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Maintaining Business Continuity in a Mobile and Cloud Environment

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Editor’s note: Organizations are struggling with the ramifications of being at the intersection of opposing forces: standardization and control versus the freedom of consumerization of IT and flexibility of cloud services. Business continuity is one area where there are some interesting impacts from these forces. Wes Wasson, CMO of Citrix, discusses the ramifications and shares an insightful view of where the workplace mobile environment is headed.

SandHill.com: Where is the clash between these opposing forces?

Wes Wasson: We’re in the midst of the tectonic plates shifting between the PC era that we’ve all lived through for the past 20 years and this new cloud, mobile and consumerization era. It’s a people kind of movement that is causing a deliberate change IT. They now have to deliver into an environment where the employees bring their own devices and have their own expectations about how they should work. IT and the company don’t control the rules anymore, yet they still are responsible for governance, security, services that help employees be productive.

SandHill.com: When companies venture into this new environment, where are the bigger challenges? Is it the lack of technology to help them manage the environment, or is it more of a change management challenge?

Wes Wasson: Technology is always evolving. I honestly believe we’re now at the point where at least 85 percent of the challenges are mindset, policies, procedural and human rather than technology. Technology is no longer the hindrance on this.

Citrix, for example, has a software client called Receiver that is able to receive a company’s apps and data, and you can’t find a device that doesn’t work on it. Employees can get this free app on whatever device they want and basically run anything their company is doing — Windows apps, Web apps, SaaS apps, mobile apps — and run it in a secure way. These kinds of technologies are there today.

The challenges are in trying to figure out how to deal with the policies around managing employees when you can’t see them. Those things are slower for a lot of companies to get their heads around.

SandHill.com: You said that this app allows them to run anything in a secure way. But we still hear and read all the time about how many mobile solutions are not yet secure. Are people just behind in knowledge about what’s available?

Wes Wasson: I think so. Citrix and other companies in these spaces make solutions secure. I would agree that if I buy an iPad and use the native email that’s included on it, that’s not as secure as what most companies traditionally provide for their employees. But by using technologies that Citrix and other vendors provide, companies can ensure that they deliver secure applications, secure data services and secure email to devices.

SandHill.com: What are the trends as far as solutions being developed? Where are the gaps where solutions still need to be provided or need to evolve to address the challenges?

Wes Wasson: There are always things around the edges. I think where the most innovation needs to happen on the technology front is about making the user experience super-seamless so the employee doesn’t have to think about it.

For example, you will very shortly be able to pick up any device you want and have your documents and data for work sort of follow you from device to device without your ever having to think about what applications you were using, what device you were using, where the app was created, or where you saw a data point. All the things that you touch and create and interact with over recent periods will follow you from device to device. It’s not as seamless as that today, but that’s where most of the next technology innovation is going to come. Some of the technology we’re showing to customers right now, which will ship later this year, is along these lines and will drop jaws.

SandHill.com: What about business continuity risks? How do cloud and mobile technologies impact this crucial aspect of doing business?

Wes Wasson: Companies have built technology around a set of assumptions from the past 20 years that employees come into a physical office that the company owns, connect to a wired network that comes out of the wall in their physical cube or office, use company-owned devices, and use applications that the company probably spent three years building or fine-tuning, which sit in the data center in that building. That’s where the expense and complexity comes in to business continuity, from trying to support all these extra things.

If you continue designing around those assumptions, you will fail. To succeed, you need to flip this entire mindset on its head. Design your policies and systems with an assumption that all employees are mobile, use their own devices, and choose the apps they want from the cloud. When you think this way, you find that there is no incremental cost for business continuity. If there is a work disruption, the company doesn’t have to set up anything new; people do things exactly the same way that they do every day. Mobile and cloud technologies are the Holy Grail when work disruptions occur.

As an example, look at the companies that were best able to react in the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan last year. It wasn’t companies that had a disaster recovery set of three-ring binders. That never works because you can’t anticipate what the issues will be. Trying in a moment of stress to figure out how you’re going to communicate to employees is a flawed strategy. But the companies that were already using Citrix technology to deliver the mobile work experience to their employees went through it almost transparently. It didn’t matter where the employee was. On any device they could log in and the service was there and they could access whatever they needed for work.

