(Originally posted on LinkedIn)
Let’s dig into hardware, since this is an important part of the workplace services.
In the old world, IT centrally basically dictated what computer to buy (you had a handful to choose from) and the ones available probably didn’t really fit your needs but it was the closest you could get.
Okay, not THAT extreme, but I hope you get the point.
Limiting the selection of computers (and a set specification of these) are great in some sense:
- Standardized range of models
- No “surprises” for the support team
- Easy for end-user to pick a device
- Life cycle management becomes easier
- Centrally decided which models and specifications to use = no discussion
There is also a bit of a flaw in this setup. There is no room for flexibility and user needs. You will get stuck with something which is what you needed, but not completely.
Let’s start with an example
You have this range of computers to choose from:
- Computer A – Small lightweight laptop, great for travel but not powerful
- Computer B – Standard laptop, fairly mobile, fairly powerful.
- Computer C – Powerful and large workstation, lots of power, lots of memory.
- Computer D – Executive top model. Pretty powerful and slim design. Expensive.
For a user who travels a lot and needs a powerful computer. Are any of these a good fit?
Taking a new approach
As part of the transition from one hardware vendor to another, we decided to change this approach and offer a broader range an even having models which overlapped. All of them could be specified to the users need. In this context, range means certified for our custom image.
This also meant that we offered a more complex setup, potentially offering about 15 computers towards our end-users. This is where Local IT comes into play for an important part. Creating the custom range for THEIR site. For us, Local IT are the ones providing the user with hardware, which should be fit for purpose for the end-users need.
Just because we centrally offer 15 models doesn’t mean that all 15 should be offered to the end-user on all sites. Most sites actually ended up offering just a few models BUT could get that special machine which just a few users per site needs and the possibility to upgrade the processor, RAM and the hard drive size without making it a non-standard device.
New challenges for central IT
Having this broad offer created new challenges for us as central IT. How do we explain to local IT when to pick what computer, especially when models might overlap? This is something which we hadn’t dealt with before in the same way and this also positioned us in a different place.
We are becoming an enabler rather than a provider.
Positioning us as enablers doesn’t just apply for hardware, this could be said about a lot of our new services. But this is where we need to go since we operate on business demands and not on what we think is interesting. We enable the business to succeed and to do that we need to understand and meet their demands. Once again, understanding each local business need is very hard as a central organization and we need the local IT staff to help the user to navigate the jungle we are creating by adopting a more flexible environment where we no longer dictate what devices can be used.
So how do we tackle this? We have only found one effective way and that is information. Information about the services and information about the hardware so that a good decision can be made as close to the end-user as possible.
However, we are not making things easier for ourselves right now. We are about to enable Windows and Mac managed from Intune. How should we position that and why should one be picked over the other or the traditional custom Windows PC? We are working hard on creating good service descriptions right now to assist in making this decision together with the end-user. Defining what you can do, but also what you cannot do, with each service becomes increasingly important to make this decision.
Since the modern workplace puts more focus on the user, the approach to what device the end-user consumes the services on must change. We cannot be a “Windows only” environment anymore. Different people have diverse needs and if we want to keep being an attractive employer, what device you can use is not something IT can afford dictate. You need to meet the end-user on their grounds and provide tools they are comfortable and used to work with since they will bring their own work style.
Today we are doing this shift with our devices. Who knows, tomorrow it might be the applications.