Are we too focused on typical office workers? The rise of the extended enterprise

Many recent end user computing developments have their biggest effect on contractor, field workers partner, and kiosk users, rather than typical office users.

As the conference season come to the close for 2017, here’s one thing that I‘ve been thinking about: There are a lot of interesting things going on in “extended enterprise” end user computing, but at times people overlook this and tend think of EUC only through an office worker lens.

Certainly, we spend a lot of time on office worker use cases because there are many complicated issues to deal with, like keeping enterprise desktops running, planning for Windows 10, and dealing with BYOD and shadow IT. And by definition, most of us in IT—whether we’re administrators, in leadership positions, bloggers or analysts, or work at a vendor—spend all of our time in this office worker world.

But consider the extended enterprise. This term isn’t quite universal, but I like it as a way to describe everything that doesn’t fit into the office worker bucket: contractors, part-time and seasonal employees, partners, and kiosk device users. The extended enterprise is growing, thanks to trends like paper-based processes going digital and the rise of the gig economy.

The extended enterprise brings some unique scenarios. Sometimes users might be working on a completely locked-down device; other times, the connection to the user may just be a single app on a personal device (think of an Uber driver, for example). Many extended enterprise users don’t have a corporate email address or an identity in Active Directory.

To have visibility and control over the extended enterprise, IT has newer technologies to learn. Field workers across all industries are being outfitted with corporate-liable tablets, and that means locking them down the Apple Device Enrollment Program, Samsung Knox, or Android enterprise profile owner mode. If your business model involves gig workers using their own devices, then you have to think about security the same way that other sensitive consumer-facing apps, like banking apps, do it.

The rise of the extended enterprise also changes the way we think about the future of certain vendors. Microsoft EMS and Office 365 may be strong default contender for supporting corporate office workers, but when plugging in thousands of extended enterprise devices and users, companies are more likely to consider a wider array of vendors.

One anecdote that I find interesting is the rise of Workplace by Facebook. For office workers, some people’s reaction has been “why do we need another enterprise social network or collaboration tool?” But when you consider in the light of the extended enterprise, it’s totally different. Think of retail employees where corporate communications might only take the form of a fax from HQ thumbtacked to the wall in a breakroom. Now imagine having a feature-rich collaboration platform that also requires no user training—this could have a significant positive effect.

Not all companies have extended enterprise users, devices, and apps to worry about, but for those of us in the end user computing space, sometimes we need a reminder to think beyond office users.

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