Ten minutes with Nathan McNeil, cofounder and chief strategy officer for Bomgar, a provider of remote IT support

What is the consumerization of IT?

If you backtrack in the IT industry, technology used to get started as government or Department of Defense applications, then over time it would migrate to business applications, then later would migrate to consumer applications. That’s how the Internet started – as a pure military network. In the last 10 years, what we’ve seen is a technology reversal. Things start as consumer technology that over time migrate into the enterprise, and last of all to the government. It’s a strange world to live in, given where we’ve come from. Enterprises have much less say and power than they used to, because if the end user is picking their own technologies, and pulling them into the enterprise, it’s more difficult for the enterprise. They used to say only use this device, etc. Now consumers are driving the technology change.

Are enterprises allowing BYOD [bring your own device]? Is that required to be successful?

It depends on the type of the organization. There has to be a balance struck between allowing flexibility for users to choose technologies that will make them the most effective and standardizing where necessary. If you’re completely nonstandardized, it can become a madhouse. However, if you only allow one OS and one smartphone, it’s likely to get overridden. You need to be able to collaborate across devices and access all systems of record. In the end, devices become just client to that network.

What is reasonable for workers to expect in terms of service levels and allowed devices?

For a majority of companies, users should expect some standards to be implemented – a user should not expect complete choice and control. From a service level standpoint, users should expect the services levels to be higher, the more standard their devices and applications are. If they choose to buck corporate standards, they should expect that the corporate service desk will probably not support them on some levels. You can reverse that – the service desk needs to anticipate that they’ll need to bring service levels across a wide variety of devices.

How can companies meet users expectations without sacrificing security, quality and speed?

Some of it comes down to the toolset – we’re not just a Windows world anymore. A Windows desktop is not going to be 98 percent of your support load. Build your toolset with that in mind. In my view, the mobile devices you are seeing now are categorically different in the type of support needs they have. A laptop is portable, but you won’t use it as you’re walking – whereas a tablet or smartphone you would. Support centers should not expect users will be in a Wi-Fi hotspot – they can be anywhere. Smartphones or tablets don’t have time use restrictions. A 24x7 support for the enterprise is fast approaching. With a smartphone, it may be awkward to troubleshoot while talking on the device at the same time. Text-based channels will be more important. Also, the expectation for support is generally faster – if you’re in a cab on the way to a client site and a device is not working, it’s less likely you’ll be patient waiting for support.

As someone who’s been watching this industry for a while, do you have any predictions for the future of the trend?

Right now, the desktop and laptop is the majority, and mobile devices are still a small percentage. We’ll need to pay attention to when the focal point shifts to where more of our work is done on tablet or smartphone devices. Our work habits are shifting. As soon as we do more “heavy lifting” on devices, which are becoming more capable, it could swiftly move from 10 to 50, 60, even 75 percent of support load over the next 10 years.

Any other key issues?

Over time you’ll see a consolidation of those service models where organizations are trying to support devices and desktops. So that’s a need for the service desk to pull together a port for multiple devices into a central service desk. The mobile world may be more flexible, but you have to maintain security as well. The infrastructure you use needs to maintain security, and the audit trail of what you do when you support the device is important.

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