What’s the safe bet in trying to predict what’s going to happen? In IT we used to succeed by making standardization bets. But things are changing far too rapidly now, and there’s so much self-service and choice out there. I think the only safe bet in a world like that is “any.” Companies have to design technology that can truly support any device and allow self-service to occur.

SandHill.com: Given this new environment is evolving quickly, where do you think we’ll be three years from now?

Wes Wasson: First of all, I believe we’ll be at a point where everything I’ve said so far no longer sounds unique and interesting because it will be the way everyone thinks. I think the change is going to come far faster than a lot of people think and it will be the assumed way everybody does business. I absolutely think it will happen over the next two to three years.

I also think there will be some really interesting shifts. For example, for the past decades, the mindset of companies is that employees join the company. I think in the next three years we’ll see the mindset shift to more of companies joining the employees’ world. Employees will have more of the center of gravity, more of the control. Companies will have to figure out how to deliver services in that world so employees can be productive. Employees will determine the way they want to work, the schedules that best fit their needs, the devices they want to use, etc. Companies will have to stop thinking about how to change the employees to operate in a company-centric world. It will be a very stark change, but I believe we’ll see this become the dominant approach within three years.

SandHill.com: That’s a huge change management problem for most companies. They’re going to have to move a lot faster.

Wes Wasson: I think so. We had a really interesting conversation recently with a Gartner senior research fellow who works with CIOs and companies that are working through business transformation and challenges like this. He has seen the more successful companies setting up reverse-mentoring programs that bring in young employees to mentor leaders in their 50s and 60s on how people in their 20s think.

SandHill.com: Any other predictions?

Wes Wasson: One of the things we’ve talked about here at Citrix and share with our customers is that companies need to hire more social scientists or anthropologists — people who think about human behavior and how people work. Those kinds of skill sets and professions are going to be much more at a premium and will need to happen in the technology circle.

I also think IT will move from a blue-collar profession to a white-collar profession in the three-year timeframe. They will spend less time building big long-term projects and more time enabling their employees to tap into all the services that will be widely available but do it in a way that’s efficient, seamless and secure.

Also, I believe the shift to a mobile work style will affect the way companies design offices. Look at what happened with home designs in the 1950s and 1960s. Most homes in the United States and in a lot of Europe were smaller and typically had a den for dad, a playroom for the kids and a sewing room for mom. The rooms were all separated for these activities. Then mobility entered the scene. They got a second car and mom got a job outside the home. As the family became more mobile, when they did come back together at the home, they still had their own activities and interests, but their need for human connection was much stronger than before. So home designs changed to include great rooms, family rooms, and much more open designs where people have their own places in those areas but there is a visual line of sight with a human connection.

I think we’re seeing the same thing in office design. As employees become more mobile and more disconnected and more of their work is done at a Starbucks or alone in their house or on a train, their need for human connectedness will be high when they do go into the office. They’ll go to the office to connect and collaborate with people. The office walls and cubes will come down and there will be hoteling space and a much more open, collaborative kind of environment.

SandHill.com: Do you think many companies are realizing the massive amount of change that’s coming with mobile and cloud technologies? I think a lot of companies are just now trying to grasp making a decision to go mobile.

Wes Wasson: I think you’re right. But the velocity of change is happening faster now. As an industry, we tend to think it will take companies four or five years to adopt and catch up with new technology waves. But that’s an artificial environment where the company controls everything in a centrally planned environment and takes five years to roll something out. In a free market where the employees make their own choices, changes will happen much faster.

Based on my personal interaction with companies, I think many of them are still at the early stages of even getting their heads around it. And in a lot of cases they have a skills deficit that will make it difficult to manage through these transitions. At least 40-50 percent of the CIOs I talk to absolutely get it. But the majority of them tell me that they are struggling with how to transform their own IT staff to be more enlightened and realize how rapidly these changes are going to occur.

Wes Wasson is SVP and CMO for Citrix, driving the company’s strategic vision of a world where people are free to work or play from anywhere. In addition to being a leading industry visionary in virtualization, networking and cloud computing, he is also well known for his sense of humor and rare talent for injecting both inspiration — and a bit of fun — into everything at Citrix. Wasson joined Citrix in 2005 through its acquisition of NetScaler, Inc. and has an extensive track record of success with nearly 25 years of experience in the data center infrastructure, networking and security markets.

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com

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