My Obsession With Two factor authentication, and a really cool new product


I have one, it’s true. Which does not mean that I claim any great security knowledge.

It started long ago in the PC remote access wars of the late 1990′s. Remember? IP-SEC VPN and Certificates versus SSL Gateway style solutions like Citrix and a token fob. I hated then (and still do) the complexity of VPN, and loved the portability of a token and the simple ability to switch devices for remote access.

I flirted briefly with the idea of token and two factor as a way of avoiding the rush towards making everyone’s network login credential (Active Directory) more complex, since complexity drives more password resets. An elegant idea, but only valuable if you can deploy a password wallet so that the end user does not even know their active directory password, and that model never took off in Canada. There are some large US firms who made it work

And in more recent years I have been a firm believer that the combination of desktop virtualization and centralization, getting data off devices and into the data centre, if coupled with two factor authentication, solves the vast majority of access security and data leakage scenarios that most enterprises struggle with.  It is a simple and well understood solution, yet most firms perceive it as too intrusive for their employees.

Recently I have switched most of my key Internet Services (LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc) to two factor authentication where they send me a code via SMS whenever I log in. Work’s great, and while not a panacea, adds just a bit more access control in a world that feels all too vulnerable.

Also recently became aware of a product called Nymi from a Toronto company called Bionym.  It is truly cool (ok I admit it I am a geek). It is a wearable, a wrist band I guess, that uses your heart wave/ECG (way too scientific for me,smiley). Apparently our ECG patterns are all unique. When you add that unique pattern to the fact that the device is on your wrist, and you have to pair/register Nymi with your smartphone or PC you are trying to access. Essentially you get 3 factor authentication without yet adding a password.  Wow! just by getting close to your device!

Now that by itself does not solve access to the web properties like Yahoo, unless Nymi and they agree on some sort of interface, but hopefully that happens. Either way, a very interesting take on authentication, and from Toronto based folk

The Nymi Band

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Microsoft is starting to deliver the means for less expensive Software Currency


Both Microsoft and Enterprises share a desire to reduce the cost of software currency and upgrades. Enterprises, to avoid the $1000 per seat average cost of upgrading from XP to Windows 7 next time around , and the constant battle of trying to find the funding to keep Server OS, Exchange,  Sharepoint, etc current…..and MIcrosoft because they need to firms to consume new versions and features in order for the Microsoft value proposition to remain relevant and competitive.

And there is no doubt both needs are coalescing as Microsoft moves to a much more rapid release cycle.

Software currency challenges  and the tyranny of he Microsoft product life cycle are nothing new, but Redmond is starting to offer a few things  to help out IT shops.

1. Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is introducing the concept of browser management and compatibility, providing IE8 compatibility mode within IE11, controlled by Active Directory policy objects or specific configuration switches in the Web server. This allows enterprises to deploy the latest version of Internet Explorer (currently IE11) without massive expenditures in regression testing or web application remediation. This is a real boon to currency. A big part of the XP to Win7 costs related to the fact many firms upgraded from IE6 to IE8 at the same time. No one wants to go through that again!

2. Microsoft is also working hard to simplify the upgrade of MS Office

a. a big part of their focus on Office 365 subscription mode is the “click to run” MS Office. Essentially they are offering a version of Office that is upgraded almost continually, with no more effort than the end user starting Office in the morning. Now that is going to be more currency than most enterprises can stand for a while yet, as all the enterprise testing disciplines will not fall away immediately, but as this starts to take hold there is some hope that the days of the big Office upgrades are over. Essentially MS is separating Office upgrades from Windows OS upgrades, and trying to make it as simple as possible.

b. The Office Online Store, and the concept of modern applications, is a critical focus for Microsoft. They are trying to reverse 20 years of bad practice where software vendors and in house programmers did complex application and data integration at the desktop, using local API’s and the  horror of Office plug-ins. Maybe the functionality worked ok, but the net impact was to saddle the desktop and MS Office with massive legacy challenges with plug ins that would not work with the next version of Office, macros that needed to be revised with each upgrade, etc. The new model is what you see in the Office Online store…a web plugin that is essentially only a web service, pointing to a program/process that runs in a specified location that is neither  the desktop or a back end Sharepoint or Exchange server…essentially an application server somewhere. This concept is critical to freeing the desktop from upgrade complexity, and needs to be embraced by every IT pro, Microsoft product, Microsoft Independent Software vendor. Everyone!

