A Call for More Flexible Desktop Standards

As the number of younger, Web 2.0-aware users continues to grow, Nick Cavalancia, vice president of marketing for ScriptLogic Corp., believes many organizations need to evolve a more flexible standardization strategy for accommodating their desktop needs. Underscoring this need for a more flexible standards approach is the specter of Windows Vista and its raft of exploitive applications, he says.

Cavalancia believes, however, that desktop standardization doesn't mean identical configurations for every employee. Standardization, he says, takes in things such as: application use, including a consistent strategy for app deployment; OS configuration, which includes organizing end-user settings companywide; and a support model, which involves developing a plan for handling all tech-support calls so users know what steps to take before calling IT.

Cavalancia sat with Redmond Editor Ed Scannell to discuss his views on setting standards in the age of Web 2.0 that offer users what they want while also smoothing out the technical complexities of an IT shop.

Redmond: Are people revisiting the idea of desktop standardization as a way to further simplify more complex IT environments?

Cavalancia: Yes, it's an old concept, like saying "think outside the box." But the difference now is you have a lot of new workers coming in that are Web 2.0-type users and have personalized My Space or Face Book or blogger pages-people who are accustomed to having their own environments, and so the definition of standardization for IT has to change.

How so?

I'll define it this way. Standardization to me doesn't mean everyone is the same. What it does mean is that on top of a base configuration such as Windows and Office and Adobe, there's now some new level of personalization on the desktop. This personalization can be just a shortcut to Word, or putting something in the Start Menu. But it's important for an organization to remain IT-centric so it can centrally approve the evolving configuration and centrally deploy it. If they can still look at a central console and say, "OK, here's Ed's basic configuration including Windows Explorer coming up with a certain Web page," that's good. The idea is to keep evolving something that still makes you productive. Standardization with some vendors today still revolves around the physical machine itself, and so they abide by the old definition of standardization. Why? Because there's no person involved. They say, "If I have a payroll PC in the payroll department, then that machine gets the payroll app. Period."

Besides Web 2.0-centric users, what other factors are complicating desktop standardization?

Certainly the switch to Vista and the new security model is coming into play and so applications compatibility will be an issue. But Microsoft has produced some free tools in its application-compatibility toolkit that let IT figure out what locations in the registry and file system the app is accessing so IT can figure things out. They're moving IT in the right direction but everyone sort of groans and says, "OK, but that's a lot of work." Well, yeah, it is now, but if you work to get this into your standard then you're sitting pretty for the next three years. Part of my job here -- and I sometimes call myself chief product evangelist -- is to get people to think ahead.

You're advising people to do the grunt work on Vista now, but a lot of people have decided not to go to Vista until Microsoft delivers Service Pack 1 early next year.

Yes, that's fair to say. I did a white paper on Vista called the "Proactive Migration to Vista." In that [white paper] I focus not so much on products as I do on thought leadership and trying to drive people to think about how they do their deployments. And a lot of that revolves around standardization and when the work needs to be done. I think IT in general here is missing the mark if they don't start thinking about these things now.

Even with the finished code out there, it seems hard to get people motivated to spend time focusing on working Vista into their standards base.

I agree. But look, Vista is inevitable. So now's the time to get up to speed on it. Even agencies like the DOT [U.S. Department of Transportation] say they're not going to migrate to Vista, that it's too costly and involves a major overhaul. Instead, they should be looking at what they could be doing to get ready.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.


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