Saturday, November 19, 2011

Part 7 - Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting; it is not logical but it is often true.

(This is part 7 in a series of 16 posts about IT leadership in higher education titled Everything I Need to Know about IT Management I Learned from Star Trek. See Part 0 - Introduction for the full list.)

"Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting; it is not logical but it is often true." This advice came from Spock when he was giving away a valued possession to someone who desperately longed for it.

From an IT perspective, it is easier to dream about a new system than actually build it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my university was a mixture of Windows, Mac, and Linux. Nearly every desktop image was unique. I liked to say we supported desktop multiculturalism.

But I had a dream – the “anyplace desktop.” In this dream we would deliver a standard virtual desktop productivity environment to any personal computing device, whether it be a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or whatever. Therefore making it much easier for us to rollout enterprise applications. We would use server-based terminal services to deliver the environment.

It was a great dream. We piloted it in a few places across campus. Reality was a lot harder work than the dream. Complexity in the backend server implementation forced us to re-think our approach. Ideas are easy; implementation is hard. So we moved to a different strategy in the short term based on managed desktops.

We admitted we failed with the anyplace desktop idea, but we did not spend much time on it and we did not dwell on it. We learned a lot and moved on. We may come back to it sometime in the future when the technology is ready for us.

Although we didn’t succeed with our dream, we learned from it. High ambition brought us farther and faster than if we had taken the low road. We can say we tried and the technology was not ready yet. Desire is useful. It helps us to aim high.

Even if we miss, we still grow. Another example is the vision we set for ourselves at my university: we will be the best Canadian University information systems department. We set the bar high and it always gave us something to shoot for. Wanting is good: dream big or go home!


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