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Stupid user tricks 5: IT's weakest link

Flaming laptops, nosy mothers, and server racks sent tumbling down stairs -- seven more real-world tales of IT brain fail

By Infoworld Staff, InfoWorld
January 18, 2011 06:19 AM ET

InfoWorld - You can deploy monitoring software, diagnostic software, and a Halon fire suppression system, as well as access multiple grids for power and Internet access, but nothing can save you from the most dire threat facing IT pros today: end-users.

Everywhere you look, technology is advancing. Unfortunately for IT, no one has come up with an algorithm to fail-safe systems from stupidity.

[ Also on InfoWorld: For more IT hijinks and absurd assignments, see "True IT confessions," "Jackass IT," and "Dirty duty on the front lines of IT" | Cash in on your IT experiences by sending your war tale from the IT trenches to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

Thus, we've compiled seven all too familiar tales of user idiocy, told in the first person by those who were left to clean up the mess. For those IT pros who fail to take warning, lost dollars, lost productivity, and additional dental bills from gnashing their teeth await.

Stupid user trick No. 1: Falling prey to fadwareIncident: Shiny objects are lodestones for stupid acts. Witness one IT admin's tale of a fast-tracked tablet rollout that transformed 40 iPads into 3G-enabled paperweights.

I'm not sure whether I should fault the CIO who suggested this or my supervisor for agreeing to it.

The CIO holds quarterly meetings with all the major departments to discuss needs and take the temperature of current solutions -- a smart practice, except he's not all that technical and he never invites anyone from his staff who is. The last time around, the sales team started gushing about the iPad, and wouldn't you know it, one eager beaver brought his along.

The sales team uses a Web-based in-house CRM front end when they're in the field and Outlook 2007 -- no problem for the three-pound ultralight Windows 7 notebooks we've given them. But apparently three pounds is too heavy now, and the iPad is just so much cooler, supposedly helping secure sales with a wow factor customers can't resist. Of course, as soon as the CIO finds out that they're "only" $600, he says what they want him to say: "Why don't we get them for you?" No pilot program, just 40 new iPads for the whole sales department.

Then the fun started. Getting the 40 iPads wasn't a problem, though it took a couple of weeks longer than we thought. But that time gave us an opportunity to investigate our options. What we found: A decent enterprise-class deployment tool that works with an iPad doesn't exist. There's nothing that can deliver a package config. When they arrived, every iPad had to be configured manually, one at a time, and that would be just the beginning.

Naturally, our VPN software didn't work with the iPad, so we had to create an externally accessible SharePoint site, which kind of, almost, sort of works with the iPad's browser. Thankfully, email was easy -- just sync the iPad with OWA -- but you can forget about single sign-on.

The kicker was that the in-house CRM app -- the lifeblood of sales in the field -- failed hard. We wound up having to delay the whole project by a month while the app developer came up with a whole new one-page front end specifically for the iPad -- not a monumental task, but on short turnaround, very expensive. The original cost of $600 per device turned into $1,100 when all was said and done -- and that didn't include the hours we spent hand-configuring all 40 of these things or the tech-support hours we're still spending teaching the sales team how to run presentations off the device.

Originally published on www.infoworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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