This is the 35th excerpt from the second book in the Defen series: BIT: Business Information Technology: Foundations, Infrastructure, and Culture
Note to readers: in reviewing this stuff myself I'm struck by both how much and how little has changed since 2002/3 (the date of this tour). I'm thinking this whole Wintel culture thing needs revision - and one of those revisions might be a second tour, focused on the situation in 2008/9. Comments on change would therefore be of particular interest.
Physical server centralization coupled with desktop lockdown yields the lowest cost, most reliable, client-server implementations by converting the overall architecture to an information appliance format implemented with Microsoft software and related Intel based gear.
Since most PC user queries require little or no knowledge of the company's own applications, out-sourcing the help desk reduces management complexity and cost.
Since tracking PC inventory is both critical and thankless while updating them is a never ending process, these jobs are best out-sourced.
The evolution of a formal license and inventory unit in larger organizations using the PC architecture was generally driven by complexity and the organizational wish to reduce overall costs by re-using assignable product licenses.
At present, however, these functions are gaining in importance and value in direct proportion to the likelihood of a Microsoft license audit under Licensing 6.0, the need to account for all Windows capable gear (PCs running Linux are required to have Microsoft licenses under the Enterprise License 6.0 agreements), and the decreasing productive lifespan of capital equipment.
Appointing and empowering a person to head a security office whose formal role is to maintain data security and systems integrity constitutes mandatory CYA for any CIO working in the Microsoft world.
The normal annual budget cycle is inadequate to the task of fiscal management in the Microsoft world. Hardware, software, and license changes are both too frequent and unpredictable while user budget expenditures on PCs and related gear are generally uncontrollable from any central authority.
As a result all budget funds should be allocated to the user departments but controlled centrally through corporate standards management and centralized purchasing. Some relatively small portion of the organizational IT budget is then allocated directly to the IT group under a service level agreement or comparable formalization administered by a systems steering group. The bulk of the actual systems operating budget then comes from charging user departments for services and most capital costs are met directly from the operating budgets of the departments involved.
From an accounting perspective this means that systems costs are generally not material to the operation of any one group and tremendous flexibility can therefore be obtained to meet the challenges posed by unpredictable external cost change.
Notice that getting the facts right is particularly important for BIT - and that the length of the thing plus the complexity of the terminology and ideas introduced suggest that any explanatory anecdotes anyone may want to contribute could be valuable.