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posted by janrinok on Saturday August 06, @02:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the I'd-like-an-ice-cream-machine-please dept.

An Anonymous Coward writes the following story:

I’ve long believed companies should offer workers a choice in the technology they use in the office and when working remote. Doing so lets employees use what they feel is the best choice of devices for their work, it can help attract and retain staff, it lessens the likelihood workers will go rogue and source their own technology (aka shadow IT), and it establishes a positive relationship between IT and the rest of an organization.

Companies like IBM and SAP have documented their experiences in moving to an employee-choice model and have declared it a success. But does that mean it would work for every company? And how do you decide which way to go?

The most important question in developing (or expanding) an employee-choice model is determining how much choice to allow. Offer too little and you risk undermining the effort's benefits. Offer too much and you risk a level of tech anarchy that can be as problematic as unfettered shadow IT. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Every organization has unique culture, requirements/expectations, and management capabilities. An approach that works in a marketing firm would differ from a healthcare provider, and a government agency would need a different approach than a startup.

Options also vary depending on the devices employees use — desktop computing and mobile often require differing approaches, particularly for companies that employ a BYOD program for smartphones.

Most employee-choice programs focus on desktops and laptops. The default choice is typically basic: do you want a Windows PC or a Mac? Most often, the choice only extends to the platform, not specific models (or in the case of PCs, a specific manufacturer). Keeping the focus on just two platforms eases administrative overhead and technical support requirements. It also allows companies to leverage volume purchases from one partner in order to receive bulk discounts.

Have you been allowed to choose your own technology and equipment at work? What were the choices offered to you and what restrictions were placed upon them?


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:40PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:40PM (#1265270)

    I've never been given a choice in hardware/software from an employer. I have, often, done at least part of my work on my personal systems, just so that I have the tools that work best for me. This has sometimes been a violation of company rules that would have gotten me fired if the bosses knew about it.

    One interesting recent observation: I'm working on a project that includes developers from what is probably the largest commercial Linux company, and their developers all are running Windows. It does raise the question of "eating your own dog food".

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:43PM (#1265273)

      I'm working on a project that includes developers from what is probably the largest commercial Linux company, and their developers all are running Windows.

      RedHat? What is the largest commercial Linux company these days?

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by RamiK on Saturday August 06, @04:32PM (4 children)

      by RamiK (1813) on Saturday August 06, @04:32PM (#1265290)

      I'm working on a project that includes developers from what is probably the largest commercial Linux company, and their developers all are running Windows. It does raise the question of "eating your own dog food".

      I don't see how not using desktop linux is a problem if your job is to write servers and embedded software targeting linux. And seeing how puny commercial desktop linux is compared to the overall linux market, I suspect the vast majority of linux devs are running Windows and MacOS.

      --
      compiling...
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @05:40PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @05:40PM (#1265312)

        It depends on what tools you need and what tools are available.

        I’ve had to work in too many places where the Unix/Linux server has a bare minimum install (no GUI, no debugger), and everyone was expected to do their development work on a Windows box (with no C/C++ development tools), using MS’s old version control system, and then manually copy changes to the server.

        All that with no ability to install any “unapproved” software on either end (“unapproved” meaning the bosses don’t use it).

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Ox0000 on Saturday August 06, @05:57PM (1 child)

          by Ox0000 (5111) on Saturday August 06, @05:57PM (#1265317)

          no GUI, no debugger

          Installing a GUI or a debugger on production system probably would/should have incurred a similar derision ("they made us install UIs and debuggers on production systems, the MADNESS!"). Those things typically have no place on production systems.

          Being able to do _some_ level of development and debugging locally (with all caveats in place w.r.t. "works on my machine" vs "production box is not the same as your box") rather than having to jump onto another environment has value: it increases velocity and makes it so that you understand your own and your target system(s).
          Ask Android devs how much they love remote debugging...

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:17PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:17PM (#1265320)

            Installing a GUI or a debugger on production system probably would/should have incurred a similar derision

            In my experiences, they either didn't have a development machine, or they refused to install "extra" software on it.

        • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Saturday August 06, @07:18PM

          by RamiK (1813) on Saturday August 06, @07:18PM (#1265334)

          I’ve had to work in too many places where the Unix/Linux server has a bare minimum install (no GUI, no debugger), and everyone was expected to do their development work on a Windows box (with no C/C++ development tools), using MS’s old version control system, and then manually copy changes to the server.

          Would having a linux desktop without gcc, valgrind, gdb etc... available make a difference? Cause otherwise, you're not missing desktop linux. You're missing development tools. So I fail to see your point.

          --
          compiling...
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:05PM (#1265319)

      I was blessed. I always had company hardware, but software was up to us. As long as you didn't do something stupid on the network, you were golden. Towards the end of my career, "IT image" was a threat but it never got imposed on me. I think it would have if I'd stayed though. It think it would have been at least a six month productivity killer for me on the ramp-up, but maybe that's just a hate for change.

      At one point, I was the only one without a Mac as my primary machine. I used to joke with them, "Why can't I think different like everybody else?".

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Ox0000 on Saturday August 06, @03:41PM (5 children)

    by Ox0000 (5111) on Saturday August 06, @03:41PM (#1265271)

    If you ONLY use silly websites to do your work (NextCloud, MS365, GSuite, etc...), sure, have at it. As long as you have a browser for your system and you have implemented Zero Trust properly I see no problem.

    Besides that, there is an important thing to consider:

    Would it be convenient for employees? Sure
    Would it be practical? No for organizations, and neither would it be for employees.

    If it was up to me, I'd be using my own rolling distro (the one that shan't be named for fear of confirming the stereotype - which, whoops, I just did) but I'd be the only one with that. Similarly, Suzy would be using Slackware ("Ask 10 Slackware users how to do X, and get at least 11 answers"), Mike would still be using a VAX, and then there's Tom who mutters things under his breath along the lines of "they'll pry my CP/M out of my cold, dead hands", Johny would be on Windows 10, and Anna on Windows 2000 because that was the pinnacle of windows. To be fair, no-one would be on Windows 8 nor 11 because, ${DEITY} how awful those things are!

    The issue here is that either your IT support now needs to span every imaginable device/OS/application (which they won't because that's not reasonable)

    Or...

    You provide fuck-all support and tell your employees "If your thing breaks, that's on you". Let me know how that works out for you...

    The "fuck-all-support-mode" works well for those who actually know shit about computers, which is probably less than 2% or your workforce.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by RS3 on Saturday August 06, @04:50PM (2 children)

      by RS3 (6367) on Saturday August 06, @04:50PM (#1265294)

      All good points, but how about: instead of one extreme or the other, support people work under the rule that they'll try to help you with your personal tech / choice of tech, but if they don't know it, not to waste time on it. Not clear-cut, I understand, but rarely is any support / fix clear-cut at the deeper tech levels.

      I didn't grasp your hint about your Linux distro preference; which one?

      • (Score: 4, Touché) by Ox0000 on Saturday August 06, @05:40PM (1 child)

        by Ox0000 (5111) on Saturday August 06, @05:40PM (#1265311)

        I get where you're going and you're aiming for being reasonable towards those users. I get that and that's laudable.
        In my experience, the problem with that is that you need a coherent, easy-to-follow Policy: you have to draw your line _somewhere_ and unless you do make it clear-cut, the part about "if they don't know it, not to waste time on it" is what will kill that approach in practice. If you leave any kind of ambiguity, there will be mayhem and before you know it the sentence "don't waste time on it" will turn into unhappy users going "but why won't those IT people help me with X, I'm being so reasonable and my non-comprehending brain thinks it should take them all but 5 seconds so why wouldn't they help me with this error message that says 'recompile kernel'."

        Like I said: I get where you're going, I really do, and I would love to be able to follow you there. In practice, this does not work out.
        You either have to go all in on BYOD or not at all. There is no middle-ground... unfortunately. And going all-in requires a certain degree of 'maturity' by your users.

