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Consumer Tech: an IT Nightmare 533

Posted by samzenpus
from the customer-is-always-right dept.
snydeq writes "Advice Line's Bob Lewis discusses the difficulties IT faces in embracing the kinds of consumer technologies business users are demanding they support. 'Let's assume the consumerization of IT is the big trend many think it is. But using consumer tech in a business environment is a very different matter from being satisfied with consumer tech in a business environment. One of IT's legitimate gripes is that we're often asked to turn consumer-grade technology into business-grade technology with a wave of our magic wands. On top of the intrinsic technical challenges, there's this: IT doesn't have anything that even resembles a methodology for performing the business analysis we need to figure out what it means to put consumer tech to productive day-to-day use.'"
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Consumer Tech: an IT Nightmare

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:55PM (#37927892)

    we're often asked to turn consumer-grade technology into business-grade technology with a wave of our magic wands

    This is nothing new. We've been expected to do this with Microsoft Windows for nearly two decades now.

  • They jumped it some time ago. Itunes making you have to go through Apple to do *anything* is not just a walled garden, it's a prison. Yes, consumers might put up with that shit, but businesses won't.
  • At least from a software perspective, they have conditioned people into seeing the difference between the "home" version and the "business" version of the OS as nothing more than a license upgrade... a somewhat virtual "magic wand", if you will.

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      they have conditioned people into seeing the difference between the "home" version and the "business" version of the OS as nothing more than a license upgrade

      Probably because the 'home' and 'business' versions of modern desktop OSes are the same thing, it's not that they've 'conditioned people' into seeing it that way, it's that that's the way it is. Windows XP Pro was Home with a few extra features, same deal with 7, OSX only has one version for both markets and with Ubuntu you'd choose an LTS-stamped version in the workplace (and many would choose that for home use too).

  • Tech company that has been targeting individual users since basically the beginning (Apple) does *not* produce software which is well-suited to all your business needs.

    Also surprising, however, was that this little gem of a quote first appeared on infoworld:

    The tools you provide should encourage user-driven innovation. Often, "it just works" does the exact opposite.

  • Article summary: Apple is a nightmare, Google is maybe passable, but Microsoft is where you want to be.

    If you're running an enterprise and want to maximize user capabilities, you'll find the best collection of core technologies in Microcountry.

    In other news, InfoWorld is still published.

  • Lest we forget, the PC revolution in business was brought about by CONSUMER "Personal Computers" being brought into businesses to get around the walled garden of Corporate IT (Mainframes back in the day).

    Today, it is iPads replacing Notebooks and Laptops, and Androids and iPhones replacing Blackberries and Palms (back in the day). IT should identify the need, and start ordering Commercial Versions of these products. Too bad they aren't so there isn't much choice.

    If Google REALLY wanted to rule the world, th

    • by deniable (76198)

      IT should identify the need, and start ordering Commercial Versions of these products. Too bad they aren't so there isn't much choice.

      If they build it, we will come. If we'd had any decent alternative to the iPad as a 'document reader / viewer' (yeah right) we would have been able to stop management from buying a bunch of shiny toys.

    • by DJRumpy (1345787)

      We're taking a separate tack and just embracing the consumer iOS devices (Android doesn't meet ISS requirements for closing security issues when relying on handset vendor updates).

      Put a policy in place to require a minimum version to keep the IS Security folks happy, publish documentation to allow easy configuration for end users (ActiveSync is about as simple as it gets, especially with a word doc or something similar to guide them), and be prepared to manage end users calls in case of issues, or when you

      • Not everything on my phone is tied to Exchange. I can't manage the entire device (applications/data).

        That, and you missed my point. We are seeing the next evolution in IT, being driven by Consumer Products because IT is too slow moving.

        • by DJRumpy (1345787)

          Actually you can go so far as to lock down application installs via polices. We've implemented some basic ones to require pass codes, and auto-locks, but you can go further with the tools available.

          I agree with your point regarding IT moving too slow. I think the recent advent of smart devices (computers in your pocket) has taken IT in general by surprise and many are still trying to cope with end user demands and coming out bruised and battered.

    • by starfishsystems (834319) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:04PM (#37928688) Homepage
      No, it began with businesses buying and managing Unix workstations for their staff.