3. Off course the “big plank” in MIcrosoft’s campaign to reduce the challenges with currency are the Office 365 cloud/SaaS services. By eliminating the enterprises”s need to manage infrastructure for Exchange, Sharepoint, LYNC, storage (OneDrive), Project Server, etc Microsoft ensures that more end users are consuming current versions of their core Collaboration products. This is a dual edged sword for many enterprises….it takes no great brilliance to see that the O365 pricing is significantly better than what most enterprises can achieve themselves with Servers, storage, and internal staff but

a.  Most infrastructures include a lot of sunk costs that are difficult to shed quickly, making shorter term business cases more difficult to justify, even as MS clearly demonstrates superior cost and price:performance

b. Again, bad application design can reduce the enterprise’s ability to consume the degree of currency, cadence, and agility that Microsoft plans to deliver, setting up potential conflict between various stakeholders needing to move at different speeds.

4. But overall, I really think Microsoft is starting to provide the right levers for a simpler, faster, more current collaboration environment if enterprises can change our mind sets and actions….

 

 

 

 

 

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Ah, I wish Mobile Strategy was as simple as EAM and a container


I was getting pretty comfortable with the idea that Mobility practice was coalescing around a Workspace/container that could deliver a strong set of collaboration applications and a business application ecosystem on any employee owned device.

Think Good and their Good Dynamics ecosystem, Citrix with Receiver, Xen Mobile, and WorX, etc and emerging players like Dell.

And there is no doubt they can deliver a very secure email and collaboration application experience, all without the enterprise managing or messing with the employees device via MDM. Admittedly the cost is the use of an “imposed UI” versus the native UI on the device, but overall I have been feeling pretty clever and even liked by my end users.

But a set of dialogues this week that I have had the opportunity to be part of have me feeling profoundly less comfortable

1. Talking to Good last week about their roadmap, they revealed that some of their more mature, larger customers were now coding not only internal applications to the  Good API’s that allow access to the  secure container, but also B2B applications as well.  Wow! What are the implications of getting developers to code to the Good API’s? Can you say lockin? But how else do you leverage the secure container?

2. Then I had a talk with the Microsoft CIO. Beyond the kind of corporate applications you might want to protect in a container, Microsoft is seeing huge value and massive groundswells of innovation from staff building mobile apps to solve employee problems like finding colleagues, mapping campuses,  helping people track shuttle buses via GPS,  pointing a camera at a building to identify it and find a meeting room etc etc. Small things maybe, but building energy around mobile. Well to do that enterprises need an application wrapping/store deployment that perhaps bypasses the container. Oh, and by the way this employee engagement with Mobile is not a new idea. The team at Apple was advocating this three years ago….I just forgot as we fought to get an acceptable container deployment established.

3. Then of course the Microsoft announcements of Office 365 clients for almost every platform bring new capabilities and challenges. They automatically stream updated versions of the client at connection, removing a lot of application management worries…and in small ways bring policies and capabilities that feel like a light weight container…How might this integrate into a mobility strategy?

Yikes. Pretty clear that there will be no “once and done” when it comes to mobility strategy, whether MDM, EAM, EMM or whatever flavour/acronym you have embraced.

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The Pundit’s Prescription for Well Equipped Knowledge Workers


So nothing particularly new here but every few months I feel compelled to restate my belief  system around end users, devices they use to access enterprise data and applications, and I guess ultimately what we would call desktop strategy. Remember that I start we the premise that all applications and data should be in the data centre, and thus ultimately there are only two broad delivery approaches

1. Is a “terminal approach” where the access device simply has an access client to a virtual desktop or application presentation layer (or perhaps browser/HTML5 access via a policy layer that prevents local data)

2, Or there is a container on the remote device that stores data locally but in a way that is controlled via synchronization with the data centre, and that cannot escape the local container. Think Good Technology, a local Hypervisor for virtual desktops, etc.