        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by RS3 on Saturday August 06, @06:46PM

          by RS3 (6367) on Saturday August 06, @06:46PM (#1265328)

          I get you too. I don't think there's a broad-brush encompassing answer- it all depends on many many factors. I generally prefer adaptive rules and policies in life. Again, my stance would be clear up front- if you bring your own tech, we will try to help you, but if we're not sure what to do, can't figure it out quickly, you're on your own. Users would know this and agree to this clearly up front. If it impacts their job / productivity, it may not go well for them, so it's up to them to make that choice. I'm not big on the "nanny-state"- I prefer personal choice, but knowing fully well the repercussions may well be due to the individual's choices, and can't whine / blame it on others- you were duly warned.

          Again, it totally depends on the situation. If it's a very small company, or some kind of "skeleton crew" where the loss of a brilliant graphic artist would seriously hurt the company, like anything you'd have to have a stricter policy.

          One company I worked for was all DOS / Windows stuff. I was the only person doing Linux, and it had NO impact on anyone or anything else. They had 1 brilliant highly productive graphic artist, and he insisted bringing his own Macintosh computers and software. So he did most of his stuff on the Mac, then exported things to the Windows computer, finalized it there.

          Same company, mid-late 90s, I was doing many things including some C and I greatly preferred to use Borland C for most development and testing, but company policy said I had to use MS for final compile. It all worked very well. I even found a huge bug in Borland C- this was in the 32-bit days- I wrote code that "hooked" the timer (or something, I forget) to do "background" tasks. Main task (not mine) did 32-bit math / calculations. With my module installed, there were significant glitches in graphed display. Long story short- even with .32 (or whatever the directive was), Borland was NOT pushing EAX, just AX. Ooops!! It did not cost much time nor loss at all, and I will argue that I was MUCH more productive with Borland tools, rather than MS (pre-visual studio times).

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Saturday August 06, @07:20PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 06, @07:20PM (#1265335) Journal

      A rule to only use software still under support would be reasonable and already rule out quite a few of your examples.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @02:56AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @02:56AM (#1265371)

      To be fair, I'd be with Mike, so there'd be two of us on the VAX. Then we'd be able to phone each other too.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @04:02PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @04:02PM (#1265283)

    Giving voters employees choice means they sometimes make the wrong choice, like in Kansas. No choice is the only choice.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by srobert on Saturday August 06, @05:49PM

      by srobert (4803) on Saturday August 06, @05:49PM (#1265314)

      But, as with voters, it helps to at least give them the illusion of choice.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by looorg on Saturday August 06, @05:26PM (5 children)

    by looorg (578) on Saturday August 06, @05:26PM (#1265307)

    Choices might be a bit of a stretch. Sure I have choices but they are from a somewhat limited selection. With that in mind I tend to work as much as I can from home so I can just then use whatever I want. I don't bother unpacking the work stuff if I'm at home. In some cases I don't even use the organizations hardware for long stretches of time, they asked a few times cause I have licenses for various statistical software packages that was extras that I then don't really utilize very often.

    For a computer you can choose if you want a laptop or a desktop, even tho they are slowly phasing out desktop. They want everyone to be mobile or people just prefer laptops these days, I have not really looked into it. Since I travel a bit between offices I picked a laptop even tho I don't really like them (I hate them) but it's convenience. It's not a particularly new machine you get to chose from either. The Wintel machines are some standard builds from Dell and then there are Macs. If you need to deviate from the standard builds that have to be requested and ordered specifically. For most people I don't think that is an issue they just take whatever they get. I had to request an external keyboard and mouse and an ungodly amount of RAM (by their standards) and some special software packages to be installed, cause you are not allowed to install anything yourself. So I have some stuff that can be run straight from a USB-stick, apparently that doesn't count as installing software ... Oddly enough they have no limits on the amount of apps you can install on your phone. I also had to request a rucksack to carry it all in, that was apparently extra to.

