When you're having problems with your enterprise laptop or workstation, who do you call? Is your IT staff just down the hall, or are they on the other side of the globe?
At one time, staffing each branch office with its own IT manager and techs was standard practice. Today the pendulum has swung the other direction. With technology now a mission-critical component of most businesses, the trend is for IT to account directly to senior management. Centralizing IT has become the norm, and in some cases, IT functions are outsourced completely.
Unfortunately, IT organizations often handle the transition poorly. Where once they were free to concentrate on desktop support, now they are saddled with additional burdens such as regulatory compliance, management of zero-day security threats, and the need to generate real-time business performance metrics. Often they respond by taking an authoritarian approach, locking down workstations and establishing cast-iron IT policies.
Things only get worse from there. As more and more user requests require intervention from IT, bureaucracy sets in. Soon even the most basic reconfiguration requires a trouble ticket.
Ironically, heavy-handed IT administration can sometimes backfire. End-users, fed up with the burdensome restrictions of corporate IT policy, react by installing their own IM clients, P2P (peer to peer) software, application servers, and wireless LANs. Similarly, inadequate licensing policies can lead frustrated users to install pirated software -- all of which encourages IT to take an even heavier hand.
Reversing this trend will take serious effort. IT policy should not be drafted haphazardly, but instead with careful consideration of actual business needs and objectives. Senior management must stop viewing IT as a "business partner" and instead recognize it as an integral part of the organization. Greater emphasis must be placed on individual user needs, with a renewed focus on desktop support.
Of course, these measures will cost money. And that's the bottom line -- until businesses are willing to invest in IT commensurate with its role in day-to-day operations, we shouldn't expect IT to help improve our computing experience. In fact, it might even hinder it.