      Where it started to fall apart was when businesses thought it would be cheaper to buy Microsoft systems instead. There was a little TCO problem there. Microsoft users were managing their own systems, and they were doing it badly. Not only was their actual job function was being diluted, it also created some truly monstrous infrastructure train wrecks. That problem still isn't solved. Businesses simply think it's normal.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:10PM (#37928056) Journal
    A decade ago most clueless top executives will award themselves the latest and greatest laptops and start belting out the latest version of documents/spreadsheets/presentations that is incompatible with rest of the corporations. Forcing everyone to upgrade, and Microsoft was laughing all the way to the bank.

    Now the same clueless top exec buys latest and greatest toys to play angry birds or something and expects it to work in the corporate environment. All the deliberate incompatibilities and interoperability poison pills baked into the system is coming back to bite the tails of IT crews.

  • by gregthebunny (1502041) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:13PM (#37928082) Journal

    I do IT support for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna use their goddammed iPads, iPhones, Androids, and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to do their work. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a laptop. With Windows. And a BlackBerry... if you're lucky. Oh, and don't get me wrong... it's not like I'm being elitist or something. I love these consumer devices for home use. I have all sorts of digital toys. But they belong AT HOME!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iluvcapra (782887)

      I do motorpool for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna drive their goddammed Mustangs, Mercedes, Smart Cars and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to their meetings. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a Lincoln Town Car. With FM Radio. And a driver... if you're lucky. Oh, and don't get me wrong... it's not like I'm being elitist or something. I love these new cars for h

    • by McGruber (1417641) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:44PM (#37929002)

      I do IT support for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna use their goddammed iPads, iPhones, Androids, and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to do their work. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a laptop. With Windows. And a BlackBerry... if you're lucky.

      Here's the deal: Those "goddammed iPads" and other "doo-dads" are stable and allow their users to be productive. The windows laptops and crapberries are neither stable nor do they allow the user to be as productive as do the personal "doo-dads".

      More and more of the decision-makers in your company are letting their Windows laptops sit unused while they turn out productive work using their personal "doo-dads". Many of those users whom you say are "lucky" enough to be issued a Crapberry are also carrying a personal iPhone or Android for their personal calls and other personal business; they're not happy about having to carry a Crapberry because their other phone is so much more useful.

      Eventually, one of those decision-makers is going to realize that their unused laptops cost your organization $5k each. They will then multiply that $5k cost per laptop by 800 to 1000 users, a lightbulb is going to go off in their head and you're going to be looking for another job.

    • by unimacs (597299) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:48PM (#37929036)
      About 25 years ago, my boss, the IT manager, had the same attitude towards PCs. He referred to them as "toys". They lacked security. At the time you didn't even need to log into them. You had to upgrade and install software on them independently. Backing them up was problematic, etc. etc.

      Of course the mini-computers and terminals we all used at the time were eventually replaced with PCs.

      It's about productivity. It's about not depending on an IT department with a backlog of 2 years for every little thing. What we've done to the PC in the name of security and making life easier for IT is to make them part of a centrally controlled system just like the mini computers were 25 years ago.

      Want to use a great new piece of software? Is it on the approved list? No? Too bad.

      That is not how we should be doing things.

      I'm an IT director. Yes, you need security. Yes, centrally controlled admin is good. Being able to roll out tested software patches on mass is good. However, our role in IT is to FACILITATE, not to be a road block. That doesn't mean we have to say yes to everything but we need to understand why people want to use these devices for work and if there is a legitimate purpose, we need to figure out how to make it happen.

      Our job is to support our people, even if that makes our job harder.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:14PM (#37928092) Homepage
    for the IT department here.
    1. lock it all down:
    ive worked for companies that insist IT is the gatekeeper for everything from remote controls to pagers and cellphones. While you get great control, you also have no time or resources to dedicate to projects and ostensibly everything with a wall wart becomes "your job." Powerusers view you as some sort of hitler-incarnate so you wont get help or input from them at all.

