An important part of the ROI effort has been the introduction of what Bone describes as a lockdown environment. What this means is that desktop applications are locked in place and maintained via scripting developed by Sytec. If a user messes up an application, it is automatically healed during log-on and log-off. As Bone says, if for any reason you rogered one of your DLLs, it would reinstall from the script. The transition to the lockdown environment also involved rationalising use of the 160-plus applications that were being used throughout Datamail. Control of this area would obviously save considerably on licensing and support. The idea was to reduce the number of applications down to around 100 and identify them through Sytec’s scripting.
“We broke the machines into two environments. One was the lockdown group, the other group we called kiosks. These latter machines could be administered locally, keeping in mind that local admin invites higher support costs,” says Bone.
The kiosk idea enabled the management team to overcome some of the key objections to the lockdown approach. A total lockdown would have meant that developers would have been hampered by not being able to use machines for testing and downloads. Inevitably, there were objections to the whole idea.
“The developers fought us all the way,” says Bone. By using the kiosks, or sandpits, as Bone describes them, they would not compromise their production machines. One strong argument in their favour was that a large number of legacy applications would continue to need internal support, which meant that the developers and support team would continue to need administration rights in some areas. The other argument in their favour was that the kiosks were older machines that could not justify the cost of scripting them into the lockdown environment.
“Yes, we do need these machines because they are core to what we deliver,” says Bone. “The uniqueness of our work is such that not everyone knows how to do it. It’s hard to train people up into that space — but the reality is that a lot of them like to play, and that’s the bottom line. A lot of them also like to have the right to download something to their own machine so they can play with it. And they often think they know more than the people supporting the device. There’s the whole cultural aspect involved in all of this.”
Interestingly, two years into the contract the tide is turning in Bone’s favour. The development team is now far more accepting of the lockdown approach. It is there to do a specific job, using the standard tools on offer. In fact, the development team has agreed to a lockdown that will halve their support costs. Their agreement signals that they have bought into the benefits and business arguments in favour of a lockdown.