Monday, August 22, 2005

Why should you care?

Before I go too much further in discussing the ways and means of automating and improving the use of Active Directory, perhaps I should talk a little bit more about the “why” of doing so.

Implementing and managing Active Directory can be an expensive undertaking. While Microsoft originally touted Active Directory as a great way of lowering your enterprise TCO, I’d bet that many organizations are actually spending more on administration now than they did before they implemented AD. Does that mean Microsoft was wrong? No. It means that we’re not fully utilizing the features and capabilities of AD, thus adding cost to our administrative budget. Yes, you heard me correctly. I firmly believe that, if implemented incorrectly or incompletely, Active Directory will add to your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Let’s take a closer look. First, I bet many of you are still running NT servers in your Windows 2000/2003 computing environment and are likely still in mixed mode. Thus you’re not able to take advantage of the full functionality of AD. Cha-ching $. And you’ve probably not yet gone through the time consuming effort of implementing a comprehensive model for use of Group Policy, which means you’re still manually performing functions that could be automated. Cha-ching $$. And have you integrated AD with your HR application to automate role-based user provisioning/de-provisioning? Cha-ching $$$$ (user provisioning, frequently called Change-Add-Move or Move-Add-Change, often represents up to 40% of your TCO in a large environment). Did you adapt your system administration staffing model to fit the new workflows enabled by Active Directory, or are you using the same staffing model you used when performing NT administration? Cha-ching again $$$.

I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve understood my point already. These examples illustrate exactly how an organization ends up spending more by implementing Active Directory. Unless we adapt to make good use of technology tools like AD, we’re simply “putting lipstick on a pig”. (I hope that phrase is recognized outside of Texas. I once described someone as “all hat, no cattle” to a friend from Michigan, and he’s still laughing at me.)