Telling managers why enterprise IT and home computing aren’t the same thing takes patience and diplomatic skills

Most managers in enterprises are also IT managers for their home IT — unless they’ve delegated the role to their children.

Many managers think IT is easy because they have successfully installed Microsoft Office, added a printer driver to a workstation or configured a wireless access point. Even without this experience, they assume IT is easy because their children have successfully performed these tasks.

Based on what they wrongly believe to be their significant and relevant experience with IT at home, many managers are exasperated by what they see as high cost and horrendous elapsed time associated with enterprise IT. This exasperation is most noticeable during Windows or ERP upgrade projects that cost a lot, are disruptive at times and produce little tangible business value. No wonder millions of PC’s are still running Windows XP.

Somehow the differences between enterprise IT and home IT are not immediately apparent to managers because the visible part of IT in both places, the workstation, is identical. The home workstation also reinforces the sense of similarity between enterprise IT and home IT because Windows is the same and Office is the same.

Surprisingly, it’s easy to overlook or forget the significant differences. The home typically has two workstations with non-standard images while the enterprise has thousands of workstations with managed images. The home may have a couple of smartphones and some iPads while the enterprise tries to support hundreds of BlackBerrys, iPhones, Android phones and various makes and models of tablets. The home may have Simply Accounting while the enterprise operates a sophisticated ERP. The home has no servers, no network, no DBMS, no backup/recovery, no security, no disaster recovery plan, no PMO, no software development. The home has no hardware, software and services vendors, with their own agendas, that need to be managed.

Faced with this difficult situation of skeptical managers, IT staff must bite their lip while patiently explaining, educating and reminding managers about the differences between enterprise IT and home IT. It’s not helpful to become critical or sarcastic. Unprofessional remarks only serve to widen the rift between business management and the IT function.

It’s often effective to describe specific differences between enterprise IT and home IT. For example, enterprise IT delivers high availability and high performance while home IT does not. Enterprise IT offers recoverability while home IT loses files and photos from time to time. Enterprise IT can handle thousands of concurrent end-users while home IT cannot.

Often IT managers use analogies to other parts of the business effective to communicate the value of IT. For example, enterprise facilities like buildings and factories require meticulous maintenance and predictable upgrades just like enterprise software. Trucks wear out and are replaced. Servers are no different. The company cafeteria can only serve so many employees before a lineup forms that slows down lunch. Similarly, the enterprise network can handle the traffic of only so many employees before congestion slows it down.

Can you share examples of how you explained the differences between enterprise IT and home IT to a skeptical management audience?

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