Welcome to the first installment in a multi-part series where I look at how well-intentioned IT departments may be causing more problems than they prevent in their approach to deploying web browsers in their organization.
This installment provides some of the context that lead me to explore this topic.
The Web Browser: Mission Critical Infrastructure
RSI Content Solutions fields two product lines reliant on the web browser as client software: RSuite CMS and DocZone. Managing products that operate in the browser presents challenges when trying to balance functionality against the need to support a wide range of browsers and their versions. Browser developers have been under increasing pressure to provide rapid updates to remain competitive and deal with ongoing security concerns. Users have become more reliant on a range of browser-based tools and applications. Almost every category of traditional desktop applications now have browser-based alternatives available. It can become a real challenge to find that magical browser release that supports the range of platforms and technologies in use today.
I've worked as a vendor in the browser-based application space for more than five years. In that time, I have encountered a range of responses from IT departments dealing with browser deployments. Some exert little or no control, often providing guidance but ultimately letting the users decide what browser to employ and when to upgrade it. Some IT departments have locked things down so tight they only give their users access to a single approved browser. While this may be sufficient for a fairly narrow use case over some finite period of time, the inflexibility is often stifling their ability to take advantage of the latest tools and technologies.
It's ironic that the mission critical role of the web browser has lead to defensive policies in many organizations in seeming ignorance of the rich variety of available tools. In the interest of ensuring a "perfect" technology deployment, it is tempting to lock the organization to a functional set of tools. Just don't blink lest your heavenly solution suddenly show its shortcomings and leaves you mired down.
Over the next several days I will be inviting you to consider your approach to supporting the web browser in your organization. In the next installment, we will look at the various approaches browser developers have adopted regarding updates and support. I'll also tell you about two strategies that have seduced many an IT department astray only to find they're worse off than before.