Consumers push workplace change

Each week we ask high-profile technology decision-makers three questions.

Image caption Mark Leonard of Colt

This week it is Mark Leonard, executive vice president of the infrastructure services unit (ISU), at Colt Group.

Colt (formerly Colt Telecom) is a FTSE 250 firm founded in 1992 that provides European enterprises and wholesale customers with a resource that combines network and IT infrastructure with IT managed services, networking and communication services.

The company operates a 13-country, 25,000km network that includes metropolitan area networks in 34 major European cities with direct fibre connections into 16,000 buildings and 19 Colt data centres. One of the company's main customers is the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

It's a common problem, and it's faced by a lot of chief information officers, and that is what I call the rise of consumerisation.

Let me just try and define that for you a little bit better. Today employees can get better experience of IT as a consumer than they can in the office.

Perhaps your only experience of IT was in the workplace 15 years ago. Today someone can walk round to PC world, they can buy a laptop, they can buy a broadband wireless router, they can come home, the can configure it all, they can get online.

They can do everything and it's a fantastic experience. They come in for work and the monolithic structure we've built to support the corporate and provide security around it delivers a tired and clunky IT experience.

We are now deluged by users who want to bring that same experience into the workplace. And we're seeing that most typically right now by people saying, "hey, I've got a smartphone, why can't I use that at work?" Let alone an iPad or any other kind of tablet. Or, "why do I have to use a Windows PC, why can't I use a Mac?"

I think it's the response to this that is a defining moment in the industry.

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

It's how we deal with the issue of consumerisation, and how cloud-based or elastic computing models and virtual desktop technology will enable the enterprise to overcome these issues.

In our context, we took a decision earlier this year to ask our staff what smartphone they would like to use in the office. Either a Blackberry or iPhone. And 88% of our staff said they wanted an iPhone.

We're now in the process of rolling this out to all of our staff across the 13 countries we operate in and India where we have a shared service centre.

We've also embraced consumerisation as a model, so today anyone in Colt can bring their own PC to work, and we deliver all the corporate systems in a virtual desktop. Delivered out of the cloud to our users, and we give them a payment that covers wear and tear and insurance, so we're giving them something back for bringing in their own PC.

We have some 2,000 virtual desktop users, which is two-thirds of our employees to date, and we're in the process of rolling it out to everyone else. We're also moving to a model which is slightly more complicated for people who perhaps don't have a PC yet or whose PC is an old one, we're looking at a model where we actually subsidise the individual's purchase of a computing device.

We've already seen that mature in the time we've been looking at it from laptops to a combination of a thin client terminal for use in the office, a secure solution that allows them to access it at home, and a tablet device that they can use when they're on the move.

It's quite an exciting moment in time because I think it fundamentally starts to change the way people consume their technology at work.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

I'll give you three answers which lead to the same route.

One I have made is believing that the technology will be ready on time, it's a common mistake and one you have to be very conscious to avoid.

I think the other common mistake is forgetting that it's only 2% about the technology and it's 98% about people. And whether that's the people who are delivering the change that comes with the technology, or the people accepting the change the technology brings, you have to factor that into the equation.

Those are mistakes that I am continually reminding myself to avoid.

The third part of that is always make sure that the requirements are captured cleanly and that they match the solution.

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