An employee goes to IT with a special request. Maybe they need an application reconfigured or want to use an entirely new application, device or operating system. IT fulfills the request to make the employee happy and everyone goes about their business.
The employee’s “problem” may have been solved, but these kinds of snowflake configurations could very well introduce a new set of problems from a security standpoint. When you add variety to your IT environment, you add cost and complexity, increase the risk of security gaps and vulnerabilities, and add to IT’s administrative and management workload. IT has yet another configuration to support, maintain and secure.
Changes to the IT environment should also be documented with details about the device, operating system, applications, etc., as well as its purpose, settings and authorized users. However, because these one-off configurations tend to be more of a favor than an official change, they’re rarely incorporated into IT workflows or communicated to users who might be directly or indirectly affected. If the new device or app doesn’t integrate with existing systems, it can disrupt business processes and create isolated islands of data that have to be backed up and managed.
Standardization is the key to streamlining IT operations and reducing security risks. Standardization is the process of creating a more uniform, consistent IT environment by limiting the number of systems, devices, applications, services and configurations. From a security standpoint, standardization translates to fewer variables to account for when protecting your technology and data. Because most small to midsize businesses have limited or no dedicated IT staff, standardization is critical.
By standardizing the IT environment, organizations can also reduce costs. Technology purchases, repairs, support and upgrades become simpler and less expensive. Because you’re likely to purchase more from a smaller group of vendors, standardization could give you more clout at the bargaining table. This could help you gain access to better technology and services for the same budget.
Standardization reduces training time and costs and enables more seamless communication between workers, departments and locations. Instead of having branch offices using different siloed systems, and remote workers using different systems than on-premises workers, everyone is working from a common set of applications.
It’s important to approach standardization strategically so you can achieve these benefits without affecting productivity. You may find that one department is highly specialized and needs software that’s different from what everyone else uses. That’s OK — just focus your efforts on those areas of the organization that will benefit most from standardization. Although the goal is to streamline through standardization, you’ll probably have to invest in new solutions that make standardization possible, so budget accordingly.
Talk to employees about the effectiveness of their existing tools and services, what features and capabilities would make their jobs easier, and what solutions they would like to use. Document what you learn from this analysis and use these insights as a guide when choosing vendors and solutions. As you evaluate your options, give employees a voice to ensure buy-in and minimize resistance to change.
While standardization can simplify IT management and security, the path to standardization can be complicated. Let Verteks help you develop a strategy for standardization that strikes the right balance between employee demand for flexibility and organizational need for consistency and cost efficiency.