Homogeneous is Good for Milk, Bad for Schools

We want to be the best.

Who doesn't?

If we just wanted to be good, my organization doesn't need a strategic IT leader, it could get by with a manager.

Someone who delivers IT services at the lowest possible cost.

Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing differentiating.



Easily managed.

(Sound like much of IT delivered now, doesn't it?)

And one of the key tools of Safe IT leadership, is the concept of standardization, or homogeneity.

Homogeneity is the state of conformity. Milk from various sources is mixed together to become homogeneous so that every sip will taste consistent.

Now before you jump down to the comment section and furiously type what's going through your mind right now, I'm not against standards... but the concept of universal application of technology to the lowest common denominator so that everyone gets the same level of service, or everyone has the same equipment.

This works well with milk because everyone who consumes milk has pretty much the same requirement from the stuff.  Not so with technology.

The trouble is, lowest common denominator leaves a bad taste in the mouths of our users, with the possible exception of the CFO, since we've curtailed operational costs so much.

To the people who are hindered from being effective in their jobs because of inadequate computer resources, or are not able to send or receive any email since someone sent them a proposal that exceeded their inbox quota, or the teacher that has a fantastic new tool to engage students which she can't use because of network restrictions, IT is a gatekeeper, a roadblock, or in extreme cases, perceived as the enemy.

This is not a way to get IT invited to the executive leadership table.

But neither is creating a completely unstructured, wild west model of anarchy.

You still need to ensure your organization is in compliance with all regulatory and privacy legislation.

Your network and data need to be available all the time, from wherever your users need to access it.

You still need to deliver high value for technology investment.

But you also need to provide relevant IT services to each unique operational area of your organization.

Forcing everyone to use the same level of technology misses the mark.

IT has been good at differentiating mobile and non-mobile users, but we need to expand our vision a bit, and not be constrained by our "standards".

For some, a simple configuration will provide them all the computing power they need.

Others need more.  Developers, DBA's, numbercrunchers, graphic designers, media specialists - each tend to require more than the standard configuration.

And what do you do if a department in your organization asks for a workstation made by (gasp!) Apple?

Are the first words out of your mouth "NO WAY IN H*LL!" or "Interesting! How would having an iMac (or MacBook Pro) (or Win 8 computer if you are in a 100% Apple environment) make your team better?  What could it allow you to do you are not doing now?"

I KNOW there are a huge number of network, configuration and management issues that go along with bring a whole other ecosystem into your tightly controlled environment, but if your ecosystem can't deliver the tools and functionality your users need, then I would suggest that you consider expanding your world.

I've recently changed the wording I use to describe our environment here.  I used to say "We are a 100% 1:1 pen-based tablet school!", but now it's different.

We are not a PC school.  We are not an Apple school. We are not a tablet school.

We are now officially a "Best Technology for the Task School!"

This means we have a standard baseline computing platform.

It also means that there are exceptions. We have studios of high end iMac for post production on student media projects. It means our developers, DBAs, numbercrunchers have beefed up equipment to eliminate the waiting caused by under-powered computing platforms.

It means we let user-provided equipment onto the network.

It means we have moved much of the management of our ecosystem into the network layer, rather than tightly controlling the endpoints.

We have invested in creating a technology ecosystem that is strong enough to handle the complexity of end point device agnosticism, but for the user it creates an open platform for innovation.

Which is what IT really should be about.

Related Posts:
Unbiased to all but excellence.
'Equal' does not equal 'The Same' - Why some people deserve to go to the front of the IT help line.


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