Thought for the day: Don't ignore the desktop

End-users are frustrated by IT directors' blinkered view, says Barrie Hadfield

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Managing what is happening on the desktop means more than just looking at helpdesk response times or planning the next Windows upgrade, says Barrie Hadfield.



Microsoft was fined £333m by the European competition commissioner last month following the EU's ruling on the software giant's media player software.

For the millions of users of Microsoft products, the battle of the bundle is of little consequence. But putting Microsoft under the microscope does focus attention on desktop software, an area of IT that is often neglected in pursuit of bigger enterprise goals.

Most IT pain opinion polls will include a top three of storage, security and network performance, followed by a fleet of enterprise application issues all addressing some form of business process that requires change. So, when do IT departments consider the desktop perspective?

In a survey of 100 firms conducted by Vanson Bourne for Workshare in December 2003, only 14% felt in control of their workloads. The majority cited the volume of e-mail and management of simple desktop tasks as the biggest IT barriers to getting workloads under control. Looking ahead, e-mail traffic is estimated to increase at 40% a year.

IT is a world of networks and servers, not people and workloads. Paradoxically, for most business users the desktop is their IT universe, so an IT strategy that ignores one, is ignoring the other.

There is a conundrum here. Desktop software is a victim of its own success. IT departments are complacent about what happens on the desktop since applications, such as e-mail and Office, do not need fixing because all problems can be solved from the server. But this misses the point.

For example, desktop workers dislike lots of e-mails and attachments because they are difficult to manage and hinder productivity. IT departments hate e-mails and attachments because they eat up storage space. Buying more storage will solve the problem for one party but not the other.

Business users today are overwhelmed by fragmented tasks and processes and IT departments need to regularly assess how this affects the desktop environment. Just because a network runs faster, it does not mean that employee output is improving.

Managing what is happening on the desktop involves more than just looking at helpdesk response times or planning the next Windows upgrade. IT departments need to assess and audit users on their biggest frustrations in working with technology.

Though e-mail and desktop applications may seem like IT small fry in the enterprise scheme of things, failing to understand how individuals and teams use these tools will affect the success of any IT strategy. Seeing the desktop as an open-and-shut case will leave many opportunities to improve efficiency overlooked.

Barrie Hadfield is chairman of desktop software provider Workshare

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