    2. trust your users:
    im working at a company that embraces google apps, that trusts its users in the cloud, that appreciates anything that frees up resources so that projects can be accomplished and new achievements in the organization can be made. the downside to this is your IT support is often branded as a group of do-nothings as IT can really only help people with approved technologies. IT guys find themselves in elevators and hallways, cornered by desperate users who swear the problem theyre having in the cloud is something your IT department works on. If the bitching gets loud enough, you may end up supporting it anyhow, and that subset of 8 systems your team used to directly assist users begins to look like 'infinity.' you really need strong management for this type of environment to work. ready and open paths for users who bite off more than they can chew to safely make their way back to known desktop technologies is also a big plus. You can in some cases leverage power users to evangelize people in certain directions or help out where possible. Wiki's work wonders.
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      im working at a company that embraces google apps, that trusts its users in the cloud

      Will you let us know if this policy lasts past the first huge data breach at your company or Google?

  • Again... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:27PM (#37928274) Homepage Journal

    Oh, stop your whining and do your job.

    Don't go complaining to management when they want you to do something on the cheap. They're the job creators and you're nothing but a griping parasite. They could eat your job and shit it out in Bangalore before you can say "MSCE".

    If you don't like the way business is done then go stand with the filthy stinking hippies in Occupy Wall Street. Otherwise, when we say "jump" you say "Minimum wage is good enough for me".

    Who do you think you are, anyway? We're the motherfucking job creators Bucky, so you better check yourself and get back to your little hole and do some coding or sysadmin-ing or whatever it is you do. There's a reason I'm getting the big bucks and you're getting the increased co-pays and that reason is "I know what's what and you know jack shit."

    Now close the door on the way out. I'm glad we had this little talk. And if I hear that you even whispered the word "union" I'm going to put my size 11 cordovan brogue ($370 at Nordstroms) up your bony ass.

  • I'm a doctor. We use Motion LE1700 tablet PC's running Windows XP SP2 (no joke) for our EMR (electronic medical record). I saw a physician colleague running our EMR on his iPad2 and thought "wow". At first I didn't care. Then I thought of two ways that I could really take advantage of running EMR on my iPad2. So I asked our IT dept. They've always said, "we are happy to help you connect to the EMR on your home computer", but now I learn that they meant Wintel or Mac home PC, not iPad. I really have N
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      We use Motion LE1700 tablet PC's running Windows XP SP2 (no joke)

      That had better be a joke, or they should be totally offline machines. Microsoft stopped supporting XP SP2 July 13th 2010. What does your HIPAA guy say about that?

  • This was pretty much the argument used IBM 25 years ago to keep cheap commodity PCs out of the enterprise. MS used it to keep Macs out of the office even though Macs were more solidly built than the crap many offices used to run MS software. Yet commodity PCs took over the office, and Macs were integrated by the IT staff of the time.

    Now, I will entertain the idea that modern IT people are not nearly as cleaver as 20 years ago. I mean, what do you need to know now a days, how to plug in a cable, randoml

    • This was pretty much the argument used IBM 25 years ago to keep cheap commodity PCs out of the enterprise. MS used it to keep Macs out of the office even though Macs were more solidly built than the crap many offices used to run MS software. Yet commodity PCs took over the office, and Macs were integrated by the IT staff of the time.

      Now, I will entertain the idea that modern IT people are not nearly as cleaver as 20 years ago. I mean, what do you need to know now a days, how to plug in a cable, randomly check GUI boxes, and say "Have you turned the computer off and on"? But then given the level of standards and integration between all equipment that exists, I can't really imagine that such support should be beyond the budgets and ability of even the most unqualified IT department.

      You're a moron. I tell you what. You come and do my job for one week...no, you couldn't handle an hour unless it was lunch hour! I don't know you, but based on two paragraphs I can tell that you couldn't engineer your way out of a paper bag in an enterprise IT environment.

  • IT support works best when they maintain core systems adhering to open standards. That way they can supply mainstream users with standard devices/environments, while still allowing sophisticated users to connect and get their work done. Part of the deal can be that sophisticated users provide their own support for their environments.

