Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time with IT Directors and CIOs from a broad spectrum of UK organisations on board Aurora for the Spring 2014 IT Directors’ Forum.

It’s the second of these events that I’ve attended, and it was noticeable this time around that in comparison to two years ago, that the themes of consumerisation, BYOD and the Cloud are just givens, rather than things to be questioned. “Mobile first” is an increasingly common aspiration for in the enterprise technology as well external facing services. The world has moved on.

Over the course of the two days, I can’t remember seeing anyone using a laptop. There were smartphones aplenty (even if the geographic location of the boat meant that network connectivity was a little unpredictable). There were also many tablets, some with keyboards. But other than the laptops used to run session slides, they were absent.

The formerly commonly-held view that smartphones and tablets aren’t for “proper” work is slipping away. Laptops are great for spreadsheets, or for doing long-form prose (like this). They’re increasingly “less better” for the web, and in certain circumstances they’re just not that great at all. Give me the “take a photo of your receipt and forget about it” app-based expenses system Expensify over anything I’ve used on a Windows or Mac desktop any day of the week.

The challenge ahead over the next few years is going to be in understanding value as the transition from devices continues at pace. The ways in which we have traditionally measured value might not apply from form factor to form factor. Let me explain…

I can be incredibly productive in producing lots of emails sitting at my desktop. But you’d be a fool if you measured my productivity in the number of emails that I produce or respond to. A simple telephone call can stop or prevent the email chain that balloons out of control.

Traditional “desktop” software’s value has been traditionally assessed in terms of its functionality by the total number of things it can do. On this measure you still Microsoft Office assessed as more functional (and therefore better) than browser-based tools like Google Drive.  Yet the move to Apps on smart devices is one typified by a reduction in functionality in this definition. Application architectures and user experiences need to be pair down to meet the needs of the context and the device.  More functional today often means less functionality.

As you’ll know if you are a visitor to this blog reasonably frequently, I’m not a big fan of measurement. I get the idea that you can’t see change happening if you are not measuring consequences, but all too often I’ve seen measures and metrics become the goal of change initiatives, and that way madness lies.

The technology landscape today and in the near future will throw further challenges into the paths of the measurement brigade in that the things that are important, and the measures of those things, are all constantly changing…

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