    If they ever upgrade the offer to the latest Mac laptops I'm getting one of them next time just for the sake of it. Not that I think I'll like it all that much or it will be great. I just want to try and without having to buy one.

    For phones you can chose between a not the latest generation Iphone and a Samsung Galaxy something.

    From the looks of it I think the Mac and Iphone are starting to win out with most of the staff. It's what most people tend to pick it seems so I wonder for how long they'll keep the wintel option around.

    So do I have choices? Sure. Are they good choices? Not really. Are they choices I would have made for myself if I was buying something? No. Do I understand why they do it? Sure. By having standards they cut down on costs, administration and maintenance.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:26PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @06:26PM (#1265323)

      With that in mind I tend to work as much as I can from home so I can just then use whatever I want. I don't bother unpacking the work stuff if I'm at home. In some cases I don't even use the organizations hardware for long stretches of time, they asked a few times cause I have licenses for various statistical software packages that was extras that I then don't really utilize very often.

      I work 100% remote, and my company-supplied laptop is locked down tight. I can't install any "non approved" software on it, and I can't access any company resources from any other computer because they don't have the VPN set up as on my work laptop.

      I *can* get source code over to my personal machine, by disconnecting from the work VPN and using "scp" to copy the files back and forth. Note that this is a firing offense. But someiimes I would rather spend an hour fixing a bug using reasonable tools than a week using what they provide me. And, I'm close enough to retiring to not care if they fire me for doing my job better.

      • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Saturday August 06, @06:51PM

        by RS3 (6367) on Saturday August 06, @06:51PM (#1265330)

        Oh gosh, I both relate to this and am frustrated reading it. I don't even know what stupidity category to file it under. I attribute it mostly to power and control issues. Mid-level manager wannabes. When owner / CEO types get wind of these things, they might promote you (they should!)

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by GloomMower on Saturday August 06, @07:34PM

        by GloomMower (17961) on Saturday August 06, @07:34PM (#1265338)

        If they have git and thus openssh installed, you can fairly easily setup a proxy server so you can use the VPN from other machines.

        https://coldstonelabs.org/SSH%20Proxy.pdf [coldstonelabs.org]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @03:44AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @03:44AM (#1265375)

        Being there, bro. Perhaps the same place.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by krishnoid on Saturday August 06, @07:52PM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Saturday August 06, @07:52PM (#1265340)

      I've had this discussion with non-developers/tinkerers/hackers, and they tend to complain about the choices offered. If you consider something like, say, JIRA which has a solid REST API, you can provide the default web interface, but you could also allow read-only API access, no questions asked, and read-write capability upon request. So if you want options, you have them ... as long as you put in the work to:

      • customize things the way you want, or
      • convince someone to customize things the way you want in exchange for baked goods or sexual favors [youtu.be], or
      • front the resources to cover budget/manpower/scheduling to support those customizations into the future

      If you say you want something, but that IT should front the budget/manpower/scheduling for it, that's taking away resources from them being able to deliver/support the non-customized versions of things that most people are using. If IT is overbudgeted (ok, I spit out my tea on that one) then sure, they can add responsibilities or tweaks, but otherwise, it seems kind of ridiculous to push the envelope while destabilizing the center.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by darkfeline on Saturday August 06, @10:03PM (2 children)

    by darkfeline (1030) on Saturday August 06, @10:03PM (#1265349) Homepage

    For tech proficient companies, it makes sense to have officially supported/approved tech while allowing employees to use what they want, provided that they take responsibility for their own tech support and security.

    Ideally, that stance should be taken by all companies, but the average person at the average company simply isn't equipped to comprehend that policy (Karen *will* bring in her crap to IT).

