Feeds

The desktop provisioning palaver

Policy, practice and patience

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Workshop Setting and maintaining desktop policy and provisioning equipment and software sounds like something that should be done once and then left to gather dust while people just get on with things in the knowledge that it’s all been agreed.

Perhaps this would be practical if such interesting developments weren’t afoot in consumer device and freebie software land - and if we could lock down human nature indefinitely.

Simply having a policy in place to govern the provision of hardware and software to users isn’t enough. You won’t need to look very far to know this is true to at least some degree in your organisation. You also probably know when the last time a non-standard piece of kit or software caused a user - or you - strife.

On the other hand, when was the last time the policies governing this area were reviewed? What may have seemed eminently sensible and fair two years ago might not be seen as such today. The first place to look when considering a review in this area is the policies themselves.

Despite the lure and impact of consumerisation, setting hardware policy is the easier task to address. Relatively speaking, this involves a review of user requirements followed by any appropriate updates to the existing hardware policy. And that’s kind of it. The challenge is finding the time to do it, and then asking procurement nicely to assess a range of suppliers.

The latter may be a more achievable goal for a larger organisation due to the potential for discounts on bulk orders. In both small and large businesses, however, there may be some user resistance to kit standardisation, depending on whether you are simply tweaking an existing policy or attempting to make some considerable changes.

It’s one thing setting out policy on the hardware side and acknowledging such issues as the creep of consumerisation, but quite another to drive standardisation on the application software side. It may seem like an easy task to identify the core software apps in use, but only an in-depth knowledge of the different groups and sub groups within the user base will help identify the ‘real’ software portfolio in use, and the degree of user sensitivity that exists around particular applications.

Ultimately the problem lies in persuading the users to move from their favourite app to your standard one. On paper it’s a simple list: supported/official vs not supported. It’s all a very human challenge.

In practice, the impact on the business may not be felt until certain things are removed. Thus a fundamental part of the process is to talk to the users and really get to grips with the range of software they actually use to do their jobs versus the software they are supposedly using.

But despite the human factor, it’s worth remembering why we’re trying to get a handle on all this in the first place. As it happens there is a multitude of reasons, motivations and hence justification for not only taking action, but expecting support from on high to do so.

Ultimately the major benefit is saving money. Easily quantified opportunities include better deals on kit through standardisation and bulk orders (subject to the size of your business/order of course). But the big savings lie on the software side, even though it may be the toughest area in which to persuade users to comply with policy in practice. Indeed, auditing, rationalising and then managing as tightly as possible the portfolio of paid-for and supported software applications and the user base is likely to yield cost savings for most organisations.

Softer savings are also up for grabs in that management overheads should be reduced as the number of different devices and software products IT supports in line with provisioning policy are reduced. Needless to say, fewer different devices and software means less stuff to go wrong, fewer suppliers to manage, fewer maintenance contracts and fewer support calls, not to mention reduced security risks from the reduced attack surface presented by a smaller application portfolio.

Tightening things up here will make the IT department’s life a little more straightforward and hopefully free up some welcome cash. Starting the process and maintaining a consistent desktop provisioning regime won’t create a permanent state of peace and harmony – uppity users will crush that dream - but it may at least begin to provide some breathing space and help the IT department get onto the front foot.

However, a word of warning: if making your life easier is the sole motivation, then going through the motions and reducing choice and access (in the eyes of the user) without consultation and plenty of brow-smoothing risks creating a lot of aggro, even though IT probably feels rightly justified in cracking the whip.

The good news, however, is that none of this needs to be attempted at once. It’s not an overnight task - more a program of consult/act/review which could be set in place over an 18-24 month period. That way, tasks associated with the program are not overly time-consuming or ‘oppressive’ in terms of expecting the users to cope with significant changes at once, and senior business management’s interest can be maintained with an accompanying Blue Peter-style savings ‘totaliser’.

Workable policies work because they are designed appropriately. However, getting users’ buy-in requires a different skill set – a blend of diplomacy, bribery and a big stick. Naturally, support is required from business leadership, and, given their love of efficiency and cost reduction, it’s fair to say that you may be able to attract their attention and support by leading with these elements. However, they may also care about the harmony of the workforce and their ability to do their jobs properly. Be prepared to balance the hard and soft metrics.

Putting all this into context then, we’d like to know what you’ve achieved in your IT department in this area. Did any parts prove themselves surprisingly easy to address or, in contrast, a royal pain? ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.