April 4, 2010    /    by

iPad versus Enterprise Standards: Who Wins?

iPad fever is here! On a weekend that celebrates Easter, the NCAA Final Four and record warm temperatures over half the country, everyone seems to ...

iPad fever is here! On a weekend that celebrates Easter, the NCAA Final Four and record warm temperatures over half the country, everyone seems to be talking about the latest must-have, cool-tool the Apple iPad .

Just in case, you haven't seen it on TV or noticed any long lines out in front of Apple stores, the iPad has been covered by news outlets and technology magazines for several months. So if you can't beat them, join them. (Hence this blog on what it means for technology staff who need to adjust to this new normal.)

Maybe you were one of the thousands standing in line around the world to get an iPad. You've got to get your hands on this latest technology toy, which I must admit seems very attractive. Maybe you're even reading this blog right now on an iPad?

Or perhaps you're thinking: "Here we go again." Let's talk about that.

Government professionals, especially infrastructure staff, are struggling globally with truly implementing this concept of enterprise technology standards .  Yes, there are plenty of good government technical architecture examples to look at such as these websites in North Carolina or Minnesota .  But I'm referring to the problem that companies like Gartner and Unisys call the Consumerization of IT .

So here are some basic facts:

·         Technology professionals around the world decided long ago that standardization can save dollars . Consolidation and efficient use of technology is difficult if there are hundreds or thousands of different types of hardware and software all over the enterprise that needs to be supported.

·         Governments at all levels issue and follow numerous standards and policies.

·         Most governments issue contracts which standardize on the desktop and mobile technologies which employees can purchase for work.

·         Many employees want something different than what's available. New iPads may fall into this category (at least for a time).

·         Government technology staff, and especially security staff, struggle with being labeled as the disablers when they deliver the bad news to staff.  "You can't have the latest innovative technology!" (Not good.)

·         Government often lags industry in adoption of new technology. This can be either perceived or real. Making the case for new technologies such as iPads can be difficult and/or take time to build an ROI. However, private sector firms struggle with these same issues.

·         Employees often bring their personal devices to work and plug them in causing a variety of security, data synchronization  or other problems.

·         Trends like " bring your own pc to work " are slow to be adopted in governments.


What's a technology manager to do? This certainly appears to be a Win-Lose proposition, at least for now. (We're the losers either way). I've know a few people that just opened things up to whatever people wanted. While they were short-term heroes, they no longer work for those companies or government offices.


Truthfully, I don't have any easy answers for you. There seem to be so many new cool technology gadgets coming out all the time. Will we ever keep up? I honestly doubt it.


I have seen answers in some circles which ban everything in sight, but those only seem to be accepted by staff when secret clearances are involved. (If you lose your clearance in the DoD, you're out of a job.)


The other extreme is just: "Trust me or I won't tell anybody." However, I don't see that working very well in the long run either.


Computer industry answers seem to either be company-specific or not very practical. Oftentimes you hear - "just buy all my products and you'll be fine." Excuse me, please go back and read the first part again. Your product is not the one that my customers are waiting in line for at this moment.  


I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. How is your government dealing with all the new toys - from smart phones to iPads? Anyone wait in line over the past week at an Apple store? Plan on bringing the iPad to work? Inquiring minds want to know.