The New Data Center desktop

Users love to customize their desktops. Your challenge is to work with, not against, them.

Have you given much thought to what today's increasingly sophisticated users will be like in a decade? Because you are building the infrastructure that will support these future workers, don't wait too long before you do. A look at the next-generation workforce.

Have you given much thought to what today's increasingly sophisticated users will be like in a decade? Because you are building the infrastructure that will support these future workers, don't wait too long before you do.

One of the main differences that will define the next-generation workforce from today's is the level of individualization people will bring to their work. Pundits predict that in 10 years every employee will completely personalize and customize the IT environment for the task at hand. Likewise, the workplace will respond by completely customizing the workers and teams it hires for the project at hand.

Evidence of such individualization is already visible. Try as you might to provide a full range of technology choices, many of today's workers always want more, the ability to customize the desktop has become part of their social DNA. An employee in accounting downloads a media player because background music helps him better concentrate on his number crunching. A project manager asks team members to use an open source groupware tool he favors for collaboration and calendaring purposes. A workgroup begins using a free instant-messaging client, regardless of any policy IT may have set on its use.

In a recent poll, Gartner asked 170 people the extent to which they customize their personal workspaces by adding their own tools, devices, software, music, information resources and the like. Nearly one-half (48%) of respondents reported customizing their work environments aggressively or moderately. Only 10% said they did not customize at all.

Considering consumer behavior, social connectivity and the plethora of personal devices workers have at their disposal, each year such personalization of the desktop will increase and, by 2015, you can safely assume that the average worker will customize 90% of his tools and information resources, says Diane Morello, a research vice president at Gartner. This personalization will go hand in hand with the customization of an individual's work culture: A worker will have choices galore for job mobility, the ability to affiliate with global communities, the chance to become a "free agent" or to participate in globally distributed work teams, Gartner reports.

From mass customization, we'll see extreme individualization, Morello predicts. A Gartner report, co-written by Morello, explains: "Future workers will be more independent, take a high degree of control over defining and creating their workplace and work model, operate more globally, become highly active in creating and programming media, take on more responsibility for defining business models, and drive and create change."

The stark reality, she adds, is that 90% of companies today are lagging behind in the thinking and the skills necessary to support this future worker. If you're among that vast majority, and remain so in coming years, you'll forever be climbing uphill, she says. Workers will regularly force IT decisions, not just occasionally as they have in the past. Smart, forward-thinking IT executives (and other business leaders) will take the time today to understand the customization trend and consider the implications for tomorrow's enterprise, Morello adds.

The good news is that if you've begun to build a Web-centric, virtualized, open New Data Center architecture capable of providing a variety of on-demand resources and supporting a vastly extended enterprise, then you're on the right track. And if you're trying to figure out how best to support collaboration, then all the better. Ultimately, far-flung, virtual work teams will be the norm, and by starting today to support intensely collaborative work situations you'll grow your IT expertise as virtual work teams grow in dominance.

Also important is to experiment with how to increase IT's flexibility, while still keeping wraps on management. Rather than standardizing on one set of desktop tools for all employees, for example, offer users the ability to pick and chose from an array of tool options - and make those tools easily downloadable no matter what type of device users have or where they're situated. In other words, make yourself the go-to guy (or gal) for users even as they assert their independence and customize their workspaces.

Your long-term goal, Gartner suggests, is to transform yourself from technology provider to trusted adviser. No matter when today's customization results in extreme individualization, that's not a bad idea at all.

Previous: New players in the New Data Center

Learn more about this topic

Google updates desktop search app

02/09/06

Moving beyond server virtualization

01/09/06

Starwood CTO Tom Conophy explains his desktop outsourcing strategy

10/24/05

Enterprise honorable mentions

05/23/05

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)