Technology service providers have been preaching standardization since the 90s.
Identify your chosen hardware and software “stack,” and stick to those technologies. The fewer options you have running around, the better.
For a while, most organizations went along with this approach. Today, the flexibility of cloud computing combined with a desire to maximize employee engagement has resulted in more and more executives rejecting the idea outright.
Their argument is this: If we can access our data from anywhere, why not give our employees the freedom to choose whatever hardware and software they want? Won’t that be an easy way to make them happier and more productive?
It could be. But there are risks to consider.
What you risk with a technology free-for-all
Shifting away from standardized hardware and software puts the following at stake:
- The more centralized your data is, the easier it is to keep that data secure. McAfee’s 2019 Cloud Adoption and Risk report found that the average organization uses 1,900 unique cloud services. How many of those do you think have all the right security controls in place?
- It is much harder to support 50 technologies than it is to support 5. Expertise will be limited, time to resolution will be longer, and support costs will be higher.
- There are few compatibility and access issues (the kind that hinder collaboration and productivity) when your entire team is using the same technologies. You also have the opportunity to provide in-depth training so your team is using each package to its fullest.
Your organization may not prioritize security, supportability, and efficiency over empowering your people to choose their technology.
But it is critical to realize that there is an unavoidable trade-off.
Recommendation: Choose your stance
Make a thoughtful and informed decision about your stance on standardization. A few approaches are:
- Hardline Standardization. You select specific hardware and software packages that are sanctioned by your organization. Any deviation must be justified and formally approved.
- Hybrid Approach. Maybe you want to be firm with your organization’s approved software stack, but want to leave hardware up to personal preference.
- No Formal Policy. If you’re comfortable assuming the risks outline above and want to give your team ultimate freedom with their equipment and applications, your policy can be to not have a policy.
Work with your leadership to decide which approach makes the most sense given your corporate culture, risk tolerance, and budget.
Assess where you are today, and chart next steps. Do you need to outfit a portion of your team with new hardware? Do you need to consolidate your collaboration tools into one platform? Do you have a new perk to announce?
Fit this initiative into your overall IT strategy, and be on your way to regaining control of your environment.
As originally published in the American City Business Journals.