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Changing the beat of working methods

By Mark Chillingworth

Each individual works in a different way. Often the exact same outcome is achieved by alien means to one another. Technology has both the ability to enable a choice of ways to achieve an outcome, or it has the ability to dictate a single methodology, even if that methodology is not the most efficient for an individual team member or customer.

A major part of the desire by CEOs to see their organisations become digital is driven by how adaptable and creative pure digital businesses are. No member of the business technology leadership community can fail to be impressed with the range of products and services organisations such as Amazon and Google have released in their short lifespans. It is the flexibility and creativity that has allowed an online book retailer to become a dominant cloud computing provider and the same culture that has seen Google move from search engine to a platform that is now changing consumers and workers hardware choices.

For episode 20 of the Horizon Business Innovation podcast policing CIO Chris Price and technologist and EMEA CTO James Morley-Smith discussed how devices, operating systems, but more importantly culture and choice are changing the way organisations work.

Morley-Smith is EMEA CTO with Zebra Technologies a specialist in the mobile computing market and the youthful technology leader has focused his career on mobility and has a personal reason for caring about and developing technologies that help people achieve tasks.

Chris Price has been a CIO with the West Midlands Police as well as the Highways Agency following a private sector career with organisations such as nPower the energy firm, TNT Express and in financial services with Natwest and HSBC. Price remains involved in the public sector as well as a Principal with Freeman Clarke the part time agency for CIOs and CTOs.

Price tells the Horizon Business Innovation podcast that there is a significant difference between “mobility and flexibility, the difference between true mobile working and true flexible working”.

“If you think of a nurse on a hospital floor, it takes time to go back to the nursing station and document things, so a mobile device is about bringing the workstation to them,”

“In my time with the West Midlands Police we tried to differentiate between mobility and flexibility according to roles, so if you had an officer on the beat that is true mobile working,” Price says. “I have used the analogy of the elastic band, officers go back to the station for two things, one is for social interaction, which is very important, the other is to use the systems that they need to do their day-to-day job,” as the CIO of the Birmingham based force Price says he tried to reduce the number of returns to the station an officer would have to make.

“In other areas it was about flexible working to reduce the estate, or enable people to work at home with the necessary security,” he says. Price believes mobility and flexibility are merging as the technology becomes “more ubiquitous”.  The reason being that the police for historic reasons had a focus on voice technology, the walkie-talkie style devices officer use to talk to the station or control centre. Price says officers increasingly require data services when they are on the beat too, hence the consolidation of technology requirements.

Morley-Smith sees a similar change in requirements in a multitude of sectors where one method, be it talk or paper is being replaced by data led business processes.

“If you think of a nurse on a hospital floor, it takes time to go back to the nursing station and document things, so a mobile device is about bringing the workstation to them,” he says.

Morley-Smith goes on to discuss tasking to leaving a relative of multi-tasking you might say.

“At home when you go to make a cup of tea you don’t ignore that the dishwasher needs loading, you do the two things at the same time. We are seeing that happen more and more in warehouses to,” he says of how it has become personal and corporate culture to multi-task.

What next for BYOD

From 2010 onwards following the release of the then highly desired Apple iPhone many technology vendors and organisations experimented with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), allowing end users in the organisation to carry out business tasks on their own mobile device. Initially it was email access to a personal iPhone but soon progressed into access to core enterprise applications via tablet devices and beyond.  Over the last two years BYOD has slipped off the agenda of discussions between vendors and CIOs, so is it still an issue for a vendor CTO in EMEA like Morley-Smith?

“It depends on the sector. In the police with BYOD there is a security aspect over what is being transferred over networks, in the industrial enterprise BYOD has been tried, but there are those that have tried it and are returning to specialist hardware as it is easier to break a consumer device and therefore do people want top bring their own device into the workplace,” he says of more specialist uses of mobile computing.

“It is horses for courses, in certain situation it is about roles and form follows function,” Price adds. “If you are an officer on the beat you are already carrying a lot of equipment and a lot of the conversations I would have were about reducing the amount of kit and I would be asked to consolidate it.  

“We used to have a saying in the police, task, don’t ask,”

“Officers are engaging with citizens, so they don’t want to fumble with technology, but they may also need to help with directions, so familiarity with a device is important. On the other hand if it is a rainy Saturday night and you are patrolling the night time economy the officers don’t want to take their eyes off the people they are talking to they want voice activated technology.  For beat officers it was about a  small device, for a more specialist role like a firearms officers something more robust was required.”  

Full potential

No matter the hardware or software choice made, all technology in all vertical markets is under utilised and our duo of technology leaders believe this is a major challenge for technology used to increase mobility and flexibility.

Morley-Smith believes CIOs and organisation need to empower and exploit the full potential of applications, devices and the user.

“Task workers are more intelligent in their ability to use the technology in their hands,” Morley-Smith says of the digital natives entering the workforce today. “There is a tendency to lock down the device so much that it can only do one task. So if there is a situation of deciding to move a pallet rather than take 99 items off it, give users the flexibility to do things, the whole point of a flexible device is to enable flexible working.”

“We used to have a saying in the police, task, don’t ask,” Price added of empowering police offers on the beat. “We wanted the officer to use their intelligence in the best way possible to give a service.”

“One police officer might find a different solution to another, as with any task worker,” Morley-Smith adds. “There do have to be some restrictions as you don’t want people playing Solitaire  or Pokemon Go, but enable people to do things in the way they want to that is most efficient to them.”

Operational operating system

CIOs looking to enable greater flexibility and mobility in their organisations face an operating system choice and for those CIOs with an existing fleet of mobile devices the choice has to be made soon as support for the Microsoft mobile operating system is coming to the end of life. Morley-Smith as EMEA CTO for Zebra Technology is backing the Google Android platform, which does have 80% of the global market share. Cast your mind back four or five years and the Google Android platform was considered by many CIOs and organisation as not having the required levels of security an enterprise technology leader needs. Morley-Smith disagrees, stating that as Android is developed on open source Linux it is “very secure”. Both technology leaders agree that there was a perceived insecurity and both believe that Android has matured.

“Andriod is not the oldest operating system and in it’s early days there were potential security concerns, but it is now a mature operating system and the way it is tied down I don’t think this is something CIOs should worry about beyond concerns from any other OS out there,” Morley-Smith says.

“I’m laid back on the operating system and care more about what do people need to do their job,” Price adds.  “Microsoft has been more traditional with heavy applications on the device and Google was more consumer and collaborative in focus. We are seeing the market converge, for a CIO it is not about mandating the operating system; find the solutions and services they need to do their job in the best way.”

“Microsoft CE was huge and a great operating system, I was a developer on it and it was good fun and a great system; it is coming to end of life and that is something that CIOs will have to consider very seriously, whether Windows will ever come back to the mobile device it is difficult to say,” Morley-Smith says.

“CESG have 14 principals of how you should work in mobile working and they are a very good starting point,” Price says of the Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG), a government body whose information is widely available.

“There are lock downs for data in transit with encryption, but the number of leaks I have seen with paper, we do not apply the same standard with physical world as we do the digital world and when physical leaks happen it is the digital world that gets more of a locked down,” Price says.

Security and cyber-security issues in organisations and the enterprise are often cultural rather than technological and this is Price’s experience too: “We are concerned with the here and now, but we must be thinking of the where and when. The technology now is less the problem, it is the cultural adaption and the security.  Would you leave your banking PIN written down? Those cultural behaviours are the bigger challenge than moving from Windows to Google Android, there is a cultural change that is coming. So for the CIO it is less about the platform and more about how technology interoperates and the culture that the organisation needs to adopt.”

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