So my tools of choice these days would remain

  • “zero OS” thin client everywhere in the firm (ie at every desk) ensuring employees and contractors always have access to their virtual desktop
  • embedded OS thin clients for special needs like high intensity multi-media until the virtualization layers and zero OS thin clients catch up
  • THIN PC. a restricted WIN7 OS with Citrix Receiver to exploit remaining useful life on PC form factors
  • BYOD laptops on enterprise guest Wi-Fi networks
  • Chromebooks to deliver mobile thin clients for both corridor walkers and true mobile workers when they won’t go BYOD
  • and of course all Smartphones and tablets should be BYOD
Use Case Preferred Approach Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Comments
In office Thin Client Laptop Form factor (see below) Thin PC  Thin client suppliers not helping enough
Smartphone BYOD any OS with EAM container Corporate Liable Blackberry Corporate Liable Windows Phone  Blackberry bleeding users wih onset of BYOD
Mobile laptop Form Factor BYOD laptop and Citrix Corporate Chromebook and Citrix BYOD tablet with keyboard and Citrix  Chromebook going to have big impact
Tablet BYOD with EAM container Corporate Liable with MDM and EAM Corporate Liable with MDM and Active Sync  Big shakeout coming in EAM vendors (Good, Citrix, Dell, etc)

LOL, nothing you have not heard from me before but I believe more and more firms are starting to think in the same way

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If I were Czar of IT Infrastructure Practice


Argh, even for just one day I would mandate the following as standard practice everywhere (ok I admit it I am on a rant) 

1. Everyone would run an internal PKI, likely Microsoft, since it is effective, integrated, cheap and cheerful ,to dispense SSL certificates to applications, servers, network elements and whatever else needs them. I have talked to a massive array of folks across many firms and almost everyone has at least once incident a week caused by SSL certificate expiry. Just dumb..and everyone tries to solve it with more checklists and manual processes. Put in a PKI, grant multi-year certificates, and use auto renewal…and then manage the logs. Sheesh! 

2. Everyone would run Splunk agents on every infrastructure element they can. Big data for IT Infrastructure, with an ecosystem of application providers to help collect and analyze data. This is the only way we will ever manage end to end, which is what virtual infrastructures demand. I need to know that DNS errors are preventing clients from getting to an application server. Try doing that with a traditional management console! Now I know that there are lots of purposes for logs, and if you keep too much data with Splunk it gets expensive, but models will evolve where we keep a  few days of logs at Splunk, just to do real time correlation, and then it will go to the log management tools of the world for archiving, trending, etc.  But the Splunk brings “wisdom of the crowd” to log analysis and event correlation, and no large IT infrastructure can afford to be without that. 

3. Everyone would have a project to properly build and consolidate what I consider five  key elements of any IT Infrastructure 

a. Time Services

b. DNS 

c. Active Directory

d. File namespace virtualization (MS DFS being a good example) 

e. Identity federation with external partners and suppliers 

The state of these infrastructure elements in most firms I talk to is abysmal and that is driving a lot of risk and sub optimal performance in firms currently, and will make going CLoud much much harder. Sigh, try explaining that to most IT executives obsessed with business alignment. No one really understands or cares about the infrastructure that is the basis for all IT. 

ok, good to get that off my chest (smiley)

 

 

 

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If Private Cloud implies on premise only and Enterprise IT supported -count me out


But what do I know? I spend most of my time dealing with PC’s and end users. (smiley)

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe that many large enterprises will operate a lot of virtual data centre infrastructure, and in putting forms of provisioning and self service in front of that virtualized infrastructure will  call it a form of private cloud.  And this will result in a more agile and cost effective infrastructure.  But this approach will never deliver truly disruptive pricing and agility, nor will it solve IT’s credibility issue with the business.

But the well intentioned disciplines that already handcuff enterprise IT (excessive focus on risk and governance, mistaken swing to functional alignment in a world where virtualization needs end to end focus, the pointless search for “business alignment”, and inability to find a financial model other than excessive controls and investment constraint) will guarantee an on  premise, internally operated cloud is crippled from the start in comparison to a vendor operated off premise private cloud.

