I read a good article on Harvard Business Review—Executives Get the IT They Deserve—which wanders its way through why consumer IT isn’t like Enterprise IT and then why Enterprise IT is better—and worse—than consumer IT. If you take a few minutes and untangle the logic in the article you come to one basic conclusion:
IT isn’t as simple as just saying I want this app and getting it installed. There is planning and thinking around anything you do at your company.
Or there should be.
Without rewriting the whole article for you, here are some high points that are important to have in your mind as we move along here.
There is no getting around the stuff you can download and use is awesome. I use a lot of consumer IT tools at work (like the Markdown editor I’m writing this post in), but consumer tools are built so lots of people can use them quickly and easily. Which also means there are shortcuts and assumptions made about how and when tools will be used. Consumer tools aren’t designed to be customized for your particular company. It either works for you or it doesn’t. End of story. This isn’t bad, it’s just the way these tools are designed to work.
This might be single most important difference between consumer and enterprise tools. Consumer tools are take or leave it. Enterprise tools are take it, and then after some custom work, you have it. Need to configure the tool to how your employees log into their machines each day? Cool. Have a different backup system? Cool. Email system? Not a problem. This is a blessing and a curse. As the article points out, having enterprise tools set up so people only need one username and password to get to all the shared drives, services, and applications is great. That does help productivity, but…
This is the problem that too many enterprise tools suffer from. It’s also the biggest reason people start doing shadow IT projects and sneaking Dropbox, Slack, and other tools into companies. Someone uses a tool at home and it seems better (certainly easier) than the tool and work, so what’s the harm? A lot of small companies and startups cobble together consumer tools until something bad happens (like losing all your files when someone quits) then they realize the switching to the business plans of Dropbox, Evernote, and other once-only-a-consumer-tool apps is a really good idea.
Easy isn’t always good. Let’s say you start editing photos for your company newsletter on your Mac at home because you like Macs better. On a Mac chances are you’ll use Photos to do the editing. We’re all good up until…someone else needs to work on the newsletter. Where are the old photos? Oh there in my Mac at home. Okay. Let me share the library with you. Oh wait, that doesn’t work because we use Windows here.
Photos is a great tool. I use it myself…at home…for personal stuff. At work I use Photoshop and save things to a shared drive. Photoshop might not be an enterprise tool, but it’s certainly industry standard.
One of the challenges with IT in large companies are the number of legacy systems that have to be considered before making changes. From an old accounting system to a long out-of-date ERP that runs all the key order management, you can’t just flick a switch and make wholesale changes to IT.
We get frustrated with systems that are ugly or harder to use, and that can lead to shadow IT pockets popping up, but what really needs to happen is IT needs to be planned. IT needs to be planned with everyone at the table, egos checked at the door, and budgets ready to be allocated to fix things. You can’t make positive changes in your IT infrastructure without time and money allocated to the task.
We’ve seen a lot to systems over the years. We’ve helped lots of clients make small and huge improvements to their IT systems. When you bring in Microserve as your Managed IT provider we assess all your systems. We make recommendations and we rank issues by severity. Maybe the email servers need attention, but the backup system is in worse shape. We develop detailed strategic plans that bring enterprise rigor to any business. To Microserve enterprise doesn’t equal complicated. We like to use systems that are consumer easy, but enterprise strong. We make sure that all your technology is easy to use and gets the job done.
Enterprise-grade IT doesn’t have to be ugly or complicated, but it does take planning, discussion, and the help of a partner to pull it all together.
Photo from The World According To Marty on Flickr.