How to achieve 'frictionless' IT

There's a growing disconnect between enterprise IT and personal IT, which needs to be addressed

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How to achieve 'frictionless' IT Alessandro Perilli is general manager of Red Hat’s Cloud Management Strategy.
By  Alessandro Perilli Published  January 24, 2016

With the term frictionless IT, we mean an enterprise IT that just works, reshaped after the experience offered by modern consumer-grade public cloud services, which business users are growing to expect. If we don’t start moving towards Frictionless IT, we all risk irrelevance.

Current generations of IT professionals are experiencing a growing disconnect between enterprise IT and personal IT.

Enterprise IT remains reliable, but in most cases slow to procure, complex to use, and overall frustrating. Think about your expense report system.

Personal IT is evolving into a set of instantaneously available, incredibly easy to understand and blazing fast at executing the tasks that they are supposed to execute. Think about Gmail, Dropbox, Evernote, IFTTT, and the plethora of other public cloud services that we all interact with on daily basis through our phones, tablets, and laptops.

The first problem with this split brain between personal and enterprise IT is that our brain is exactly the same, inside and outside the office. Any interaction with this emerging Personal IT raises the bar on how the IT experience should be. The more we use Gmail, Dropbox, Evernote and IFTTT in our personal life, the more our expectations grow for a similar experience at work. We wonder more and more, “If my personal IT is such a breeze to use, why does my enterprise IT have to be miserable?”
The second problem is that current generations can endure frustrating enterprise IT only because that’s all that they have experienced for decades. New generations will not be so forgiving. The kids in college today, and those who just started their first job in a new, exciting startup, are growing used to only one kind of IT experience: the frictionless one.

At some point in the near future, these kids will land more reliable and less stressful jobs in large enterprises. It will not be just one or two individuals with a different set of expectations joining a typical bank or insurance company. It will be a whole generation that permeates every department of an end user organisation, from marketing to engineering, with a completely different set of demands and expectations. The overwhelming majority of IT organisations, and the traditional solution providers that support them, are completely unprepared to meet that demand.

We believe that at least three ingredients are necessary to meet the demand for frictionless IT:ease of use, speed, and integration.

Ease of use

A key enabler for a frictionless IT is a smooth user experience (UX). The user experience is defined by the quality of an interaction between the human and the system, and it takes place when you deploy, integrate, customise and use enterprise systems. Intelligent installers and self-contained binaries, simplified back-end architectures, supported out-of-the-box plug-ins, modular front-ends, consistent UIs and even coherent documentation all contribute to improve the quality of the UX. However, very few organisations in the world look at these aspects from a holistic standpoint and take a user-centric approach. For example, the user interface (UI), in both commercial-off-the-shelf and custom-made applications, is one of the most overlooked aspects of enterprise software.

If you think that investing in state-of-the-art UI is unnecessary, or not worth the effort, think again. The primary reason why some public cloud offerings become overnight successes at a planetary scale is their intuitive UI. In our Personal IT we are already getting used to intuitiveness, and the demand for it is supported by the broad market offering. We have already reached the point that when an app on our smartphones is too complex to use in the first few minutes, we simply delete it and download an alternative. There’s no second chance for the app that is not frictionless.

Now let’s go back to the upcoming generation of technology consumers. Even among the most technical of them, some may have never built a computer by screwing a motherboard to the case (like many of us did, including me), used a command prompt or plugged in a network cable. Those users will expect that installing software will be as frictionless as deploying a virtual appliance, plugging a cable will be as frictionless as drawing a line on a service catalog UI and so on.

Speed

A second key enabler for a frictionless IT is speed. If the interface is pretty but you still need to take 20 steps (or 20 weeks) to get the job done, it’s not frictionless. We are already know that speed deeply influences the UX, to the point of impacting search engine rankings, thanks to the enormous research conducted around aspects like loading time in web development. And yet, it took a lot for the industry to realise that the same human brain which doesn’t tolerate a very slow page load very likely won’t tolerate a very slow enterprise IT experience.

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