1.  Personally I believe enterprises will struggle to attract and keep sufficient talent for private cloud, but let’s assume they can.

2.  Cloud providers succeed via relentless simplification and reduction of cost, with massive focus on a small set of pre-defined services, and scale that facilitates rapid growth even in private cloud scenarios. (Public cloud already offers almost unimaginable expansion and contraction capabilities)

3. When I think of private enterprises trying to build out private clouds I immediately think of

a.  Finance struggling to limit initial investment and minimize the amount of capacity available for growth on grounds of needing to allocate costs back to business segments, avoiding unallocated costs, avoiding depreciation on unused gear, yada yada. All the seemingly responsible practices and rules that need to be thrown away in the new world of cloud. They suffocate  agility and aggressive deployments.

b. Sourcing wanting to control equipment procurement to a set of well understood, traditional suppliers. Cloud infrastructures demand the ability to continually integrate new, lower cost, even more commoditized hardware and software.  Continual change and improvement does not describe many enterprises I am aware of.

c. IT leadership, ITIL and Service Governance teams, and a whole bunch of stakeholders wanting to retain significant degrees of physical and logical separate by application or business to make impact assessment and change management easier…once again eroding the core scale and single process advantages of cloud

d. a vast number of employee stakeholders who are not blind, and who understand that cloud is a threat to many jobs in enterprise IT,  and find many small ways to slow cloud adoption and damage credibility of the infrastructure as it is built out.

So no, I don’t see on premise Private Cloud as a disruptive force. There will always be some applications in enterprises that need that on premise cloud, but if firms are going to gain disruptive cost, scale, and agility they need to aggressively push to off premise, vendor operated Private Clouds where they must, and multi-tenant where they can.

Not easy, and probably a different journey for each firm, but what is important is that there is an impetus to get there. Find the applications and use cases that can go now!

Avoid the dangers of the “marginal cost” argument. Smart people who I respect will argue that since many enterprises must build that on premise cloud for a certain set of applications, they might as well build it for all applications, since the marginal costs of growing the internal environment may be less than developing the disciplines to operate multiple cloud environments.

BS! the disruptive cost and agility disruption will happen outside Enterprise IT. Find opportunities to use the power of the massive vendors like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

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Unintended Consequences – Strategic Sourcing and a form of enforced mediocrity


Catchy title, huh?

I have been thinking quite a bit about the nature of talent in the Technology world,  and the fact it tends to live in small pockets of focused knowledge, passion, and expertise.  When you think of Technology Services Suppliers this manifests itself in one of the following

1. Small, nimble firms with a clear competency in specific disciplines or technologies

2. or a centre of excellence (COE) inside a large services firm.

What has tended to happen in large firms is that have adopted strong disciplines around Sourcing is that they look to simplify vendor management and leverage large services deals with the IBM’s, Accentures, and Tata’s of the world, trying to prevent internal IT teams from engaging small, boutique firms that specialize in specific skills like desktop virtualization,  Mobility Management Systems, or Microsoft System Center, or Sharepoint (you pick your example).

Now this model may work for reasonably generic skills and disciplines like application development, quality assurance and project managers but tends to fail when you are seeking Infrastructure help. Now I am not saying that the IBM’s and  Tata’s of the world don’t have a few people in a COE for any topic you might be interested in (lets say desktop virtualization) but the chances you are going to get access to those folk are pretty low. You are going to get a well structured deal with IBM at a “pre negotiated price” you feel good about, that delivers some reasonably capable folk who follow a string customer engagement model )hopefully). In other words – mediocrity.

Because if you want great knowledge, passion, and commitment to a technology that almost always exists in one of those small firms that Sourcing professionals discount because it is “not worth”  the administrative effort to have them on the approved list, because the big guys have the same skills. Not! Innovation and excellence in many of the emerging Infrastructure disciplines requires that pure play focus and passion that the big firms abandon in favour of industrialized IT.

