Microsoft’s Richard Shipton knows a thing or two about public sector IT, having spent time working as a CTO in the UK government. At the recent Government Mobility conference, he told attendees that during his time in service, he began to notice a pattern.

When a new employee started, they were presented with a standard-issue work PC and a standard-issue work smartphone. It didn’t matter what the employee actually did, or what their needs were. Generally speaking, everyone got the same because it was cost-efficient and straightforward – for IT.

At first glance, treating everyone the same seemed like the sensible thing to do. But if we stop and think about it, it’s not hard to get to the realisation that different workers have profoundly different IT needs. Many workers need to be able to work from the field, others need to be able work in the boardroom. Some need to do both. Some like to take their work (which these days, let’s face it, is usually on a computer of some size of shape) home with them, some don’t.

In the old model, some workers didn’t have tools they needed, while others were issued devices they’d never use. It was a feast and a famine at the same time.

Standardised IT comes from a time when offices phones and PCs lived on the desktop. It didn’t matter if users had different needs, because IT only came in one size. But in 2014, organisations have a lot more options: phones, laptops, ultrabooks, tablets, phablets and even convertible devices. The public sector worker of 2014 also has their own devices, which often lead them to look with fresh eyes at the tools their employer gives them.

“We’ve into the fourth year seeing BYOD as a credible phenomenon,” said Shipton. “If this has taught us nothing else, it’s that when users are able to discover, and make use of, tools to help with their job, we unleash greater productivity and end user happiness.”

Providing the right tools for the job starts with understanding the needs of the different roles within the organisation, and what kind of devices and applications best help them. For example, a person working in a role that involves a lot of field visits will have different technology needs than someone who rarely works outside the office.

“The future of mobility isn't just giving people a tablet, or a tablet and a laptop, and telling them “Congratulations, now you’re mobile!”  It’s about giving people the right device – or devices – and ensuring if they need to move between devices they can do that seamlessly and fluidly, with all of their email, documents and business applications available continuously on both. The glue that connects these devices, and the users, is the cloud.”

The cloud takes away the need to force IT standardisation through devices. Cloud tools ensure that everyone has the same capabilities and the same access to files, no matter what device they’re using.  The cloud makes it possible to focus on delivering the right device form factor for each role, rather than worrying about compatibility.

"If you have a heterogeneous IT estate, that's fine. But you need one window through which to look at it,” Shipton added. “Not a window for phones, a window for tablets and another window for desktop PCs.”

Public sector offices are changing. More employees are working on the go. More teams are meeting virtually. More jobs require the ability to work flexibly. These trends are ultimately good news – they mean lower IT costs, higher productivity and better service. But to enjoy the benefits, offices need to equip workers with devices that are fit for purpose – and then unite them through the cloud.

Learn how the cloud can change the way your organisation looks at device management.