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @04:21AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @04:21AM (#1265380)

      It is a shame the way things are. Up to the mid-90s, secretaries did their jobs with whatever tools they were given. They typed up documents, sometimes complicated ones with tables and other line-by-line formatting on typewriters, they used a variety of unique office machinery that had their own idiosyncrasies, they moved to using crude word processors, even writing in TeX if they were in university departments, and they did it all because that was their job and those were the tools. Then after Win95, there came this whole marketing nonsense that anything else was "too hard," then once Windows was entrenched, lord help you if you wanted to switch to something else because the retraining costs would kill your company! The people who could take dictation and do shorthand were suddenly told they were too stupid to understand all this computer stuff. These people who could mimeograph and un-jam a complicated IBM copy machine, or troff a text-based formatting document, are now too stupid to do something without a mouse and some buttons to push. It is pretty sad, in my opinion.

    • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Sunday August 07, @07:38AM

      by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Sunday August 07, @07:38AM (#1265397)

      That's the approach I've taken at my current employer (of two years, now). When we shifted to work-at-home (and later hybrid/mixed work), the company offered to provide us with laptops and/or any other equipment we required. I didn't take them up on it for two reasons:

      Firstly, I've been using Thinkpads for two decades, and am very attached to trackpoint interfaces. I've never gotten comfortable with touchpads.

      Secondly: I had no idea what their IT policies would be on control of software. I could bet that I'd be given a Windows machine, and I've not owned one of those for donkey's years. And would I be allowed/able to find and install the software I'm used to using under Linux?

      In the end I opted to use my slightly-long-in-the-tooth X250. A lot of the software I needed to use was browser-based, and for authoring documents and presentations I could stick with what I knew. I'll administer my own machine, and let IT administer the desktop machine at the office.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @03:58AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @03:58AM (#1265378)

    Once upon a time I discovered a strange file in a repository I was working with. It was a list with a couple of dozens IPs. On a hint I gave my personal laptop one of the addresses and connected to the company wifi. It let me in with all the privileges possible no question asked.
    Why our security gods did it? The system they were using did not support MAC well and they got scared of high management types screaming at them why their macs did not connect. So - fearing the bonus time - they bypassed it. Note that it was a financial international. I was tempted, but I did not do it.
    Since then I don't respect security IT types at all. I put it even below management types.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Sunday August 07, @05:08PM

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Sunday August 07, @05:08PM (#1265441)

    I work for a Fortune 50 tech company. My last hardware refresh was 3 months ago. I was offered a choice of a dozen or so laptops. I have special hardware requirements (Ram for VMs), so I asked for a non-standard choice in the same price range. It was approved without incident.

    The machine was shipped directly from HP to me with a default non-customized Windows image. I *could have* booted up and let autopilot drop me right into Intune, but I have trust issues. Instead, I re-imaged it with known good Win11 media first. My only complaint is my new kit doesn't have a wired ethernet port. Mea culpa, I should have read it in the specs, but damn. There is a Gig-E port on the docking station, but HP has had that on backorder since October of last year. :/

    My prior refresh was 5/21/18, and I deferred getting new kit once prior to this most recent refresh. I would have kept using my old system, but the CPU wasn't (officially) supported on Win11.

  • (Score: 2) by KritonK on Monday August 08, @07:49AM

    by KritonK (465) on Monday August 08, @07:49AM (#1265516)

    I work for a small IT company, which means that most of us can support our own equipment, so that we can use anything we like. More specifically:

    • The CEO uses MacOS. The only support he requires from the support staff (me) is when he wants to do something UNIX-y in the shell.
    • Non-IT personnel get to use Windows and like it. Besides, they need to use certain Windows-only programs (e.g., accounting software), so anything else is not much of an option for them. The CEO tried to give them some hand-me-down Mac laptops for remote working, but this didn't work very well. I suppose that if they had been familiar with MacOS, they would have kept them. Their support requirements are usually limited to software and driver installation.
    • Developers use whatever OS they feel is more appropriate for the job. An Android developer uses Linux, where Android Studio works just fine, while another developer uses Windows for development and Linux for deployment testing of server-side software. The support they get from the support staff (me) is mainly along the lines of "serves you right for using Windows" or "where have they hidden that $%^#^@ setting in this ^&#%^& version of %^&#$@^ Windows this time".
    • The support staff (me) switched to Linux years ago, and couldn't be happier. Of course he supports his computer fully. It's his job, after all!
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