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Preventing IT From Becoming a Procrustean Bed Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Kimberly Ishoy   
Thursday, 11 December 2008

Procrustes was the ancient champion of enforced conformity. In Greek antiquity, he was a legendary highwayman who lived in Attica. He had an iron bed, which he regarded as the standard of length. Because it just fit him, he concluded that everyone should fit it. He stopped every traveler and tied him to the bed. If the person happened to be too short, Procrustes stretched him until he attained the correct length. If he happened to be too long, his legs were cut off until he met the proper requirement. Thus, everyone was made identical in size.

The iron bed on the highway of Attica has been supplanted by one on "the highway of information technology." It operates now in the field of technology, rather than in the physical realm. Every technology provider has its own bed, and all who would sojourn among them must be expanded or contracted, distended or diminished, enlarged or compressed, according to the product.

At the Church, we have been working to ensure that as we explore various technologies to further the work of spreading the gospel, we adapt to the preferences of those who will use a particular technology, and, in so doing, save the tithing funds of the Church.

As we have been working to update our 15-year-old phone systems to IP Telephony, each provider offered us a quote for its preferences for specific technology, or the technologies most popular among its customers. It is as if these modern Procrustean vendors have offered a one-size-fits-all product regardless of the varied work patterns of employees.

Instead of accepting proposals at face-value, we are taking the time to look at each user group to identify its specific needs and preferences. Some prefer to use a mobile phone, some prefer a “soft phone” (making telephone calls using a computer and a headset), and some prefer a traditional desktop phone.  By going through the extra effort of identifying specific user groups and creating user profiles for phone usage, we have been able to meet the individual needs of each user while saving thousands of dollars.

Some lessons learned:

  • Employees don’t need expensive, proprietary handsets. We can select IP phones based on a broader set of unified communications needs.IP telephony is becoming more plug-and-play rather than proprietary.
  • Most employees with unified communications and a computer screen will not need expensive IP Phones with a screen.
  • Negotiate with providers for an enterprise-wide license for IP telephony instead of a per-phone contract, to reduce costs.
  • Before beginning any project that requires new equipment, identify different usage patterns of your target audience, and ensure that your solution meets the needs of differing working patterns and preferences.

Kimberly Ishoy is a senior product marketing manager for the Church.

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