Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing? Or tried to do a complicated one with only part of the picture showing on the box lid? If so, you will know how it feels to be the folks working to create secure, robust, and seamless enterprise IT systems.
Enterprise IT has morphed into something that can feel complex and messy at best and out of control at worst. Each deployment can be convoluted, having to deal with various aspects of data and IT infrastructure; the lifecycle of data may be ignored in the process and niche issues are resolved at the expense of ease of deployment and maintenance.
Business units can end up with dozens of apps, each within a slightly different environment and using data with no integration or communication. This has led to a lack of standardization in data formatting and interfaces.
The User Experience (UX) of enterprise IT is a key to making the puzzle pieces fit. There is a misconception that UX is just about graphics. But a basis of good UX extends to the work behind the scenes within a terminal or console.
The data jigsaw puzzle that enterprise IT has to solve is complicated, it is sensitive, and it needs to be secure.
The secure enterprise IT jigsaw puzzle pieces
Imagine doing a jigsaw puzzle of a Jackson Pollock painting, the artist renowned for images made from complex mixes of abstract colors. The journey of completing such a puzzle reminds me of the journey we find ourselves when implementing and securing multi-cloud environments, IT applications, and complex data flows.
The pieces of the enterprise infrastructure jigsaw can be broken down into constituent parts to help create a full-picture solution. One way to approach this is by looking at the data flows within enterprise IT components. Data is a dynamic species. It moves between systems, it rests, it is worked on, processed and analyzed. We express data flow within this complex IT infrastructure matrix, referring to:
- Many users – data flows between many (sometimes even thousands of) users.
- Many business units – business rarely exists as a single entity. Often business units are multiple departments and even different countries and jurisdictions.
- Using the same data – the same data can flow between users and across units, the data often fragmented between different locations.
- For various needs – data is used for different needs and use cases. It is analyzed and processed to create yet additional data to be used for other purposes.
Creating applications which need to handle all the above considerations in a dynamic environment, often end-up appearing multi-layered with many different and disconnected user flows and feature. This creates a complicated environment to deploy, integrate, manage and operate.
The UX puzzle and data
The whole-picture solution is a UX puzzle for all, including vendors and customers. The disparate nature of multi-cloud infrastructures and apps has created a messy disconnected UX, the result being that usability, data security, and privacy all suffer.
Creating a more seamless deployment, maintenance and user flows requires you to have informed choices around:
Good design starts with easy and flexible deployment processes. We’re all familiar with applications that require a heavy and long professional services engagement for deployment and maintenance. The deployment process should be as seamless as possible, where each step of the way is clearly presented to the user, allowing a quick basic installation with additional advanced options to be available to the user at later stages.
Ease of integration and changing goalposts
One of the bugbears of the user experience is the integration between different apps and any chosen cloud/IT infrastructure. Things such as code changes and change of processes are the equivalent of dropping rogue jigsaw pieces into the puzzle – making an already challenging scenario even more so. Changing processes can result in lost data or hold-ups in collaboration. All need to be managed well and a seamless UX, with intuitive management interfaces can help to achieve this.
Data flow between environments can be hard to manage as gaps emerge. Covering enterprise data security across these disparate objects is non-intuitive. The use of a great UX within the consoles used to manage data can turn the Pollock jigsaw image into a non-abstract form so you can see the data lifecycle flow more easily.
One important aspect of using an app management solution – along with visibility of your data flow – is the availability of excellent management dashboards. From a central point of view, you should be able to see your projects, deployments, and your cloud infrastructure deployment options. Good data visibility, will, in turn, help with applying the right security at the right point within your systems.
Making the jigsaw puzzle visible via great user experience
With a puzzle, you usually know what the full picture will be once all of the pieces are in place. But in the case of enterprise IT applications, we are often placed in a position where we have to take many unrelated “full pictures” and shoe-horn them into one big puzzle. This has serious implications for usability, security, privacy, and compliance with various regulations.
We have to begin with the user experience across all of these pieces of the puzzle. This should involve finding ways, through good visibility and management, to create a seamless UX across the entire extended enterprise family of services and apps.
Bringing the whole together through a shared and robust UX and ensuring that data flow is visible allows the application of effective and relevant security measures across the lifecycle of data. This final security message is important. Data security is at the heart of all of our data transactions. Security is the final piece of the puzzle, knowing where to drop it in, completes the picture.