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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Standardisation, Options & End-User Complications

Chad Dickerson writes, End-users will love you for letting them choose desktop hardware, until something breaks!.Chad explains his perspective on standardisation of hardware within the enterprise and how this yields dividends. Excerpts with edits and comments:

There is always a need to balance end-user freedom in the IT environment with the need for sane, predictable IT operations. Chad thinks that one often overlooked way of shouldering this burden on behalf of end-users is to aggressively standardize end-user hardware. IT can glean valuable lessons about hardware standardization from an unlikely source: Southwest Airlines, Southwest only buys one kind of plane (the Boeing 737), which means that Southwest’s planes are interchangeable when problems occur. Pilots and mechanics need to be trained for only one kind of "hardware," and tools and spare parts are transferable across all the planes in the fleet. The same logic applies to standardizing end-user hardware in corporate IT.
The perils of a willy-nilly hardware strategy firsthand are - it’s messy, ineffective, and downright expensive.Earlier, InfoWorld employees had a choice of laptops from different vendors, which meant several laptop permutations were supported at any one time. The IT staff was confronted with an array of colorful, consumer-grade laptops, not standardizing leaves IT open to all kinds of problems. With no hardware standard, IT ends up buying too many spare parts for some models and too little for others, leaving the latter down for the count when supplies run low. It’s a lose/lose proposition. Granting freedom of hardware choice might increase the IT department’s "cool" factor in the short run, but employees will be cursing your name a few months down the road. Any glee at "choose your own" devolves into a yearning for reliable, quickly interchangeable systems that have been vetted by someone with serious IT experience. Another benefit of enforcing standardized hardware is that IT staffers quickly learn where the bodies are buried in a particular hardware line, so even if you’ve standardized on a problematic machine, you can manage the situation. Standardizing end-user hardware is a black-and-white IT control issue.

My Take : Every mature industry adopts standardisation of components/ machinery in a very systematic way - mostly enforced through tight procuremnt procedures - the challenge in the IT field is two fold -"new econonmy world"- where different rules apply and different values cherished, but more importantly, the pace of technology advancement and new product/version rollouts are more rapid and more importantly, unlike most other industries in the IT industry -purchasing products from startups are seen as OK going against the conventional criteria like five years of existence etc etc.. Standardisation is an absolute must and the phenomenal produtivity that this can unlock is amazing.. Chad- Look forward to software standardization views next week. I am sure the principles ought to be the same - but methods can vary and also we can't dump an used software like used hardware - costs and effects are very different.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"