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There are many challenges that face an IT support worker in a day to day environment. Starting at the urgent call from someone who has to be back up and working within the next 5 minutes or the company will lose millions, to the inane questions about which PC is best to do web surfing or send emails. For the record any computer on sale today is more than capable of sending every email you are ever going to write and display every webpage you are ever going to visit without raising a sweat. However, the challenge that causes the most consternation for those poor individuals tasked with keeping PCs running, are the “non-standard” requests.
The request for that new piece of software or that different type of hardware you believe will give your machine slightly better performance, or simply give it a better look. While this may seem reasonable enough from the users perspective, especially if it is driven by a business need, it can be the catalyst for a large headache in the IT department. So why is a standard so important? To answer that we need to look at what a standard is and why we have them in IT.
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Standards are a virtual green zone for the majority of IT workers the world around. It is the locked down settings for Internet Explorer or your Office programs, the brand of PC on your desk and the type of monitor attached to it. It is the way your IP phone is locked to only a few different ringtones and your handheld can only run approved applications. While most home users will install the latest and coolest software or buy the biggest and prettiest hardware, enterprise software and hardware is chosen due to its reliability, cost in units of a thousand or more, the availability of support and spares 24 x 7 x 365 and most importantly the familiarity the support staff has with using and fixing the technology.
Of course this is not to be confused with the standards used in industry that dictate the laws on how virtually every device is to be used safely and correctly. No, these standards are the guidelines developed by the internal staff to best suit how the company works as dictated by the business. If a standard environment has been implemented within your company then this ensures problems that occur en-masse are easily handled.
You see, if all devices are simply a clone of each other then you can be extremely confident that a fix that works on one device will work on every other device in the network. This allows IT departments to be slightly more proactive than reactive, as they can test and rollout patches/fixes/upgrades after a relatively quick testing turnaround because they have been able to run through all the required tests on devices that are identical to what the user has in front of them. Well that’s the plan. Unfortunately these plans are completely undone by the previously mentioned “non-standard” request.
Some of these requests turn out to be frivolous and are simply due to a lack of knowledge on the requestors behalf of what assets or device capabilities are already available to them. However, there are always legitimate requests that will ultimately save money/time/resources or all three for the business. It then becomes the challenge for the IT department to shoehorn this new device or technology into the current asset fleet without causing problems or failures with the existing technologies. However, it must be kept in mind that a non-standard request just for your machine, no matter how logical or beneficial, can often be met with resistance from your IT department.
Remember as soon as your device moves away from the standard you become a unique case that has to be catered for separately to the rest of the asset fleet. Multiply this by a few hundred to a few thousand depending on your company size and all of a sudden the IT department is running around personally attending to all these unique devices every time a patch, change or upgrade is required. With IT budgets the way they are in the current climate, you quickly begin to see why the “standard” environment is so strictly adhered to.