November 05, 2010, 5:56 PM — At most companies end users have to fit into a niche IT creates to match the technology it has already decided to buy with the job that person's given to do. That method helps IT standardize on certain products to lower costs and reduce support, and gets end users most of the tools they need to do their jobs.
That method is so approximate, though, that it doesn't accomplish either of those things as well as it could, and puts IT and end users into an adversarial relationship that ends up reducing the effectiveness of both.
At least that's the way Dave Bucholz sees it as the principal IT engineer responsible for evaluating new technology Intel employees will use internally.
Until about three years ago, Intel handled users the same way other companies did: give end users a piece of hardware, stack of software and tell them "no" if they complain and ask for something else, Bucholz said.
Intel has been keeping close track of its IT total cost of ownership since 1977 and put a lot of weight on that number. So going cowboy and blowing the IT budget on some exciting new project Was. Not. Done.
Three years ago at Intel you could be high security (and get nothing that hadn't been proven secure and reliable for so long it was probably obsolete), "high availablility" (mostly engineers who could justify all the power they could get, and most of the software, too), and "carpet dwellers" (who get the same technology found in every gray office cubicle in America.
Now it has "8 or 9" major user segments, each with a host of subsegments, and different product profiles for each. (Among the odd ones is the Highly Mobile worker who never leaves campus, but is never in the office, either. They use the 7,000 wireless access points around Intel's campus to stay connected as they move between conference rooms or other offices, but need some of the same tools as Intel's road warriors.)
What forced IT to change its view and behavior was a combination of pressure from end users for more flexibility, presence inside the company of handheld and other non-PC devices it didn't own and couldn't control, and fast-developing desktop virtualization technology that can sometimes eliminate end user/IT conflicts by allowing a choice of One or The Other to become Both.