices for email and limited web surfing

Organizations are increasingly switching to employee-liable policies. This BYOD (bring your own device) trend is changing the landscape with respect to what employees expect from their technology in the work environment.  Restricting people to Blackberries and Windows laptops is just not acceptable any more

What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?

The Consumerization of IT.  The next generation computing platform is mobile, app-centric, always connected, multi-form factor, used for both business and personal activities and is driven by consumer choice, rather than by corporate IT mandate.  The wave has started and it’s changing the way we work. 

Enterprise IT will have to transition to a model which is much closer aligned with consumer interaction paradigms – social business collaboration, consumer device choice, ratings, reviews and feedback on corporate developed applications. 

And new, younger employees coming from the “Facebook Generation” are simply not going to accept a 20th century style of working.

How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?

At Nukona, all employees bring their own devices to work, choosing the devices that they prefer to get their work done.   We also take advantage of various pieces of cloud infrastructure to reduce our costs.  We have been able to get the whole organization up and running, getting product out the door at a fraction of the costs it would have taken a short few years ago.  We started Nukona in the summer of 2010.  We were able to design, develop and bring our product to market with literally zero infrastructure cost.  And now that we have a full production environment, we can scale easily. 

The traditional model would have required us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on infrastructure to support this, instead of a modest monthly fee.

What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?

Our customers need to be able to support corporate applications running on both business and personal mobile devices without the risk of corporate data loss.

For many organizations, the impact of corporate data loss can be extremely serious or even disastrous.  Enterprises can have huge liability if company confidential or customer confidential information gets into the public domain.  So the challenge of managing and securing mobile devices in such a way that corporate apps can be used successfully without risking losing corporate data is pretty daunting. 

The challenge of having apps that access corporate data is exacerbated by the ability for any modern mobile device to run file sharing software such as Box or Dropbox (News - Alert).  If the corporate app can store a file locally on the device then it can potentially be shared accidentally or maliciously with anyone.

Nukona provides an elegant means of solving these challenges with our unique Policy Engine.  With no SDK or changes required to any app, this allows IT to define policies related to the apps as to whether they are allowed to write data to the device, if so whether that data needs to be automatically encrypted and whether document sharing is enabled within the app or not. 

When the collaboration app is distributed to the users, these policies are "baked in" so that the employee using the app will not be able to accidentally go against corporate policy.  And if the data is accidentally shared or if the tablet is lost or stolen, the data is fully encrypted with the keys to decrypt managed by IT and stored off the device. 

How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies?

We started Nukona in 2010 and so the game had already changed as far as the impact of social media on the way we think about doing business.  From a service point of view, we want to know immediately if any one of our free or paying customers are mentioning us in posts (positive or negative) and we will respond accordingly, hopefully, in a very timely manner. 

But the impact is even greater from a product development point of view.  No longer is our process limited to the number of customers and prospects that we can talk directly to about their requirements – by signing up for and participating in the relevant LinkedIn (News - Alert) groups and Twitter feeds, it is possible to get an immense amount of data related to the challenges that people are facing and the approaches that are being used or proposed to address those challenges – in other words the holy grail for a product manager.

Now that doesn’t mean that the social media can replace the value of great product management in terms of ensuring that our products meet the requirements of both the market and our business, but it definitely changes the day-to-day activities.

Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?

This is a tough question to answer.  Google+ concepts around managed circles is very interesting, but we are all reaching some level of social media exhaustion.  Just how many social media sites can a person log into?  I see people use Facebook for personal, and LinkedIn for professional social media, effectively managing their circles by using separate services.

Ultimately I think there is a chance for a major player to make an aggregation play that truly enables all social feeds to be filtered and consumed in a manner that can be tailored for each individual user.  Twitter made a very nice acquisition with TweetDeck.  If Google+ had the ability to easily consume feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. into their streams then they could leap out in front technologically and functionally. 

But whether they can get the tens of millions of users (hundreds?) to make it viable as the primary option is, of course, the big question.

As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility?  What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?

We’re focused on enabling businesses make a smooth transition to the new mobile enterprise.  But the reality is that many IT departments are still stuck with 20th century management tools whereas their primary constituents – their users – are definitely not.  Successfully supporting mobile in the enterprise today is a lot more than using VPN, providing email clients and giving remote access to a corporate desktop – the landscape has changed forever and anyone who doesn’t move to embrace the consumerization of IT will be in danger of being left behind.

One of the main barriers to delivering on a comprehensive, modern mobile deployment strategy is the challenge of supporting personal (i.e. employee-liable) devices in the enterprise, without introducing issues related to corporate data loss and compliance.

So at Nukona we are all about making it easy for the IT department to regain and maintain the types of controls that are a necessary part of the function, while at the same time enabling them to deliver an outstanding, consumer-style experience to their users.  And to do that we are allowing organizations to apply policy and add security to the corporate apps and the data that the apps access, irrespective of whether they are being used on a personal or business-owned device.

How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android (News - Alert) vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out?

In the new landscape, it’s all about apps. It’s clear that there are two dominant app communities (and therefore OS’es) out there now: Apple’s iOS and Android.  And the models are so clearly different with Apple’s dominant brand and vertically integrated platform strategy versus Android’s multi-vendor, multi-platform approach that it is extremely unlikely that either will win out at the expense of the other.

The fact that consumer preference is now driving device choice for enterprises makes it very challenging for RIM, as their primary value proposition in the past was around an enterprise-approved device. That said, they have a lot of cash and a serious installed base to build from. 

As for WinMo, I recently got a chance to play with one of these devices and found it to be a very nice phone.  The number of apps available and general marketplace availability of apps seemed to be a problem, but I could see Microsoft (News - Alert) re-emerging with a combination of cloud-based enterprise services and great consumer User Experience. It is too early to say whether the Nokia deal for Microsoft or the might of HP’s sales, marketing and channel organizations can propel WM7 or WebOS into the conversation.  It’s certainly not impossible but they are starting from a long way back.

Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?

HTML5 in itself is not the game-changer.  The change in the computing paradigm away from desktop PC ‘s to app-centric, always connected, multi-form factor, consumer-oriented devices is happening at a pace that is quite amazing.  Most studies I am reading predict that there will be twice as many smart mobile devices in use over PC’s within a few years and that’s going to happen regardless of whether HTML5 is there to support it or not.

Having said that, the ability for developers to create apps which can run without change on a phone, tablet, PC, or embedded device (such as a car entertainment system or set top box) and take full advantage of rich multi-media content is obviously extremely appealing and will drive a lot of innovation in many different markets.

At least for the next few years, there will still be a strong market for native apps (e.g. apps that are designed specifically for iOS or Android) but over time it is entirely feasible that HTML5 could become the de facto app technology.

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?

There is an absolutely astonishing amount of innovation occurring in the technology industry right now and, since Nukona is focused on providing value to enterprise IT, I am most looking forward to the sessions in the Enterprise track, and seeing the impact of the “big three” trends on enterprise thinking: mobile, cloud computing and social business.

What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session, “Managing the Deluge of Third-Party Devices and Apps in the Enterprise”, and why should attendees be sure to attend?

I will be addressing the consumerization of IT and how IT organizations need to be thinking about their needs.  At the end of the day, Enterprise IT needs to be addressing the common concerns around governance and management, even though the landscape is changing quickly and dramatically. 

Nukona has been thinking about this for a significant amount of time and the ramifications of the transition to the next generation computing platform for IT are significant.  So if you believe that the move to the new mobile enterprise is something that you need to build into your IT strategy, then you simply cannot miss my session.



Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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