IT Pros: Why 2013 Must Be the Year of End User Satisfaction
We can't make users happy when we insist that every IT service comes straight from our own datacenter. Now's the time to start thinking of new ways to manage IT.
IT pros are going to have to be a lot nicer to users in 2013. We've seen it coming, so this statement shouldn't catch anyone off guard. And I don't mean to imply that we don't want to be nicer to our users, because most IT pros I know really do want to do a good job by their users. The problem arises when our users have different needs and wants than our broader organization is prepared to meet.
Consumerization of IT
The problem is that our users are running all over the place, picking up IT services from wherever they want, because we aren't providing them with those services. It's not usually IT's fault per se; in some cases, we simply don't have the money or manpower to deploy things such as Internet-connected, secured, authenticated storage solutions. So our users sign up for a Dropbox account instead, which we promptly block at the firewall. Then they manage to access it via their mobile device's LTE connection anyway. And they do so even though Dropbox and other similar services don't provide the security or accountability that we're required by law to provide for the documents those users are flinging around the intertubes.
We end up spending a lot of time saying "no," and even more time explaining why "no" is a perfectly reasonable answer. "No, you can't have a new Web server, because you're going to be putting up content that we need to control and secure. We've got to put a system around that, and we don't have any budget or manpower to get it done. Get the executives to free up some resources and we can make it happen." Next thing you know, your company has 11 dozen Amazon Web Services (AWS) accounts. (True story: I know of one large company that had more than 130 unauthorized AWS accounts in addition to the one that they thought they had.)
Reversing the Trend
So what can we do? Obviously, this is something that requires an organizational-level commitment. It's also going to require some serious rethinking about what IT is. For example, I know a lot of IT pros who get crazy-nervous -- and justifiably so -- when companies start talking about outsourced IT. "Well, if we all just use Dropbox, what is my job going to be?" they ask. "Will I still be needed?"
IT often can't help with the broader organizational issues such as budgeting and manpower -- but we can be smarter about our jobs. For instance, I think in this day and age we all have to accept that outsourcing, in various forms, is going to happen. Why not embrace it, and help make our users happier at the same time? "You know, we don't have the resources to set that Web site up internally, but let's look at what you plan to do with it. If you've got budget, and if you're not going to be hosting any customer data, then I can help you spin up an AWS-based Web site. You'll get what you need, and I'll still have a job managing that outsourced service."
Or: "I know you need to share those files with customers. But the bottom line is, they contain sensitive information and we've got to make sure it stays encrypted and whatnot the whole way. We can't do that with Dropbox -- but I've found this other online service that will work. Let me help you write up a justification document, and we'll run it through channels and see if we can't get that working for you."
We can't make users happy when we insist that every IT service comes straight from our own datacenter. We're going to have to allow for outsourcing (when we can do it without damaging the organization). It isn't going to obviate our jobs -- not all of them. The more we, as IT, can become enablers, the more valuable we'll be to the organization -- whether we're enabling in-house services, cloud-based services or whatever. We don't need to be button-pushers in order to be valuable and keep our users productive.
It's something to think about as you wind down 2012 and start looking forward to 2013. Happy New Year!
Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of PowerShell.org, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.