Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The IT Man(ager), the NewlyHired Boy and the Infrastructure Donkey

I sometimes think Infoworld (and similar publications) write some of their articles just to stir the pot on a slow news day. Their latest offering suggests five 'radical' solutions to ITs woes and their first two suggestions put a cold shiver down my spine while the remaining three ideas made me wonder if this was a reprint of an article from the middle of last decade.
  • IT resolution No. 1: Let employees use any PC they want: It's easy for Infoworld to say let the user take responsibility for supporting their own non-standard computers but the reality is that when users hit a dead end it's always IT that has to come to the rescue. Allowing non-standard computers also ends the tried and true technique of swapping out a flaky computer with a standby box and sending the offending unit into the rebuild and reformat queue. Infoworld suggests that "Trying to control all the endpoints is a losing game" but I don't see how they justify that comment. Just tell the users that they can have any computer they want as long as they choose the one that's sitting under their desk right now.

  • IT resolution No. 2: Let employees use any smartphone they want: Frankly I don't care what technology the new hires used in University and want to cuddle up with in the privacy of their cubicle. See my previous answer. The alternative is for IT to support a Blackberry server plus an iPhone server plus every other push server ever invented and as far as I'm concerned if people are working with company assets then they need to dance to the company's technology tune. If they've got a great idea about a new technology then they should prepare a proper business case and IT management can review it . If they can't be bothered preparing a proposal and won't accept the existing corporate technology then they can get another job. Once again Infoworld suggests that "Trying to control all the endpoints is a losing game" but if IT just refuses to forward the corporate email to the Boy Wonder's dinky Linux earphone-cum-gamesconsole then I'd say IT just won that game.

  • IT resolution No. 3: Shift to Web-style apps: There is some merit in this proposal but web-style apps have been in use for most of the Noughties. This must really have been a slow news day for Infoworld.

  • IT resolution No. 4: Map out a strategy for the use of client virtualization: This is newer technology than web apps but it's hardly a radical idea.

  • IT resolution No. 5: Deploy collaboration platforms: You mean like the Lotus Notes/Domino platform with 20+ of solid development behind it? Alas no, the article mentions Google Docs and Microsoft Sharepoint but not Lotus Domino. Maybe IBM hasn't taken this journalist out for a free lunch recently...

There are exceptions to every rule and that includes the rules I suggest for Resolution One and Two. Maybe the key Knowledge Workers in the company can justify bringing their own laptop to work but if they want to introduce a new Smartphone technology into the company then IT needs to quantify (and charge back) the additional support expenses they generate. And I don't doubt that freshly-minted university graduates can provide valuable input into the corporate computing strategy but beware the fate of the IT Man(ager), the NewlyHired Boy and the Infrastructure Donkey.

So that's another thirty minutes wasted... five minutes to read the pointless Infoworld article and twentyfive minutes to write a grumpy blog post about it.


Maria Helm said...

Letting them use any computer they want would only work if:
1. They are really using it as a "thin client", and the security is set up to shield your network from anything on their machine.
2. It comes with the caveat that the unit must be compatible with whatever thin client solution you're using. Otherwise, some wisea** will bring in a MAC or a smartphone and expect to use it as a PC.
3. You pay your employees enough to provide decent machines that are under factory warranty. Because no one IT shop can support the infinite possibilities of what PC they will bring, and no amount of support will help if someone brings an 8 yr old piece of junk.
4. You have a few spare machines for people to use when "their PC" dies and they have to send it out for repair. It will happen eventually, and there's no sense having someone unable to work for a few days - or weeks - while they wait for their RMA to come through.

The smartphone game - I totally agree. We ended up setting up a BES (Blackberry) and Traveler (iPhone/other). Which is ridiculous, because we only have about 20 people using smartphones so far. But a certain person didn't want to replace his iPhone with a Blackberry...

Gavin Bollard said...

Interesting thoughts...

Being able to use any computer you want is a great ideal to strive for and I go to great pains to demonstrate that our stuff works cross-platform (Win, Mac and Linux) but nobody ever wants to take me up on it. The result, the only mac in the office is running WinXP and my linux box keeps getting wiped and being put to better use.

The phone story is better and we've got a mix of iPhones and Blackberries here. Of course, only the blackberries are "supported" (paid for) but that doesn't stop users from switching sims.

Web style apps - great idea. They're almost mature enough for corporate use... almost.

Client virtualisation - actually, this is considerably older than web style apps and I remember some very successful experiments we did about 15 years ago.

Collaboration.... Google would be peeved to find that infoworld think their collaboration "platform" is Google Docs. Why would you have a document-centric collaboration platform? Collaboration is content-centric or conversation-centric. Google's true collaboration platform is WAVE. IBM's is Lotus (not just domino) and Microsoft doesn't have one. Sharepoint isn't a proper collaboration platform.