Even if you’ve been living in a cave on some secret intelligence agency reservation, you know the awful truth about Black Friday. No place in the Western World is spared the awareness that in the United States, at least, normal citizens become insane, probably from huge overdoses of tryptophan in their holiday turkeys.
Some of these people gather in unruly mobs, trying to save as much as 12 cents on the price of last year’s version of a 93-inch HDTV. They use pepper spray and firearms. They’ve been known to kill anyone who impedes them (watch out Walmart strikers).
Worse, Black Friday has become grease-stained Thursday as some stores open early in their own crazed attempts to capture consumers before they’re overrun. But they may not succeed in time. News footage is already showing encampments of Black Friday troops in place at Best Buy stores. Frightening, isn’t it?
So what does this madness mean to you, the IT manager? In a word, chaos. Some of those crazed Best Buy shoppers, as well as others, their foam-slathered jowls trembling with greed, on Cyber Monday will present you with their purchases. They will want them to work with the company network. They will want to use them with the corporate email system. They will want to store their confidential documents on those devices. You, in turn, will want to head for the airport and depart immediately for a diving trip to Fiji.
Instead, when you return from the Thanksgiving holiday, you’ll need to be ready with answers for your employees as they come to you clutching the electronics that they waited for days to buy. What do you tell them?
If you planned ahead—and if you’re reading this, I hope you have—you’ll have set up a sort of triage system. First, you’ll handle those people who bought something you already support, such as a new iPhone, iPad Mini or a new Android device. With these people, the choice is easy. You provide whatever software is required by your organization, register them on the network and send them on their way. You can probably assign a technician to handle these cases.
But there will likely be a few Android devices that don’t quite fit the standard pattern, and those people will have to move to stage two of triage. These will be devices such as the Kindle Fire HD, which runs Android, but doesn’t run a standard version of Android. You’ll need to subject these items to further testing.
The IT Manager’s Guide to Surviving the Effects of Black Friday
The second stage of testing is for products your employees bring in that should work on your network, but that you haven’t tested yet, and that you don’t have a pre-planned means of integrating into the enterprise. Chances are that Windows Phone 8 devices will fall into this category. For that matter, so will Windows 8 computers and tablets when employees start showing up with those. You know that these devices will meet your security and privacy requirements, but you may need to develop a standard way of integrating them.
Then there’s the third stage of your triage system. These are products that your employees will have fought for, perhaps pepper-sprayed a few preteens to get their hands on, and now they want them supported. This would explain the blood stains on their new Xboxes when they show up with them at the IT department, claiming that they will work just fine with the company network. These are the products that you will never support on the corporate network.
Having set up a triage system for IT department approval for these new devices, you need to work on your plan. This includes creating clear instructions for your technicians, outlining what they’re supposed to do and when to flag an exception for the attention of higher-level managers. Having an acceptable timeline for integration is important since these employees shouldn’t have to wait for several days just to have their iPhone 5 integrated with the network.
The second stage of the triage system requires the most work. You already know that people will start showing up with new Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Surface devices. You may have seen a few already. You need to accomplish two tasks to prepare for this influx of new Windows devices. The first is to get your tech support staff up to speed on each of the three related operating systems.
The second task with Windows 8-related products is to find out which part of your standard application and security software will work, and to make plans for what won’t. In many cases this will only require learning the procedure for licensing the Microsoft Office shipped with these devices for corporate use. But you will need to test everything, knowing that if it worked on Windows 7, the chances are it will work on Windows 8. But you will still need solutions for Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT.
And finally, you’ll need to create a policy for devices you will never support on your network. You will need to hand the people that show up with their Xboxes written guidelines so they’ll know. And you’ll need to keep your eyes open for that can of pepper spray.