Should the Corporate Desktop Image Die?

When IT manages the machines there is an expectation that the machines will be maintained with current patches and that only approved software will be loaded on the machines.  Even if you buy into the argument that only approved software will be installed, there are many cases of corporate builds that are relatively non-functional.

The theory behind a “corporate build” is that by limiting the build to specific hardware platforms and specific OS packages the job of the service desk is made easier.  However what this often means is that end users are given under performing hardware and an old OS.  In my current job, the standard build is still Windows XP and until only a few months ago, the supported version of IE was IE6.  That was a 10-year-old browser!

My experience is that the corporate build often contains lots of little kluges that get carried forward from build to build.  These little kluges often contribute to the poor performance of the OS on the under speced hardware and as a result, I suspect that the corporate build actually produces more support calls than it prevents.

In both my last job and my current job, I’ve had the luxury of abandoning the corporate build.  In both jobs I’ve simply turned on automatic updates of the OS and enjoyed a modern user experience.  I’ve had far less frustration and far more productive days on my self supported computers.  I never call the service desk, which may be one of the reasons why I’m less frustrated.  One person does not make a case study, but I suspect that if we gave end users the option to self-support more frequently, we’d find higher levels of user satisfaction.

There was a time when a corporate build made sense.  Before technology invaded all aspects of our lives, there really was a problem with computer literacy. Over the past decade though, so much has changed in terms of technology that the average user today is probably as computer literate as the average service desk person of ten years ago.  Ten years ago, maintaining proper patch levels on a system was a serious endeavor.  Patches were released by vendors, but there was no notification to end users.  Even if there was a notification, often end users didn’t have the means to download these patches.

All that changed with the advent of automatic updates and broadband connections.  Nearly every piece of software I have on my various systems self updates.  OS patching can be set up to happen automagically in the background over night.  This has extended to many other devices we use every day.  Even our televisions come with network adapters, applications, and self updating operating systems.

The people entering the workforce today are significantly more computer literate than ever before.  These people grew up with MP3 players, iTunes, and Google.  They are used to working with powerful machines and they tend to keep their systems up to date simply because they want the cool new toys.  These people are not going to settle for a 32 bit OS and 1GB of RAM on a 4:3 screen at 1024×768.

So, what do you think?  Should corporate builds die?

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