Standardising desktop services

With many users to support it is important to find a way to deliver standardisation across the desktop and related facilities

With many users to support it is important to find a way to deliver standardisation across the desktop and related facilities

"We currently have a wide variety of hardware and software on the desktops across the regional offices of our national organisation, and are encounting all the problems this senario brings. In addition, our organisation supports a substantial number of home and mobilie workers. We are looking to standardise and introduce a "technology refresh programme" for the desktop. What strategy should we set in place for developing an effective, appropriate programme?"

Secure commitment from the community to influence the management

Alan Murtagh

Principal Consultant, Crew Services

There are several things to bear in mind when trying to get your users to move and stick to a fairly standard desktop and related facilities and services. There's a whole organisational dynamic to be dealt with if your plan is to achieve real business benefit and not ruin the credibility of IS. "My PC is my territory," manuy users think. "I organised these local mission-critical apps because I couldn't get any sense out of the IS department. I am an engineer. I'm at the sharp end."

So, what's the strategy for dealing with such an attitude? There are a number of key components.

First, get your own thoughts together on the business case, not the IS case. Frame and quantify reasons in terms of benefits to users and the business in general.

Secondly, use this information as the basis for workshopping the issue with key user representatives to gain ownership of the standardisation process and to get the stakeholders on board. When faced with the incontrovertible business benefits of "real management" of this arena, even the most fervent IT-bailter will find it hard to resist.

Incidentally, do not attempt to go zealously for total standardisation - it won't work.) Thirdly, having some "pull" from the user community, take your proposals to the board and seek its endorsement of the move as part of company policy.

Fourth, get a high-profile business sponsor and with this individual and a small selection of your key stakeholders, start designing your strategy. Finally, take the strategy, (with business-focused objectives) to your board, aided and abetted by your business sponsor and an influential user. This is not just to convince the board but to secure the commitment of the business community to carrying out the company policy and strategy that it is about to endorse.

That said, remember that your strategy must have a route for exceptions and the capacity for anticipating and acting on necessary change.

I must find a way to cut our IT budget by 10% per annum over the next three years to save the department from being completely outsourced. I can't see the wood from the trees. Has anyone got any ideas to help me find the answer to what seems and impossible demand?"

Long-term thin-client savings can keep threat of outsourcing off the agenda

Eric Grayson

Vice-president Europe, NCD

You need to look at your existing infrastructure in terms of costs. By moving to a server-centric computing environmentyou can reduce total cost of ownership by about 20%-plus per annum, based on Gartner total cost of ownership studies. Support, management and maintenance are the three main areas where costs can be reduced.

The thin-client approach offers a way of delivering familiar applications to the desktop at a reduced cost, both at the point of purchase and over a prolonged period. This is partly due to the fact that a large number of current PC users simply do not need the power of a PC and can manage with something much simpler on the desktop.

In terms of initial outlay, it should't be too painful as you can now buy software that will make PCs run as thin-clients. This is a starting point. As your PCs become obsolete, you can replace them with thin-client Windows-based terminals. You may also need to beef up your server, maybe upgrade it to Windows 2000. This would still mean tremendous savings in the long term.

"I've just taken up the post of IT director in an organisation where the IT department seized control of the corporate Web presence some time ago. I'm a strong believer in the need for the business to take control of e-business and am not comfortable with the state of affairs I have inherited. How can I offload ownership onto the business without denting my credibility?"

E-business should be everyones' business if the firm is to prosper

Alistair O'Reilly,

Managing Director, Access Accounting

There is no question of "off-loading" ownership of e-strategy onto the business. If your company is to survive - let alone prosper - then your e-strategy must have full sponsorship from the top of your organisation and must be embraced by every department.

E-business is more than just another form of marketing. It is a new way of doing business marketing that must happily co-exist and fully integrate with your current business methods. For most organisations e-business starts small as a cost burden, quickly grows to be cost-justified and then produces substantial returns as it accelerates throughout all aspects of the business.

E-business must be driven and owned by the board as a whole. The IT and marketing departments will certainly be involved, but alongside every other department - not in place of any other department.

Forthcoming Questions

  • "I'm reading more and more about electronic "marketplaces" or "exchanges", and their power to streamline procurement procedures, cut costs and reduce invantory lists. What exactly is involved in joining one of these exchanges and would we derive any benefit from setting up our own, or would I risk squandering scarce resources on what could be little more that e-business hype?

  • I am IT director in a large organisation that has for a long time been a MIcrosoft "shop". I have been following recent developments in the US Department of Justice case with a mixture of interest and apprehension. What impact, if any, will the break up of Microsoft have on my work and my department? Should I be reconsidering any aspect of my desktop strategy as a result of the case?

  • After a honeymoon period, one of my preferred contractor suppliers is no longer delivering the goods. Is this their fault, or should I be making my longer-term systems direction and resource planning more transparent to htem so that they can anticipate my needs? Put simply, what can I do to manage better my relationship with my resourcing partner?

  • I am considering turing to an application service provider for rental of applications. I am wary, however, of ending up with a vanilla solution that leaves me unable to differentiate from my competitors. Is this a fair appraisal of the impact the ASP model has on one's IT strategy?

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    Each week our panel of experts draw on their specialist knowledge to solve submitted by our readers. E-mail your questions or your own solutions to this or next week's problem to computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

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