Why change (IT perspective)?

[Editor's note: Although Paul Murphy is offline until August 7, he filed a series of chapter summaries for a book in progress on Sun Rays and the Smart Display Architecture.] This section extends the three organizational scenarios from the previous piece to discuss the risks and benefits associated with the decision to adopt a smart display architecture.

[Editor's note: Although Paul Murphy is offline until August 7, he filed a series of chapter summaries for a book in progress on Sun Rays and the Smart Display Architecture.]

This section extends the three organizational scenarios from the previous piece to discuss the risks and benefits associated with the decision to adopt a smart display architecture.

Part one looks at what happens if you use Sun Rays as thin clients - i.e. change your desktops but don't change your management style or software. In effect this becomes a recital of thin client benefits including:

 

  • data stays at the server no matter where the employee is - important for transnationals who need to comply with local information control legislation and for professional firms who need to ensure client data security.

     

  • lower support, power, and hassle (replacement, breakdown, space, cooling, noise) costs on the desktop;

     

  • auditability and process control (mainframe virtues without the cost)

     

  • multiple source service delivery
    • concurrent or easily switchable Unix and Wintel application access;

       

    • cheap large screen support - e.g. dual head Sun Ray;

     

  • ability to access both CICS/COBOL and Unix apps eases mainframe to Unix transition;

     

  • least likely to fail in nasty, noisy, EM field polluted production environments;

Part two looks at what happens if you adopt the full architecture. In particular the focus is on what this does for the user and therefore on what it looks like to senior, middle, and line management.

The difference is this: using the Sun Ray as a thin client generally nets out as making IT more productive while using it in a smart display architecture generally nets out as making users more productive.

User productivity trumps all non security, non corporate risk, issues - and it doesn't take much to make a big difference: a 1% user productivity gain trumps a 50% IT cost decrease at most companies.

The productivity benefits to thin clients come from easily measured things like reliability and systems performance - those from smart display use tend to be much larger but also much more nebulous. For example:

 

  • user ownership "now" signals user commitment "going forward".

     

  • system wide "unbreakability" and the absence of social costs for users needing help leads to experimentation with software - reversing the usual ERP/SCM decline in which incoming employees use ever shrinking fractions of total available functionality.

     

  • the most basic thin client benefit is that the absence of the PC OS and related networking complexities removes most of the ambiguities from desktop issues. Hardware fails, rarely but obviously; cables come loose, and some software changes have unexpected consequences - but when these things happen the source of the problem is usually obvious: no reboots, no desktop software, no network tracing, no issues with indirect server dependencies.

    And all this has a smart display corolary: it should quickly becomes obvious to everyone that IT's job is to deliver a working application, but it's the user's job to use that application.

    Within the smart display architecture, therefore, you move first line application support out of IT entirely and make that a user community responsibility. That reduces IT cost but also has the far more valuable effect of making more of the application known to more users more of the time - because help comes from peer group domain experts and social barriers to learning are reversed.

     

  • The use of large scale SMP provides very fast response no matter what the user throws at the system. Fast response breeds confidence - or, more accurately, systems which don't always produce results quickly, lose user confidence.

     

  • the IT/user relationship leads to throw-away applications as people try to implement new ideas either with new software or by using existing software differently.

    For example, the adoption of open source software, along with active IT management support for open source effort, gives the organization easy access to thousands of niche applications, many of which fit, or can be quickly made to fit, organizational niches.

    The key counter-argument, the traditional burgeoning support load, doesn't apply because this stuff is throw-away: i.e. if external support fails or change demands accumulate beyond what the package can easily be stretched to do, you look for a replacement. convert the data, and throw the original away.

     

  • The reward structure for the IT organization changes from a focus on delivering an acceptable service at the lowest possible cost to one of partnering with users to explore and deliver revenue generating ideas and services.

The key to the change is that combining unified applications with the distributed management architecture turns IT into an "always on" shared information resource - and that, in turn, removes the social and organizational impediments to productivity that go with Wintel client-server.

Bottom line for smart display: improved user satisfaction, greater application usage effectiveness; improved effectiveness per IT dollar; and, the potential for IT driven revenue growth.

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