In some ways, it's all about image. When you think about a business man or woman in the second decade of the 21st century, you might think of a sharply dressed, rather fit individual carrying a smartphone, a tablet device, and a super-slim ultrabook computer. He or she might be biking to a chic cafe where the WiFi is free and the ethically grown and picked coffee is cold-pressed, a single bean at a time. But the reality can be just a little different. For Ryan Stewart, IT Director for insurance broker HM Risk, the reality and the image can seem miles apart.
The ultrabook image for the market as a whole is reinforced by the findings of a new report released by GBI Research, an international market research firm, that ultrabooks (defined by thinner, lighter bodies and with a shorter boot-up time than typical notebooks) will surpass traditional laptops in sales by 2016. In an interview with Enterprise Efficiency, Stewart said that he'll be happy to convince corporate executives to allow employees to work somewhere other than their desks by that time. "We're not too terribly a mobile company because management has a rather antiquated view that if you're not at your desk, you're not working," he said.
According to Stewart, the attitude he sees in his organization is not, in his experience, unusual for the insurance industry. "I think that, in insurance as a whole, the attitudes are conservative. They're very slow to change, and they change when they have to. They'll kick and scream about it." That indicates an attitude toward embracing new technology that stands in stark contrast to the environment described in the GBI report. Using the growth of smartphones and tablets as a starting point, GBI writes:
These new products are currently being viewed as a substitute in businesses where traditionally desktop PCs and notebooks were used. However, ultrabooks with multiple form factors like detachable keyboards and touchscreens are being launched, mostly in the US region by OEMs... to cater to this changed consumer interest. GBI Research expects that the different form factors for ultrabooks, coupled with their advantages over tablet PCs -- such as Windows 8, physical keyboard, and better hardware specifications -- will facilitate market growth in North America.
Windows 8 won't be driving Stewart's decisions about adopting ultrabooks because it involves a leap too far for his company's client infrastructure. "Currently we're not off of Windows XP in any large numbers. I think we, as a company, will evaluate Windows 8 compatibilities and capacities, and based on what we see we'll likely move to Windows 7," Stewart said. The conservative approach will be hard for him to shake within his company, but he is choosing strategic spots for driving change in his 150-person enterprise.
"We've recently moved to Microsoft Lync, and this technology is blowing them away, but it's nothing they had heard of or sought. I introduced it so that in the event of a snow day we can stay open by shifting desks to homes," he said. "I'm trying to give them the tools they need to get things accomplished."
Working within a conservative culture to provide competitive IT, especially in the face of an industry that's moving at a much more rapid pace, can be a challenge. The leap from desktop computers to ultrabooks, and from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8, is huge. Stewart's strategy of solving the problems upper management might not even know it has is a classic route to progress. What other paths are you following in your push to bring your conservative enterprise into the 21st century? We're looking forward to hearing about your strategy.