In truth even inside large enterprises engaging the large Service firms the tilt towards industrialization and standardization has quelled knowledge and passion in favour of process, ie “me too mediocrity”

Yet is not the growth of cloud and SaaS an example of the value of focus, passion, and emphasis on technology skill versus mechanics? So most large enterprises are ignoring what seems to be working today to focus on an Industrial IT model whose best days are behind, and that is about to be massively disrupted by SaaS and Cloud. Call it mediocrity versus the Digital future.

It is particularly galling as a Canadian, since we have so many small to medium technology firms with fantastic capabilities within narrow technology focus.  If large enterprises cannot use these firms because of the  constraints of well intentioned Sourcing practices we all lose, because getting the right technology help is critical to most large firms delivering on needed change and agility.

 

 

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The coming shakeout in Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)


Is both easy to predict (you don’t need to be an industry insider or pundit) and has the potential to have profound impact on how we deliver end user computing going forward.

  1. The battle is at one level being played out in the business pages. Citrix buys Zenprise, VMware buys Airwatch,  IBM buys Fiber-Link ,everyone assumes Mobile Iron needs a partner. Those who believe in “following the money” are sure the shakeout is at hand.
  2. The intensity of the competition is evidenced in the rapid improvement in features and reductions in price. Many of my industry colleagues and I have experience with Good Technology, which for years seemed to be riding their “first to market” status with inflexible pricing and slow product evolution. But Good has been rapidly improving their core product, driving price/feature/value ratios down, and building more partnerships in the Dynamics ecosystem.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert in this space. There are a dizzying range of technologies and acronyms in the space ranging from MDM (mobile device management), MAM (mobile application management), secure containers, application wrapping, “micro-VPN’s”…..yikes!

And there are a lot more vendors than the ones I mentioned above. Our good friend Blackberry are trying to break into this space for devices other than their own, Microsoft is trying to move their ” Windows centric”  capabilities focused on Windows 8.1 to a standards based management platform, and people will mention at various times SAP, Boxtone, McAfee, Symantec…the list goes on. And then there are the “Apperian’s” of the world who are Mobile Application companies that almost inevitably will morph into EMM players.

What I do feel comfortable talking about is my experience with a couple of these platforms and their implications for the future.

Good Technology is the current owner of “mind share”  in supporting secure BYOD on mobile devices for regulated enterprises and government. (I am not plugged in enough to know if mind share leadership still equates to market leadership as AirWatch and Mobile Iron chase them). What I will tell you that as an early leader they are poster children for demonstrating why some EMM suite will become the core of end user computing delivery.

- End users start by just being delighted to get email on a device of their choosing and viewing attachments on the larger, but still portable, screen of a tablet.

- Then if the IT team is smart, they introduce Good Dynamics and capabilities like document annotation, MS Office document creation and editing, access to network file shares or Sharepoint, etc

- and finally the Dynamics ecosystem brings third party applications like Dropbox (if your security policies can handle), CRM, BI dashboards, etc..all still contained within the secure EAM container that most regulated firms need for BYOD and mobility

The simple truth is the combination above makes laptops unnecessary for most employees, delights them in having access from unmanaged, lightweight devices of their choice, and if coupled with a mix of thin client and Wi-Fi at work locations, can radically change the end user computing delivery approach at most firms while both delighting end users and providing a technology framework to anchor IT skills around, and  coalesce service offerings and processes.

I guess that is my main point. Windows, although still important and powerful, is too fragmented and complex to rally IT skills, training and service offerings around, and I really believe that it is imperative we simplify EUC with a delivery framework.

Now as it happens, I believe that the framework that will win in most enterprises needs to encompass the venerable PC and laptop as well. That might narrow the EMM field to players like Citrix, VMware, Microsoft?, and Dell who is pushing into the space.

My personal pick would be Citrix. They obviously have great history in the Windows mobility space with XenApp and XenDesktop virtualization and remote access solutions, and XenMobile gives them a complete suite:

- They can put a secure container on smartphones and tablets, with local applications and a partner ecosystem, WorX, which competes with Dynamics

- They retain the ability to provide access from most PC/laptop form factors to virtualized Windows desktop and applications (and in fact can provide that from phones and tablets if you really want)

- but unlike many of the EMM providers, they can put the container on laptops. Why is that important you ask? Winning the battle over offline access with end users. Many end users fight the migration to virtualized desktops because the simple way to deploy them is in online mode, where the user connects back into the enterprise data centre.  If that is not always possible, they whinge and whine until they get local apps, with all the complexities then of VPN, encryption, support, etc. Yuch!  The same easy to manage container that provides local offline access to email on smartphones and tablets can, in the Citrix suite, be put on a BYOD laptop and provide that offline capability without the risks, costs, and overheads of traditional laptops or local virtual desktops.

