Convince your users to standardize

Although the benefits of standardized computing platforms should be apparent to the average tech, the end user is usually less enthusiastic. Learn how a little communication can help win your users over to standardization.

While the benefits of standardization may seem obvious to most support techs, users aren’t always as understanding. Many users can’t appreciate the benefits of a single computer standard until that standard has been implemented. With a little communication, however, IT support can convince most users that standardization will make their lives easier in the long run.

A computer museum for the 1980s
Here’s one example where a little communication with end users could have made the transition to standardization much easier. I once worked the help desk at a scientific research institute that had no computer standards. Although the help desk was responsible for end-user support, each department held its own equipment budget and bought its own computers and software. This autonomy resulted in a mishmash of platforms and operating systems. So diverse was the computing environment that IT support was unable to effectively provide adequate service and users were unable to share information between systems.

Some scientists used Apples, others worked on PCs, and one scientist wrote papers on an Amstrad PCW. This pattern was repeated throughout the organization. Whenever someone wanted to share a document, it would be printed and distributed. Then after revisions were suggested, the document would be returned to the typing pool for a final copy to be produced. This process wasted tons of paper and was terribly time-intensive.

Dragging the users kicking and screaming to standardization
Finally, IT support convinced the management to remove all the legacy equipment and introduce a single computing standard. This decision caused an initial storm of protest from almost everyone. The PCW user liked his system because it was familiar. The Mac users were adamant that a Mac OS was the only way to go but only because they had never used PCs. The PC users all favored their own operating systems and were against Macs for the same reason that the Mac users were against PCs.

Eventually, we standardized the entire organization on Microsoft Word for Windows, installed a new network, and got an e-mail system up and running. We also condensed the diverse printer population and established a special room intended specifically for printing.

Why you need to accentuate the positives
With everyone working from the same platform, documents could finally be shared, and users could communicate and work much more effectively. IT support now only had to keep a small stock of spare parts, and the average repair time was cut from days or weeks to hours or minutes. Paper wastage was also dramatically reduced. Once all of these benefits became apparent to the end users, they embraced the decision to standardize. Yet with a little communication prior to the standardization process, much of the initial user protest could have been avoided.

So before your IT department tries to standardize your organization, make sure to take time to inform users what is going to be done, how long it is going to take, and how the changes will benefit them. If they know how these changes will make their jobs easier, end users are more likely to get with the program from the beginning. If you’re not sure how best to communicate with your end users, check out “Keep your end users informed by using some simple communication.” Ultimately, IT support’s goal is to improve the end user’s work life, and it’s important the techs relate this objective to their clients.
Have an interesting standardization story? Share it with your fellow TechRepublic members. Post a comment below or send Jeff Dray a note.

Editor's Picks