October 10, 2011
Sedition is simmering in the halls of corporations the world over, as the thirst for productivity and new tools grows faster than IT organizations can quench it with supply. 2012 promises to be the most transformative year for end user computing since the release of the IBM PC in 1981. The escalation of 4 trends – each individually interesting but together explosive, will bring phase changes in the way Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives work, and offer previously captive employees new options for productive freedom by this time next year.
- As in IT revolutions past, on the front lines are restless high-performers (executives, technology pros and creatives), whose nature drives them to push the limits of themselves, their tools, and their support networks, and bring their own technology to the office when their employers won't provide it. More employees will bring their own computer to the office than ever before in 2012 – most of them Macs – and if IT won't support them, they'll find another way that doesn't include IT.
- Cloud-based applications and services such as Dropbox and Projectplace are convincing these folks that they can get better results faster, without IT involved. And these services are priced at a point where it's cheaper than a few skinny soy chai lattes (no whip!) every week, so many employees just pay the tab themselves.
- There is an app for everything, from salesforce.com to finding the closest airport lounge. This trend will find its way into enterprise apps as the red ink starts to flow in the renewals departments of fat, stodgy software giants. Blasting customers with monstrous annuities while adding no appreciable new value is fun for a while (I've done it myself!), but to keep them from defecting and maybe even invest in upgrading will require new value, and mobile apps will be the ticket.
- Virtul desktops used to come with shackles and thumbtacks because if it was your only workspace, you couldn't leave your desk and it was so painful to use, you had to sit on thumbtacks to distract you from the pain. No more. Performance, personalization, mobility and usability have all improved. They're still not a good fit for mobile workers, but tablet clients for virtualized desktops offer data-in-a-pinch utility for those moments of panic on the train.
All of this will be set against the backdrop of Windows 7 on the majority of corporate laptops and PCs, after 10 years of Windows XP. The interesting nuance that bears watching is — for the top performers and HEROs, the apex of the bell curve has long passed and everyone knows how to use Windows for advanced knowledge work these days. Ergo, it's no longer as easy to differentiate oneself on the strength of being Windows-savvy. The Windows PC may no longer be the most compelling source of personal competitive advantage or convenience, as it was in the 90s. On top of that, even if Windows 8 shapes up to be a beauty (which looks to be the case!) most employees are chained to the Windows update cycle dictated by their IT organizations. The only way around it is to push a completely different personal technology agenda, and be left alone while IT catches up. More next week as we explore what it means and make some surprising calls for 2012.