Now VMware and Dell are in the hunt, but I think Citrix has the focus, the market presence, and the leadership DNA to survive the shakeout in best shape. If IT teams are going to abandon the nonsense of best  of breed architecture selection and integration in favour of aligning around delivery frameworks, I think Citrix is the most effective and appropriate play in the fullness of time.  That said, Good is still the leader, and may be able to effect product growth or alliances that build on the way they currently delight end users to stay the leader.

And of course, smarter folk than I will tell you that these EAM containers are doomed, that the future is in native applications and UI, based on OS specific containerization, and tied together with a policy framework. Maybe, but that policy framework will be hard to explain to Security, and complex to run, so I am going to bet on a suite of container and host/terminal access capabilities for now.

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It’s about the apps! (sigh). Are we doomed to repeat upgrade history?


So everyone I talk to across multiple enterprises is in the same place. We are spending way too much time and $$$$ upgrading to Windows 7, and frankly it has nothing to do with the rigours of OS upgrades , building out the necessary Windows infrastructure, etc.

It is about the applications, and inventorying them, packaging them, certifying them and testing them. Now to be fair the packaging effort is infrastructure, and not trivial in terms of effort and cost, but most of the accountability and cost falls on application owners in a blend of Application Support teams and business units.

As far as I can tell everyone is going through the same thing.

  • Identifying all the applications a given business units cares about is painful work, and expands far beyond the official “application book of record” for a given area.
  • End user computing, or EUC’s in the parlance, are a nightmare of identifying Excel spreadsheets and macros often running the business,  Access Databases, Word Templates, etc. This is a hugely expensive process because typically there is no accountability for these EUC’s. They are too “small” to be supported by the CIO Application teams and the business has usually long forgotten who wrote them – yet they are essential to keeping the business running
  • Browser based applications are another nightmare. No one is sure if there are dependencies on IE6 in the fleet of web based apps, and thus all must be tested/assessed/etc
  • And then there are the inevitable CRM and Finance applications, all of which have made use of Outlook and MS Office plugins, have not maintained application software currency over the years, and all need to be remediated, usually at appalling cost.
  • And let’s not forget the dinosaur 16 bit applications (there are some in every firm) that cannot operate on Windows 7 and drive every infrastructure team crazy looking for alternatives like Terminal Services/Citrix on Server 2003, XP in a pocket of VDI or leftover hardware in a corner for the next 14 months, etc.

The irony in all of this is that the big, “recognized” applications that are part of the application book of record and known and acknowledged by Architects, CIO teams, etc are the least part of the problem in terms of cost or remediation challenge this time around, and will be less of an issue for the next upgrade. Often browser based clients, they tend to use 3 tier architectures or Web Services/message bus approaches, and have finally removed reliance on the access client to a large degree.

It is the vertical focused off the shelf software, using the Office Plugins, and the EUC’s, or just the plethora of old style Windows programs that are causing the time and cost over runs in Windows 7 upgrades, and from what I see will do the same in Windows 9, or whatever the next upgrade is. Most large enterprises I talk to are spending anywhere between $30M and $100M on Windows 7, and no more than 30 per cent is on infrastructure and deployment..it is all about applications

But IT is somehow failing to have that dialogue with the business, and we’re setting ourselves up for another painful upgrade next time around..and it won’t be 10 years from now.  Microsoft is increasing the cadence of the Office and Windows lifecycle, and that is a clear and looming threat.

