Taking the reins

In my company it seems that when a new PC arrives it belongs to our business customers - they won't let IT near it. And yet when...

In my company it seems that when a new PC arrives it belongs to our business customers - they won't let IT near it. And yet when it goes wrong it is all our fault. How can we take control of the whole PC process before this scenario becomes an epidemic?

Set standards

John Eary

NCC

It is a critical part of any IT policy that all new hardware is standardised by the IT department before going in to live service. Without such checks no guarantee can be made that the correct security patches and anti-virus software have been installed. A simple solution would be to allocate IP addresses manually (or better still only allow access to known Ethernet addresses) so that new machines cannot join the corporate network until they have passed through the IT department. This may be a symptom of the IT department being perceived as slow and inefficient in ordering and configuring machines.

It would be good practice to offer an internal service level agreement guaranteeing, say, a time of 24 hours from the machine arriving to being fully operational on someone's desk. It would also be worth professionalising and publishing your supplier terms, ensuring they offer short lead times (48 hours maximum) on new PCs as this will increase the willingness of staff to order PCs through IT in the first place.

Senior management need to commit

Andrew Davies

Visiting professor in information systems, Cranfield School of Management

It sounds as if you have a real big technology infrastructure management problem. Your business customers will soon find out that effective "e" systems can only be delivered in an organisation that has established, and enforces, rigid standards for the configuration and use of PCs. Someone must have the responsibility for doing this and, in most organisations, the obvious choice is the IT function.

It may sound corny, but I suspect that you need an IT strategy, to which your senior business management have committed. At Cranfield, we have worked with many organisations to help them develop their IT strategy, aligning this with the business strategy and an IS application development strategy. It is not easy but we have found it the most effective way to get the business leaders to understand how best to use IT to enable the delivery of benefit to the business.

IT should drive the process

Paul Williams

Arthur Andersen Consulting

This is where it is crucial for senior management to implement and organise the initial deployment and subsequent management of hardware and software to the business. The whole process should be driven by IT with the backing of senior management. The process would involve every stage from buying through to implementation and support. There should, as far as possible, be a common PC build with only one approved hardware and software configuration being tested and deployed fully by the organisation. The value of this is evident in providing a fully tested and supported environment to the business. Businesses would see the benefit of this almost immediately and this would raise the profile of IT within the organisation.

Stages for IT are as follows:

  • Inventory management - assessing existing hardware and software deployed. This task would involve full inventory management of all versions of software as well as detailed information on location and serial numbers of the hardware

  • Standardisation - deploying within the organisation one set of hardware and software standards, keeping control and minimising costs

  • Supplier management - organising and liaising with hardware and software suppliers to ensure that corporate requirements continue to be met and that the best price deals are obtained

  • Deployment control - this is the critical stage in the process, to ensure that, with the backing of the business, the IT department is aware of new starters and leavers within the organisation, via HR, to enable the appropriate installation of the properly configured equipment. This also enables important matters such as security administration to be dealt with properly.

    PCs are commodity items

    Roger Marshall

    IT director, Corporation of London

    Welcome to the Strategy Clinic review of the hot questions from 1985! Are we to believe that this sort of thing still goes on in 2001? Regrettably, the answer is yes.

    Let us look at the business fundamentals. The price of a new PC is now about the same as one week's pay for the average office worker. At this level of cost the idea that the arrival of every new PC is such a novel event is ridiculous. They should be treated as a commodity item.

    The other fundamental is a bit more difficult to grasp. The cost of supporting a PC can vary widely, but even in the best-run organisation is likely to exceed the purchase price within a few months and will carry on at that level for its lifetime. Hardware faults are a rarity and gradually the software is becoming more robust too, so why are PCs still expensive to support?

    The answer, in a word, is complexity. In all probability, the great majority of your business customers want a few basic services from their PCs (word processing, e-mail, etc). They should not be allowed to receive a new PC until you have imposed the corporate standardisation and locked it down so they cannot add their own bells and whistles. You should make it clear that you will take responsibility for the reliability of PCs supplied by you and set up to your standards but not otherwise. If they want to play they should do it on their own PC at home and not be wasting company resources in this way.

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