Working PDAs into the network puzzle

Find out the best way to handle the PDA wars form columnist Dave Kearns.

NET KNOW-HOW WITH DAVE KEARNS

By Dave Kearns

Working PDAs into the network puzzle

In response to last month's column on tech toys your clueless execs get for holiday gifts, TechPortugal asked, "How do we dissuade them from getting their own PDA hooked up to the network?" It's true that the personal digital assistant (PDA) is just one more status battleground for the rising young executive -- always searching for one that's bigger, better, faster. You need to extract yourself from the status battlefield as quickly as you can.

The best way to handle the PDA wars is to establish a corporate standard along with hard and fast corporate policies. Let the big boss -- the CEO, president, whoever is in charge -- decide which PDAs will be supported. This is best done after you've studied the market and decided which mesh best with the software and hardware you are using. Follow this up with a hard campaign to have the boss choose the right one. Use the compatibility argument ("this one is more compatible with [whichever application the boss uses most]") as well as the money-saving argument ("supporting different brands will mean hiring another helpdesk clerk.")

Once you've got that decision made, you can't rest until there are firm policies in place. If you find you can't establish a corporate standard for a PDA, or find your boss leaning towards making the wrong choice (e.g., one that will require lots of manual integration on your part) then go right for the policy setting step. Setting policies like the ones below is also useful for controlling some execs' desire to choose different applications, operating systems or hardware platforms that you aren't willing to support.

The first policy is most important: only approved, "corporate-standard" hardware and software can be installed on the enterprise network. Any exceptions require the approval of at least three people from a list including you, the CIO, the CEO, and the requesting person's immediate supervisor. Make getting that approval a daunting task so that it can't be dome simply on a whim.

Second, provide choices for people -- limited choices, but choices -- as well as varying degrees of support. As an example, consider word processors. Suppose you've selected Microsoft Word (as an integral part of Microsoft Office) as your corporate standard. You install and support it 7x24x365. But you also install and provide limited support for Star Office for those who feel they need to make a political statement against Microsoft, or who prefer to have a Linux or Unix desktop (and good luck picking which of those to support). You'll provide limited support for Star Office only so far as integrating outputs with Microsoft Office products. Third on the list is WordPerfect. This one you'll install, but provide no support -- the user is on his own. No other word processors are allowed. This way, you're seen as giving everyone a reasonable choice while limiting the amount of knowledge your support staff has to acquire. Better they should be experts on one or two systems than merely advanced users on a half dozen.

The third policy, one somewhat harder to implement, is to restrict network connection to only corporate-owned hardware and software. Your argument here is that you need to control licensing issues. This is easy to show with software (if you don't hold the license certificate, you can't produce it when asked). Hardware (which is harder to pirate!) falls under the licensing topic because of the operating systems and applications installed on the hardware.

Use common sense and reasonable arguments. Compare what you're asking with other departments. Telecom won't let people bring in their own telephones, facilities frowns on personal portable heaters and fans, and there are all sorts of hoops to jump through before you can use your personal vehicle for company business. Make a reasonable business case, and you can be seen as a person looking out for the bottom line rather than someone who's obstructing the needs of that rising young executive. Would you like to receive Dave's future columns via e-mail? Go to our registration page, enter your password, and edit your profile by checking the box next to "Net Know-how with Dave Kearns."
This was first published in January 2002

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