By Patrick Boberg
If your company is large enough to have an Information Technology department or even a single “IT” guy, you have no doubt had conversations about ecosystem — even if you haven’t used the exact term. Combine all the desktops, laptops, servers, tablets, smartphones, software and related items that your business uses, and that makes an IT ecosystem. Unlike a delicate natural habitat that has the potential to turn sour easily, a digital ecosystem is rigid and may stand in place for a decade or more. Every decision you make not only needs to mesh with existing equipment and workflows, but should also gel with user expectations and comfort levels.
As it stands, Microsoft is on a 20-plus-year reign of terror over the business desktop environment, and in the mobile marketplace Apple has quickly planted its flag as the must-have device provider. Not only are these tech titans overwhelming corporate tech champions, but they’ve also laid groundwork to stay on top for years to come. Now at the halfway point in everyone’s fiscal calendar, these standards should not be taken as defacto acquisitions.
To understand how open tech options are, look no further than the tech wave brought on by the iPhone. Thanks to the advent of mobile application development, virtually all software is now available on any platform. Classic Microsoft programs alone are available on Android, iOS, macOS, Linux and web-based offerings. This model has been replicated by almost every software provider. By opening up these products to potentially every device, ecosystems have reaped the greatest rewards.
The main question decision makers should now answer is what their end users want. If your employees are most comfortable on Android devices or Apple MacBooks and desktops, then now is the time to diversify your tech ecosystem. Of course existing contracts and equipment prices will greatly influence these decisions, but ultimately the greatest impact will be felt at the frontline, i.e. your employees.
Finally, integrating and securing foreign elements to existing infrastructure is one of the more frustrating tasks an IT department can undertake. The argument is generally made that having a vertical alignment of identical equipment provides the most secure ecosystem, but think of the value diversifying brings; employees work with tools they enjoy and know well, while IT gets to assess the current system and train for new and emerging technology. There also is the workforce deterrent of working with outmoded equipment. No one wants to work on frustrating machinery, and some are willing to find new employment because of it. ♦
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.