What IT can learn from greeting cards

Most greeting cards are basically the same: cookie-cutter messages in standard formats, each looking like the next. They get the job done, but most are one size fits all.

Which is why I recently started using Punkpost, an app that sends personalized, handwritten cards. Even if two cards are the same on the outside, the handwriting adds a unique touch that gets a better reaction than typical greeting cards. Each card is an individual work of art.

How does this relate to IT? Well, IT used to be a lot like the standard greeting card. Monolithic images ruled and end users had to adapt to technology, rather than the other way around. However, new ways to look at configuration, provisioning, and deployment are trading in this old approach for one that sees individuation as a way to increase productivity and lower IT costs.

So how can your company create a more open IT framework without sacrificing security and standards?

Open the door with CYOD

One of the best ways to implement an open IT environment is a choose-your-own-device (CYOD) program.

CYOD allows for more choice than your typical company-issued device, but regulates that choice within certain IT standards for security and management, offering a balance of flexibility and stability, creating better end-user experiences, and lowering IT costs.

Three main components go into such a program: devices, management, and policies.

  1. Devices: Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re offering a CYOD environment when the available devices are all the same. Offering two slightly different MacBooks or Surface tablets is not CYOD. Offering both is.
  2. Management: Most companies use some form of mobile device management (MDM), but make sure it aligns with your goals. Want to save money right off the bat? Stick with what you already have. Want to provide a better end-user experience? Shop around for what works across multiple devices—or what works best on each individually.
  3. Policies: The most important of the three, this is when you must decide how much control you want over the system. Too much, and you risk employees feeling constrained or less comfortable with the selection of programs available. Too little, and the structure and security of your system could fall apart.

To figure out what’s best for your business, talk to your employees about their needs—what software and devices work best for their jobs? What else would create a more efficient, effective user experience?

After collecting some initial information, run a pilot program to make sure that the needs of the company and your employees can be met. Even if your pilot fails (and it might—LEGO, which opened its IT environment to anyone who wants to try to design LEGOs, had to undergo four pilots before it hit success), you can make adjustments for a more successful rollout.

Discovering other ways to customize

Of course, CYOD isn’t the only way to open an IT environment. Other practices, such as changes in provisioning and self-service IT, can help create a more open IT environment across the company.

Provisioning with department-based or personalized profiles, rather than traditional imaging, has grown in popularity. Technologies like Apple’s DEP or SHI’s Zero Touch can set up devices remotely, meaning IT doesn’t need to spend as much time maintaining and updating images. In many cases, switching from traditional imaging can save a lot of time and money—employees can get started with a device right away, rather waiting until IT has set it up.

Self-service has also become more prevalent due to remote management and proper provisioning. Of course, it’s not wise to throw out your entire IT department to promote self-service. But if users are familiar with their devices (often the case in CYOD programs), it’s more likely they know how to solve their own problems, freeing up the IT team for more pressing matters. In many cases, companies will deploy certain devices only if there is a user base that can support itself.

When open IT works, it works well

Of course, CYOD or open IT won’t work in every situation. You shouldn’t, for example, let employees choose a POS device. They should all be performing the same, singular function. If it requires rigid standardization, it’s probably better served by a standard device.

Although most companies offering CYOD do so in order to increase employee satisfaction and attract new talent, many report unexpected ROI, such as money saved in training and IT costs.

Like greeting cards, personal IT will almost always win out over generic. With good deployment strategies, openness, and a personal touch, customized IT can bring your end users a better overall experience.

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