Martin McGregor

Drawbacks of managing your own SOE

Infrastructure-as-a-service is now a smarter, safer and cheaper way for many organisations to manage their SOE. 

Years ago, when I worked in an IT helpdesk role, the boss pointed out that my team should never joke about people calling for technical support because they were professionals in other fields.  

If you’ve seen The IT Crowd, there’s a very real concept presented that the majority of requests IT helpdesk professionals receive are well below their skill level.  

Yet, the 'turning it off and on again’ approach still ends up as the cure for some of the issues that come across the helpdesk.  

And why? Because technology solutions are only as good as their ability to assist people in improving their efficiency and, overall, improving how they work.  

I’ve built my career as an IT and security generalist, building and securing what is often referred to as corporate technology; that is, the universal infrastructure that underpins business operations. This includes end-user compute (EUC), security, storage and collaboration capability. 

While there’s no doubt corporate technology helps improve overall workplace efficiency, I have seen numerous companies spend far too much time, money and resources on this tech, when they would have been better served focusing on building and improving value-generating technology.  

One area where some companies are spending too much valuable time and money is managing their own standard operating environment (SOE). 

The technology to provide a cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service is relatively recent. And, like every SaaS solution that has hit the market since the noughties, it takes some time for widespread adoption.   

In this article, I will explain some of the drawbacks of managing your SOE and why it can be a waste of time and money. 

Pitfalls of DIY SOEs 

Upon reflection, almost every SOE project to manage EUC that I have assisted on was on the back of a failed internal project.  

In some cases, millions of dollars of lost productivity were spent, despite an initial promise that it would make the organisation more efficient. 

The common theme was that companies didn’t fully understand the scope or complexity of the task when they started, so it went on for longer than they anticipated and came in significantly over budget. 

I have built hundreds of email servers for customers, sized from a couple of staff to tens of thousands. 

When you stop and consider that nobody builds their own email systems anymore, it seems reasonable to ask why any company would still build and maintain their own infrastructure to manage and secure end-user devices. 

Better technology investments 

A better approach is when organisations focus their technology experts on improving their products and services—while keeping corporate technology costs as low as possible by outsourcing this to specialists in that domain. 

A good example of this is companies deciding they are going to build their own Microsoft Intune solution.  

Intune has powerful mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) capabilities, however, it is not an out-of-the-box solution. Like all generic corporate technology, it’s an enabler, where the value is gained after significant customisation. 

With Intune projects, I’ve seen a lot of time invested and millions of dollars spent without a successful outcome for the business. 

Sometimes organisations take years of effort to realise they can’t do it internally.  

Often this effort has been at the expense of focusing on revenue-generating or value-creating technologies that can have a direct impact on the bottom line. 

Benefits of an SOE-as-a-service 

There are many benefits of a cloud-managed SOE solution that you rent instead of building and managing your own.  

Here are my top three: 

  1. You are paying a monthly fee for a service you don’t have to build. It is available in weeks rather than months or years, and if for some reason it doesn’t work, you will know it has failed straight away before you’ve invested in it or paid for it. 

  2. You don’t have to maintain or upgrade it as your business develops, which has happened with every bespoke SOE ever developed. SOEs degrade over time and eventually need to be redone. It’s a vicious time and money-sink cycle. 

  3. You are giving over a complex – but generic – part of your business to experts, who focus on one thing only: providing secure and productive infrastructure to support your modern workforce. 

Additionally, in the future state with a SaaS-based SOE, every end user will have a consistent, positive device experience, with the most up-to-date security, applications and policies to enable them to work safely and productively. 

There is no longer any reason to spend money or time on building your own SOE. It is not a technology project that will make your business more competitive.  

Companies are better off reassigning those IT resources to managing the stack that affects your customers and impacts the quality of your products and services. 

Martin McGregor,

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