Many managers think information technology (IT) is easy because they’ve installed Microsoft Office, quickly downloaded an app to their smartphone, added a printer to a workstation or smoothly installed a wireless access point.
Even without this experience, they assume IT is easy because their children have successfully performed these tasks. Most managers in companies, regardless of their position, are also IT managers in their homes unless they’ve delegated this role to their children.
Based on what they wrongly believe to be their significant and relevant experience with IT at home, many managers are exasperated by what they see as the high cost and horrendous elapsed time associated with company IT. This exasperation is most noticeable during Windows or enterprise resource planning (ERP) upgrade projects that cost a lot, are disruptive at times and produce little tangible business value. No wonder millions of PCs are still running Windows XP.
Somehow the differences between company IT and home IT aren’t immediately apparent to managers because the visible part of IT in both places – the workstation – is outwardly identical. The home workstation also reinforces the sense of similarity between company IT and home IT because so much is the same. For example, Windows, Office, File Explorer, Chrome and Acrobat Reader all appear to be the same.
The differences between company IT and home IT are more significant than they often appear at first glance. Companies can achieve better IT performance, and managers can reduce their frustration and stress by:
- outsourcing the operation of the computing infrastructure to a managed service provider (MSP);
- operating with software packages and avoiding custom software development;
- relentlessly standardizing their business processes.
Differences between company IT and home IT
Surprisingly, it’s easy to overlook or forget the significant differences in complexity and scale. The home typically has two or three workstations with non-standard images, while the company operates with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of workstations with managed images.
The home likely has a few smartphones and some iPads, while the company supports at least dozens of smartphones and various makes and models of tablets. The home may use Simply Accounting for the family while the company operates a sophisticated ERP.
The home has no servers, network, database management systems (DBMS), backup/recovery, security, disaster recovery plan or project management office (PMO). The home has no hardware, software or service vendors with their agendas that need to be managed. Hopefully, the company handles all of these topics.
One giant difference is that the home has no software development. Most companies operate a software development group, even when they use mostly software packages or software as a service (SaaS) from vendors. A software development capability is still needed to deal with:
- software package integration;
- unique reporting and charting requirements;
- the data management work that results from mergers and acquisitions.
Explaining differences between company IT and home IT
Faced with skeptical managers, IT staff must bite their lips while patiently explaining, educating and reminding managers about the differences between company IT and home IT. It’s not helpful to become critical or sarcastic. Unprofessional remarks only widen the rift between business management and the IT function.
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It’s often effective to describe specific differences between company IT and home IT. For example, company IT delivers high availability and high performance while home IT doesn’t. Company IT offers recoverability while home IT loses files and photos from time to time. Company IT can handle hundreds or thousands of concurrent end-users while home IT can’t.
IT managers often use analogies to various company functions to effectively communicate the value of IT. For example:
- Company facilities like buildings and factories require meticulous maintenance and predictable upgrades, just like company software.
- Company trucks wear out and are replaced. Servers and workstations are no different.
- The company cafeteria can only serve so many employees before a lineup forms that slows down lunch. Similarly, the company network can handle the traffic of only so many employees before congestion slows it down.
- The company builds new facilities to replace worn-out or inefficient facilities. Similarly, company applications are replaced as new businesses, new technologies, or new requirements arise.
The differences between company IT and home IT are more significant than they often appear at first glance.
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.
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