Talking IT – John Pritchard

Welcome to the first video in the Talking IT with James Bannan series, where I catch up with various movers and shakers in the IT industry and talk about geek stuff for a while.

This video is with John Pritchard, Optimised Desktop Specialist with Microsoft Australia. John ran the Perth and Adelaide sessions of Microsoft latest round of free workshops for IT professionals. The first round occurred earlier this year and revolved around Microsoft’s virtualisation technologies – specifically Hyper-V and SCVMM. The latest round is all about Application Compatibility.

Microsoft are seeing customers expressing plenty of reservations about their existing suite of applications which need to be supported on Windows 7, and are looking for as many resources and as much guidance as possible to overcome and lingering issues and migrate to Windows 7.

There are two sessions left – one in Melbourne and the other in Canberra. Jeff Alexander has blogged about the details, and you use the details on his site to register. For any IT professional involved in deploying Windows 7, these workshops are a great resource and well worth the time (especially as they don’t cost anything!).

For those of you who couldn’t make the sessions but who are interested in the content, Microsoft will be making the slide decks available online (and potentially an audio recording too) and I’ll link to them as well once they are available.

In the meantime, enjoy the conversation with John Pritchard, where we chat about the current state of Windows 7 deployment and what resources are available to customers looking to speed up their deployment projects.

The iPad dilemma – the consumerisation of enterprise

I recently wrote a piece on the influx of consumer technology into enterprise IT, and some of the hidden problems which (from my experience so far) most businesses are failing to address.

The original piece was more general in tone, looking at ALL personal devices rather than just those products sold by Apple.  However, the editor thought (and I agreed) that as the current conversation tends to be much more tightly focused around iPads and iPhones, we should narrow the article’s scope.

But my original thoughts still stand, and the criticisms I raised are valid against all personal devices, whether they’re running some flavor of Windows, Android or something we’ve yet to see go mainstream.

Ultimately, consumer devices and consumer device vendors don’t subscribe to concepts like lifecycle management or ROI.  Users look ahead to the next cool product but, for the most part, businesses can’t afford to.  Or at least, not without some serious overhauling of their internal processes.

My principle criticism is that consumer devices do NOT fit well into mainstream business methodologies, and I’m not talking just about the IT structure.  Of course they could be made to, but it will take quite a lot of work and compromise on both sides.  The disappointing thing is that this approach currently seems to be held as a conservative, reactionary view.  I maintain that it isn’t – IT professionals don’t tend to like change because they are often the only ones articulating the implications (the same implications which they are then often expected to support).  Having said that, IT pros (despite myths to the contrary) do actually want users to have a decent IT experience at work.  It results in fewer support calls and complaints, and that’s always a good thing.

Have a read of the article on 4sysops – am I being a dogma-toting arch-conservative, or is there a scintilla of common sense buried in the pile?

Lessons From REMIX10 – Helping Customers

With the tagline “Share the web love,” REMIX10 kicked off in Melbourne today, and while the event is geared towards developers and designers, there are important cross-overs with what IT pros face every day, and important lessons to be learned.

Straight after the keynote, event organizer Michael Kordahi had a “lounge” session with various industry and development specialists, talking about different aspects of the development and design industries.

One fellow conversationalist was Shane Morris, a user experience (UX) professional who recently left Microsoft to start his own company, Automatic Studio.  The topic of conversation turned to the “top tips” which designers should bear in mind when creating projects for customers, and two particular gems of wisdom which Morris passed on will resonate with especially with IT professionals:

  • Don’t think of yourself as a “normal” user
  • Work with the customer to find out what their expectations are

Sound familiar? There’s a lot of ribbing and joking which occurs between designers/developers and IT pros.  They generally see us as short-sleeve-wearing hardware nerds, and we often see them as obsessive code monkeys, but Morris’ comments highlight a very important similarity between both groups, which is that more often than not, we are working to assist the same customer groups.  And with that in mind, the lessons learned by one group should be heard loud and clear by the other.

Don’t think of yourself as a “normal” user

As IT pros, we often get frustrated when users, seemingly inexplicably, do the precise opposite of what we expect them to do. And then we get even angrier with them when they get angry with us. It can be a vicious loop.

By our very nature, IT pros are expert users.  We think about IT all the time, and the problems we encounter almost always have a workaround, no matter how obscure.  This is NOT normal user behavior.  “Normal” users have a hierarchy of support technicians to appeal to, and there’s an inherent assumption that any IT problem they may run in to is not their problem to solve.  In fact, it’s probably your problem.

Fair or not, this is how it works, and as IT pros we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t proactively take this into account.  Try to think like your users and avoid problems by ensuring that they never happen. You won’t get any thanks, but no thanks are far better than actual complaints.

Work with the customer to find out what their expectations are

Why is this important? Because more often than not, the customer doesn’t know. We often assume that when customers come to us with a request, that they have already spent some time thinking about what they want and how they want it to work, and that they’re coming to you with a well-formed plan which now requires your expertise.


Ahem. This is usually not the case.  The customer has a vague idea beneath a veneer of certainty, and it’s up to us to crack the veneer, challenge the customer’s assumptions and work with them to find an appropriate solution.

Remember, there’s a world of difference between what a customer wants or asks for and what they actually need.  And again, we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t endeavor to help the customer through this often difficult process.

Designers, developers, and IT pros…all sharing the love…

Disclaimer: I am attending REMIX10 as the guest of Microsoft Australia

Philosophy Friday #7 – Relativism

In my final year at Melbourne University, I was accepted into a one-year Honours course in History. I didn’t end up doing the course because the prospect of a sixth year of being utterly broke didn’t really appeal. But, as a prerequisite all prospective Honours students were required to do a subject on the various methods by which one could study history – from a feminist or post-colonialist angle, for example.

And then we covered postmodernism. Oh postmodernism, how can I describe thee? I shall let thee speak for thyself:

Neomaterialist narrative and capitalist libertarianism

“Society is part of the fatal flaw of consciousness,” says Sartre; however, according to von Junz[1] , it is not so much society that is part of the fatal flaw of consciousness, but rather the absurdity, and subsequent failure, of society. However, the ground/figure distinction intrinsic to Joyce’s Dubliners emerges again in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Debord’s model of semantic Marxism suggests that narrative comes from communication.

Thus, the subject is interpolated into a capitalist libertarianism that includes narrativity as a reality. Precultural desemanticism holds that the task of the artist is social comment, but only if the premise of capitalist libertarianism is invalid; if that is not the case, the Constitution is capable of significance.

Therefore, Baudrillard uses the term ‘cultural pretextual theory’ to denote not theory, as Sontag would have it, but neotheory. The subject is contextualised into a dialectic paradigm of consensus that includes sexuality as a totality.


Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content.