    For example, while secretaries may be best served by running Windows, it often makes good business sense for dev teams to work on their target environment. A good dev team won'

  • We got in front of the iDevice train, followed by the Android train..... 99% of our people requested email access, not problem. We're still a Groupwise shop, it was a simple matter to stand up a Novell Datasync server and provide all them with calendar and email access on iDevices and Android. We'll even put a bullet in their phone if they lose it. Our restriction? pin code instead of swipe to open and the agreement that when they leave our employ we will be sending the bullet out to their phone and they w
  • If, for example, fifty people in your shop have iPhones, and would like to use them with your corporate e-mail, the most time effective solution is to (yes) learn how to do that effectively, and then WRITE IT UP IN CLEAR, STEP BY STEP ENGLISH so that people can do it themselves.

    Or you can rant and rave, refuse to help, and wind up with half of those people either having e-mail that doesn't work, e-mail setups that conflict with your sacred servers, or, if you're REALLY lucky, phones with downloaded apps
  • by Xenious (24845) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:57PM (#37929094)

    Years ago the kit you used at work was faster, better and more powerful than your home consumer devices. Today it's the reverse and what you are forced to use at work is totally crappy next to what you have at home. Thus consumerization of IT is necessary to even get your own work done.

    Or to put it more simply, my companies OS is XP with Office 2003.

  • by germansausage (682057) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:15PM (#37929260)
    Here is what happens when IT meets consumer tech.

    My new iPhone has built in email contacts and calendar. I point it at our exchange server and give it my password and it "just works". "Well holy shit", says the IT dept, "that just won't do". "We can't have users looking after themselves" So they tell me I need to get "Good" mail. First I have to buy a license to use it, and then they dick around a week getting it to work. Now my email is "secure", because we just can't run the risk of the KGB finding out when I'm having lunch next Thursday, or how many meters of #6 cable we buried last week. How is this better you say? I'll tell you. Before Good, my phone would go ding, I would look at the screen and see "Meeting with Fred, 11:30, big boardroom". Now I get a ding, and my screen says "Event!" I unlock my phone, I open the Good app. I enter my Good password. I wait 30 seconds while things are decrypting. Finally the app opens fully. I push the button for calendar and see "Meeting with Fred, 11:30, big boardroom. The entire process now takes 45 seconds, where it used to take 0 seconds.

    The badge for unread emails used to tell me how many unread emails I had. Now with Good mail, it increments with every new mail received. Then if I read the email on the computer, it increments again. Yes, that's right. If I receive 5 mails and read them on my computer my phone now says I have 10 unread mails. (Apparently it is not our IT dept's fault that this "Good mail app" they have forced on me sucks so bad. It's all Apples fault, just ask our IT guys, they'll tell you.)
  • by meburke (736645) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:57PM (#37929610)

    I was just talking about this to a friend of mine yesterday. I've been a "customer engineer" for most of the last 47 years. Back in the age of mainframes and minicomputers businesses understood that it took training and organization to install, maintain, and program their computers, but they started losing sight of the complexity involved in good systems design and analysis when the computer started looking about the same size as their typewriter. Now phones (which are really just smaller computers) are the same size as their old walkman. Consumers can't seem to understand that computers are multi-function machines with millions of interconnecting parts (if you include the OS and applications). Assuming you had a big open building with millions of parts and subassemblies that needed setup to perform specified tasks, and most businesses would understand the need for a small army of well-trained technicians to do the setups and maintenance.

    So, in my area, a lot of small businesses have sprung up offering computer maintenance for $35/hr. These businesses are capable of handling about 70% of all the normal maintenance on a computer, but then, so is anyone who can read a manual or call tech support. Then they get assigned a project over their heads, take the customer's money until it is very obvious that they can't do the job, and then walk away. The customer calls me and gets pissed off because I charge $110/hr instead of $35/hr and successfully clean up the mess left by the other "geek". And when the next computer problems show up do they call a competent tech? No, they go right back to calling some half-trained moron who only charges $35/hr. Business is full of slow learners.

    The bottom line is that many of the businesses out there are not designing their business processes, they are acquiring "business technology" by "jumping to solutions" without a plan. The "business-in-a-box" approach has never worked right. Most small businesses fail within the first five years, not becasuse their tools aren't adequate, but because their business decisions are inadequate. The technology decisions are just a part of the same lack of business smarts.

Computers will not be perfected until they can compute how much more than the estimate the job will cost.

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