Alternate Approach to End User / Desktop Computing

does an enterprise derive any strategic enablement from end user computing strategy or can it be considered as an commodity?

well..when I talk to IT teams, they do not seem to have a clear answer to the above question. on being asked, what is their end user computing strategy, most of them listed one or more of the following points as their core strategy initiatives for next few years:-

  • os upgrades (e.g. in 2008 we will move to Ms Vista etc)
  • hardware upgrades and technology refreshs (e.g. we will phase out dell model xxx to dell model yyy by 2008 and desktops will be refreshed every 3 years etc)
  • new productivity suite rollout (e.g. Office 2007 by end of 2008)
  • in some cases, have handheld devices under enterprise support and allow the handhelds to be used to access enterprise information and applications

however when we discussed the topic of end user computing requirements with the business, they had a different prespective.

  • thought most of them would like to have the most fancy OS and producivity suite, when asked about deriving any strategic benefits from them, most agreed that there was none.
  • they are not worried about the os version or the ms office version etc.
  • for business, it can be considered a commodity item as long as it “enables the work to be done”.

if that is the case, maybe it is time for a radical change in the end user computing strategy. some of the points that probably need to be incorporated into the strategy are:-

1. be on the extreme lag side when it comes to adoption of end user computing/desktop computing technology – (i have also written about the same in my post “If IT is not adding strategic value, Commoditize IT – I”. IT along with business need to evaluate the business benefits of rolling out new technologies and whether it will impact the  bottomline of the business or not.

  • usually IT will cite instances of increase in productivity as a case for new technology rollout. more often than not, the cases of productivity increase cannot be correlated to increase either in competetive edge or strategic enablement for an enterprise.
  • maybe it is best that instead of rushing to migrate to latest version of OS and upgrading the underlying hardware to accomodate rollout of new technologies (e.g vista rollout warrants upgrading the memory and cpu at the desktops), one takes a backseat for such adoption. it will ensure:-
  • insulate business from risk due to new technologies and compatibility issues
  • a relaxed approach to adopt new technology will also ensure the computing requirements for rollout will become readily available at much lower costs. just as moore’s law describes the trend in increase in computing power, there is also a similar trend in decrease of computing power with time.

2. explore and exploit opportunities to move enduser productivity applications to hosted providers or “in the cloud” – when google released google docs,  a hosted service to create store and share presentation, spreadsheets, documents etc, it was looked as a good alternative only for retail users and SME’s who, now dont have to bear the cost of microsoft OS and Office licenses and yet can avail nearly all the features present in Microsoft suite.

  • google released the google docs for enterprise but it had low adoption as security was a major issue with all the docs being store on the google server farms.
  • integration with google gears have now enabled browsers like IE and Chrome to allow users to work on these documents in an offline mode. the docs can now be stored in local computer also addressing many security concerns especially those related to compliance issues.
  • in due course of time many applications like enterprise productivity suites ( e.g word, powerpoint excel) will be mature, stable and ready to be moved either on a demand based model or in the cloud with providers like google stepping up their enterprise application services.

Now with google chrome making it debut, it has forced a lot of people to sit up and take notice (if not now, they would be force to reckon its presence in due course of time). though it is not aimed at business users, i don’t see how long will the IT teams be able to ignore it. looking at google’s track record of stepping of its innovation to ensure mass acceptance of its solutions, i am sure there will be geeks at google already thinking about making chrome apt for business use also.

3. explore and exploit opportunities to move collaboration suites to low cost hosted providers or “in the cloud” – collaboration solutions like emails which once were considered as strategic enablers for an enterprise have now corroded value base as almost all the enterprise have solutions in place (hence neither it is a scarce resource anymore nor any of the enterprises are using the same as more innovatively than others to gain competetive edge)

  • the point of owning the email solution in-house vs using a hosted provider or moving it “in the cloud”  needs a detailed analysis from business point of view rather than a technical viewpoint.
  • it can be argued that most hosted providers and “in the cloud” services provider will not have customzed sla’s that the business enjoys with in-house ownership of the solution. it is true. but at the same time, IT needs to go back to business and evaluate the actual impact of relaxed sla’s that a hosted provider can provide on business bottomline.
  • in most cases, the business will live with these relaxed sla’s as reduction in prices of alternate mode of communication/services and technology advancements allow business resiliency in case of an outage. (or is it?)

in my opinion, it is time to seriously explore moving to a cheaper OS (like customized linux etc). integrate solutions like google’s chrome and hosted productivity and email solution to lower the TCO of end user /desktop computing especially when it does not act as strategic enabler for an enterprise.

in my executive discussions, i have started to bring this topic up for discussion. in my future posts on this topic and under executive discussions, i will share what is their opinion on this subject. maybe they wud agree with my viewpoint or maybe i will stand corrected 🙂 but then, thats the whole point of sharing my viewpoint!

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One Response

  1. Intriguing.
    It would be good to bounce off this idea with senior IT folks and hear them out. Recently, there have been few cases where some companies moved their email from having it in-house to google.

    Maybe you are right. With time and more and more mature companies might start to look at IT from a commodity perspective.

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