Jul 16 2012

Don't Be Like LBJ's Beagle: Instead of Howling About Your Tech Pains, Fix Them

Do something about the IT woes that are confounding your district.

One of my favorite stories to tell involves a beagle belonging to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. President Johnson had a ranch and loved beagles. One day, a reporter was talking with Johnson outside, and a beagle in the yard started howling.

"Why is that dog howling?" the reporter asked.

"He's sitting on a sticker bush," Johnson replied.

"Mr. President, why doesn't he move?"

"He'd rather howl."

When I tell that story, people laugh at the stupid dog who'd rather howl than take action to reduce his pain. Then they stop laughing as they realize they know people who do exactly the same thing. Sometimes, they are one of those people.

Why do people howl and complain rather than take action? This isn't a psychology class, so that question is outside my purview. But don't be one of those people.

Unfortunately, stopping technology pain takes more than merely changing where you sit. Fortunately, minor changes often can provide major pain relief.

Starting the Healing Process

One area that seems to hurt many school districts is data security. Backup is boring, blah blah blah, but Restore is exciting. Why listen to one more person howling because they lost their files or are unable to recover earlier versions of files? Tighten up your backup processes or update your backup equipment so you can eliminate the pain of lost data.

Paper cuts hurt. Relying on paper also hurts. In 2007, 1.019 trillion (with a T) pages were printed, copied and faxed. Cut down on your printing to save time and money; replace multiple personal-use inkjet printers with workgroup laser printers; buy high-capacity toner cartridges to get the lowest possible price per page; and buy the same printer models to receive volume discounts and simplify support. Also, consider investing in a scanner to turn loose and losable papers into electronic documents that can be searched and retrieved in seconds.

Mobility is at the top of every "what we think is important" survey. Most districts want to embrace mobility.

Of course, they need to organize the rest of their organization to really take advantage of relatively inexpensive mobile technology. Standardize on a provider, especially if your datacomm provider (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) also does mobility. If you follow the bring your own device path, staffers pay for acquisition and monthly service fees, but you have to support every possible mobile-device manufacturer.

That's where an intelligent cloud strategy will help. When you get cloud-smart, your service provider will do the heavy lifting to support various devices, and you will pay a small monthly fee for each device. Even if you don't go with a third-party hosted solution, new local products, such as network-attached storage devices, allow secure access to data across the web. Terminal services that support remote users also can be configured to support tablets. One or two big sales that are made using good mobile technology may pay for the entire upgrade process.

Soothing small pain points can make a big difference. Let’s say you want staffers to turn off their PCs each night, but they forget. Today, you can configure PCs to go to sleep at a certain time, so the user doesn't have to remember. And the devices can be scheduled to wake up and download all updates and virus patches before the user logs on in the morning, easing the aggravation of waiting.

Programming around forgetful staffers can turn a small pain into a small pleasure. And small pleasures are worth howling about.

<p>Credit: LBJ Library Photo by Cecil Stoughton</p>