It is not like we don’t know how to improve agility in the application inventory

  • CIO’s are ensuring major new applications are built in a way that facilitates agility and OS interdependence
  • But no one is really pushing the various businesses in a firm to look at collapsing the number of applications across the firm that essentially do the same thing.
  • Likewise, in my experience once businesses select a vertical application that uses Office Plugins and client side  integration, no one fights for the principle that agility and future cost avoidance demands we use server side integration, a la Web Services, Sharepoint, etc.  We must stop integrating at the desktop
  • And since Architects and CIO’s don’t accept accountability for EUC’s, no one is pushing businesses to rationalize the use of Office between mission critical functions and individual Business Intelligence, no one is advocating accountability or the idea that again server side Sharepoint services like  Excel Services or Access Lists might be a better way to use the power of Office to enhance productivity than 1990′s practices like building macros or Access databases.

The failure to have these dialogues almost guarantees that the huge costs and distraction of the Windows 7 upgrade will be repeated in 3-4 years for Windows 9.  (sigh)

One of the best reasons I can think of for abandoning legacy and taking a firm to Google Apps or Office 365 with Office Online…force data and functionality off the access device and on the back end.

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Ah, the mysteries of user entitlement and business alignment. Life in end user computing


LOL. Whenever I start writing In WordPress I am never sure whether I’m asking a question, ranting, or legitimately sharing a point of view. And I’m definitely of that mind today.

I had an opportunity to have coffee with contacts from a couple of other firms who essentially hold the same role I do, whether we call that IT Infrastructure, End User Computing, or whatever.

We are all, quite rightly I suspect, under pressure to reduce costs while improving service. No biggie there. To our bemusement however we all found ourselves in agreement that one of the greatest inhibitors to reducing costs in our particular “space” was the unwillingness of end users to take actions to help reduce costs, and the reluctance of business leaders to pressure their employees to embrace ideas to reduce cost.

A lot of this blog is going to centre around entitlement, self service, and cost reduction but I want to spend a minute on business alignment. Now business alignment is one of those dangerous IT strategy terms, and I plan to blog on it later, but let’s just say in this case it should be relatively safe to assume that IT and the business are aligned on the idea that saving money on non revenue generating ideas is a good thing. Agreed?

So let’s talk about what pretty well every IT team experiences

1. We expend significant energy and $$$ on Intranet Sites, Knowledge Bases, and Documentation to help end users understand technology service offerings, and address many issues themselves. And yet we get thousands of calls per month on topics clearly explained in the available documentation. When we ask why they call we get told “because it is easier to call”

2. Or we deploy self service password reset tools that don’t get used (for reasons I struggle to understand and are NOT always unfriendly interfaces)

3. Or we build wonderful light touch user initiated Windows Upgrade processes that people won’t do because it is a “waste of their time”

4. Most firms could save hundreds of thousands of $$$ in deskside support if people would simply replace their own mouse or keyboard but they won’t..and their leaders won’t make them….even though they all do it at home.

5. Or the unbelievable how to questions. Outlook Signature, really?

Most people seem to able to deal with technology at home. Google does NOT have a help desk and yet people cope. Now fair enough, Google is a simple browser and one account, but things still go awry and these same folk who are end users at work manage to cope with Google self service. What happens, do they check the technology side of their brain at the door when they come to work?

I realize it is not totally a one sided argument. A lot of internal IT systems and processes are remarkably obtuse and confusing, and not easy to navigate.  But most employees are not even trying, and in spite of IT departments standing up and identifying major potential savings, it is almost impossible to get business leader support for asking employees to be accountable just a little bit more for their use of technology.

Particularly in an age of smart phones, web enabled TV, Facebook et al it just seems wasteful for firms to spend money on unnecessary support…and a bit more personally..for we IT folk to be under constant cost pressure when the business won’t act (end of whine)

Now smarter people than I believe that BYOD, and people being able to choose more of their own technology, will create a sense of ownership, but I’m a bit dubious. Even in BYOD people will be dealing with Outlook, MS Office, remote access, etc and these are the very (well documented) things they are calling needlessly on now. Let’s not even talk about printers.

I’ve often joked about there needing to be an online test for employees, and if you fail you would get a snarky note saying “you’re not smart enough to have a computer” but I don’t really believe that. However we need to find a way to build some accountability for technology use into the accountabilities of every employee.

 

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