Monday, September 30, 2013

Generalists and generational shifts.

It's always interesting to consider what makes us successful in our IT careers.

Rob Whiteley (formerly of Forrester) gives his impressions about specialization in the industry. He argues that we need to become more generalists than specialists, perhaps reversing a trend towards specialization in IT that has been going on for decades.
But what does that mean for compensation?

If highly specialized jobs are being off-shored, outsourced and replaced by cloud based applications; then should we anticipate that salaries will decline for these new 'generalist' IT staffers? The story sounds a lot like going from being an electrician to manning the electrical supplies aisle at Home Depot.

In 2003 Nicholas Carr argued that "IT Doesn't Matter", and is essentially becoming a commodity. Others refute that idea, preferring to tout the 'business advantage' of IT. (Which for us IT people means we need to step up to the plate and become full partners in bringing change to our businesses. Oh and educating mahogany row...)

Another side of consumerization - over time it is certainly true that our younger generation needs less basic training to work with systems. But anyone who runs a help desk will tell you that today's VPs are not yet wizards with their computers, and need a lot of help. 

In the 80's and 90's we pushed the corner office to use their equipment to do their own typing and correspondence. It was a hard transition for many who did not have basic keyboarding skills. I can recall one sales guy for example... Well, he was a sweetheart but had a tough time with submitting reports via email!

As an IT generalist, I don't believe that expanding our knowledge (becoming broad in knowledge) will reduce our compensation - because the level of confusion around strategy is greater than ever. And it takes a generalist to see the forest for the trees.

So, here's to generalists and generational shifts!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BYOD, MDM, I'll pass...

BYOD... is it 'cracked up to be?'

As a long term Blackberry manager, it was with some concern that I considered transitioning off of the Blackberry platform. The beauty of Blackberry was the security of the messaging platform, the ability to publish applications OTA (wirelessly) and the ability to remotely brick the phone should it be lost.

However, we needed to separately manage our cell phone network to keep the contacts up to date.
And our provider was going through significant challenges transitioning to a new manufacturer and revamping its wireless network. At some point we took a look at a different provider - and the results have been quite revealing.

MDM applications are positioned as an after-market solution to the lack of security and management features on Android and Apple. We considered the option of integrating personal devices, but instead we decided to go with a cheaper contract - and own the equipment. Some basic MDM functionality is provided through Microsoft ActiveSync (the ability to wipe the phone, contact sync with Exchange).

Here were our requirements

  • Synchronize contacts on the phones
  • Calendar integration has to work 100%
  • Provide more smart phones, or allow users to bring theirs in
  • Keep bad things from happening
  • No significant regulatory requirements (not financial services, or defense, no intellectual property)
  • No increase in cost
  • Push to talk feature, possibly avoid replacing ~30 walkie talkies (the FCC changed the channel allocation in January)
  • Reduce management complexity

At the end of the day our decisions were this

  • Stick with providing the phones, but upgrade all users to smartphones
  • Renegotiate the contract to get a significant non-profit discount
  • Utilize the minimal MDM features provided in ActiveSync
  • Outsource Exchange to a hosting provider
  • Allow staff to access Exchange accounts from our phones or their personal devices


  • Our cost has stayed the same but we were able to replace all cell phones with basic smart phones
  • All devices support ActiveSync
  • Calendar integration on Samsung phones has been challenging, but Touchdown is the solution for users with complicated scheduling needs
  • Contact sync to the Outlook contacts folder works well, but there is no automated way to synchronize everyone's work phone list (in those Exchange accounts)
  • Access to email from the internet has been a big plus for everyone, most people do not use OWA but a significant percentage use Activesync devices
  • After market app for PTT - which has not lived up to expectations, but the bottom line is that PTT stinks since the end of the Nextel iDEN network
  • We bit the bullet and replaced our Walkie Talkies, this turned out to be necessary from a safety perspective
  • Vastly easier to manage than BES, but somewhat less consistent results

Bottom line

The transition was way more work than I expected even with the carrier on site here. But 'nothing bad has happened'. There are flakey things with the phones - and there always were before too.
I think with no overreaching regulatory concerns, an MDM is serious overkill. Also in our opinion, going with a BYOD program (such as an employee rebate) is a drag on productivity.


A couple of interesting posts on the CITEworld conference website that seem to add fuel to the fire: