Perfect IT Storm.

I guess it is the perfect day for such topic. Most of you may not be aware that I live in Ottawa, Canada and to celebrate the upcoming winter, today we got blessed with a nice, 12″ (30 cm) snow storm. As I will have plenty of time until I get back home and clean up the driveway, I decided to put in words something I have been thinking for a long time, since this wave of craziness started with people like Brian Madden, Michael Keen and Harry Labana. Yes, I am talking about User Installed applications and I will explain why this may be the worst idea to ever be considered in IT land.

First of all I do understand that users do have needs and I am cool with that. And that sometimes they may need a tool that is not readily available for them. But to stretch that and say that user installed apps is the solution is asking for HUGE problems down the road and here is the reason: legal issues.

As you all know, there are several companies that on their EULA will explicitly mention their application must NOT run on Terminal Services. If you do it, you are violating the EULA. Now, between you and me, how many of you IT people actually read the freaking EULA for an application before deploying it on your TSs AND (note the word AND here) consulted your legal department to clarify the EULA (do not try to tell me you, an IT person, understood 100% all the legal bullshit written in an EULA and the legal implications/ramifications – that is why lawyers exist)? Answer: none I am almost certain.

So if you leave the decision on what to run on his desktop to the user, are you guys thinking they will read and understand the EULA? For God’s sake these people do not even read the user guides that come with their brand new HDTVs. Do you think all of the sudden they will start reading EULAs? For sure you can get a lawyer to help the user do that what will drive that Winzip license from $20 to $20,000 as soon as the lawyer finishes his work and gives you a report if there are any legal issues on running WinZip on a hosted VM under XenDesktop 4 running under vSphere 4 running under HP C-class blades in a datacenter in Oregon. Yes, the lawyer will consider all this.

The real issue here goes deeper than that and is really tied into how IT is seen or works in most companies. IT is seen as a team of firefighters, always fighting some fire inside the company. Logon times that are way too slow, applications that refuse to work, machines that crash, printers that do not print and so on. And that is exactly where the problem is.

If your IT team spends 80%, 90% of their time doing what I described above, there is something wrong with your IT infrastructure and/or planning/directions. Sorry to rain on your parade but that is the truth. IT should be way more than that. A group of people that understand the business needs, the user needs and comes up with the right tools to deliver these requirements. If users do have all the tools they need (note that ‘need’ does not mean ‘want’) why do they need to install anything else on their machines to do their work? They do not need it. Please do not tell me that fucking iTunes is a requirement. It is not and we both know that.

That brings us to the fact that IT and Technical Support are seen as synonymous. They are not. Another group must exist and this is the one that will find the real needs and come up with the real tools. Some could say this is the CIO/CTO and that could be the case but putting all this weight in one shoulder is not smart. A single person, you and me included, will make mistakes. Guaranteed. A CTO/CIO title does not mean “Technical/Business God/Jesus Christ”. Actually in several large companies I worked with, that was exactly the opposite. This person had really no deep understanding of the business and/or the technologies. Another recipe for a disaster. That is why I think these decisions should be handled by a group, something like ‘IT Architects’ and these guys would be of course connected to theĀ ‘Technical Support’ so they understand what is coming and prepare themselves to support the users and the expected issues. Yes, there are issues, no matter how well you plan/deliver your dream environment.

Another thing that came to my mind this week is the whole BYOPC idea that is closely tied to the whole user installed crap idea. I like it and I can see the benefits. But again, I am sure there are legal issues with that approach. Legally I would love to hear what a lawyer has to say. For example if a user brings in his own machine to the office (company property) and somehow that machine that is not owned by the corporation happens to do something like burning down the office, having a bomb inside, steal files, whatever where there is financial damage that an insurance company has to step up and pay the bill, will they actually do it or will they say in court that as that machine was not part of the corporation and the whole damage was caused by a third party (the user with his own PC), would they have legal grounds to give the corporation the finger? Or even sue the user and make him pay for all the crap in damages? Has anyone consulted their legal department/lawyer/insurance company to clarify this? Again, almost certain no one did it.

The legal issues such approach brings are huge, especially considering that you can interpret the law in several different ways. Plus, as all I wrote above, I think this hides under the rug a bigger issue that is not having an IT group that is actually working as they should: looking for ways to make the business more efficient, by clearly understanding user AND business needs. If this is all working as it should, user installed apps are not required. Sorry.

Users/companies should be able to work efficiently with a common toolset as per my post here.

If you cannot deliver that, look under your rug. I am sure you will find a load of crap there.

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