Notes from the ET Exchange Summit: EMM, EUC, and digital transformation

My mind is buzzing with all of the conversations I had last week—here are some of the interesting ones I can share.

I spent last week at the ET Exchange Summit, an event about digital transformation, and with roots in enterprise mobility. As with any conference, my mind is still buzzing with all the conversations that I had—which were equally about high-level digital transformation and the low-level details of end user computing—so today I’m sharing some of my notes. (With personal or corporate-identifying details omitted, of course.) I’ll also talk about how digital transformation and end user computing relate to each other.

EMM, UEM, Windows 10, and Microsoft

Who would have thought that all these years into the BYOD and EMM era, we would still be spending so much time talking about ownership? Anyway, it’s happening!

There was a lot of agreement that dealing with BYOD can still be tricky, and that the Android enterprise MDM experience has surpassed that of iOS. There were plenty of people carrying two phones (work and personal), and while in the past I would have been idealistic about making a dual-persona solution work, now I’m much more pragmatic—this is a rational reaction to technological limitations and privacy concerns.

Stipends for BYOD are becoming more common, but complicated split data plans and billing don’t seem to have caught on. And as much as I don’t like it, “container” seems to still be to common term for app-based MAM and third-party enterprise email clients.

When it comes to corporate ownership, I learned that sometimes companies forget to remove devices from the Apple Device Enrollment Program before they’re retired, meaning they’re effectively bricked by DEP. Most of the resell value is lost, and they’re worth much less as spare parts.

The EUC vendors, OEMs, and resellers at the show were all talking about Windows AutoPilot, as well as Knox Configure, Android zero touch, and the Apple Device Enrollment Program. People seem to respond well—automated device provisioning already has had a big effect on mobility, and soon it will on the desktop.

Along the same lines, OEM and service providers were touting “devices-as-a-service.” Windows AutoPilot is a part of this, but the real difference is that it’s not just leasing PCs, apparently it means flexible, on-demand, month-to-month hardware. We’ll have to look at the fine print, of course, and I want to know how many companies are interesting in this new model.

Moving onto Windows and Microsoft, almost every time I asked, attendees told me they were already rolling out Windows 10 in some form or another. In fact, I only had one person who hadn’t started yet. (This is surely a self-selecting group—getting started on migrations and attending digital transformation conferences go hand in hand.)

As usual, there was enthusiasm for Windows Modern Management at all levels of IT positions, but most are concentrating on the migration, first. For reference, we passed the halfway mark between Windows 10 GA and Windows 7 EOL just a few weeks ago, on October 21. Less than 26 months to go!

Office 365 was also very well represented among attendees. The consensus was that migrating Exchange is the easy part, and the harder part is actually leveraging all the other new features, such as Teams, and dealing with the stream of updates. (Contrast that with this Spiceworks survey that shows just how many companies are also using older versions of Office. 68% had Office 2007, 46% have Office 2003, and even Office 97 showed up.)

Finally, there was sure a lot of interest in Intune, both on the MDM and MAM side. Some companies like the Intune MAM features that can be applied to the Outlook and Office apps; others are kicking the tires because they can get it cheaper than their existing EMM. For now, I think it’s all about the use cases, as there are still many Intune can’t cover, but I’ll save that for another article.

IoT

While almost all the tools and knowledge we need for mobility and cloud are in place, IoT is completely different. One piece of advice I heard was to just start with one or two key pieces of data. For example, if your business involves refrigerators, are they on and what temperature are they?

In a session lead by Bob Egan, a question about the value and place of IoT came up, and I offered an (admittedly  simplistic) answer: It’s easy. Does your business involve “things?” If yes, then IoT matters. If not, it doesn’t. For example, we’re a media company that’s entirely online. IoT is not going to be in our wheelhouse anytime soon (except for writing about it, of course). But the company responsible for our building’s HVAC? They should care about IoT, because they have a lot of connected “things” to worry about.

Also related to IoT, hypervisors and virtualization are coming to smaller and smaller devices. Cog Systems, who you may remember from my profile of their smartphone security technology, is bringing their OKL4 Microvisor to small development board devices, like the Raspberry Pi 2.

App transformation

App modernization, transformation, and rapid mobile app development continues to be a very diverse field, with a wide variety of vendors and approaches.

There was a lot of high level strategic talk about this—i.e. IT has to work the the business units; companies have to have an executive on board with the project; ideas and innovation will come from everyday employees; etc. At the tactical level, there’s also the question of whether app modernization projects are under the purview of the EUC roles, or of app development roles.

I think this is a question that we’re going to be struggling with for quite some time, but I did learn a few things last week: First, job titles that include the term “digital workspace” are cropping up. Second, “enterprise portal” and “company intranet” are terms that people are using in conjunction with their end user computing and app modernizing efforts. Not only is it useful to have insights into the language people using, but also it’s interesting to note that the company intranet is alive and well.

Desktop virtualization

The big VDI challenges are solved, so now is a good time to come back to the question of wholesale desktop replacement. This came up in a conversation with a law firm that uses VDI for remote access, but physical PCs for primary office usage. One issue is that since everybody has two desktops (the VDI one and the physical one), the experience of going back and forth is disruptive. They’re thinking of just getting rid of the physical desktops, and going all in on VDI. We haven’t had this conversations in a while, but it’s a good reminder that VDI adoption continues to expand, and it’s time to circle back.

Digital transformation and farther out stuff

At least at this show, it seems like most people are over the machine learning hype. Still, some of the speakers, especially Maribel Lopez,  were careful to point out the difference between machine learning and general artificial intelligence.

In a session by Christine Ferrusi Ross, I learned about the concept of self-sovereign identity, backed by blockchain technology. Instead of big companies, your employer, medical providers, and other organizations holding all your data without much control, instead, you control access and give out only what is needed, only for as long as it is needed, possibly in tokenized form. Blockchain is used to collect, store, control, and validate the data; you hold your private key. It’s computationally expensive, and there are other weaknesses, but this presentation made me sit up and think about blockchain more than anything else I’ve ever heard.

Like citizen developers, citizen data scientists are also a thing. Both sound great in theory, but IT needs to put guardrails and tools in place before they can happen. Regardless, the idea that instead of building huge Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks with month-old data, you could look at a live, real-time dashboard is very exciting.

To wrap things up, I’ve been thinking about what this whole “digital transformation” thing means to me, as an end user computing blogger. Digital transformation is often framed as a business strategy-level effort, but I think we live it every day in the end user computing world as we’re going from Windows PC and on-premises applications to the mobile and SaaS world.

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