Its been a few years now that people have been talking about “consumerisation”, which is the idea that you can want and expect the same kind of computing experiences at work as you get at home.
But, as everyone who works in a large company knows, you never get such an experience at work. Everything is a few versions behind, and even when it’s up to date, it all works so slowly. This, in part, is because of all the management, and security, and monitoring, and stuff that IT people feel they have to do to protect their assets.
What are the key changes IT organisations would have to make if they really wanted to deliver a decent consumer computing experience?
1. They’d need to stop imagining that their staff are stupid. I’m always so surprised when I go into meetings and discover the IT people somehow believe that staff forget how to use the web, Google, and standard productivity tools the moment they walk in the door. Is there an idiot-line drawn on the floor by the entrance, and your IQ drops as you cross it? I don’t think so.
2. IT organisations need to stop thinking that the lowest common denominator is the place to aim their technological aspirations. It may be the case that a small minority of staff can’t progress beyond the green-screen, but frankly that’s not a good enough reason to lose the benefits of the modern stuff.
3. IT managers need to accept they don’t have to control everything. It isn’t, for example, necessary to lock down computers to the degree where you can’t even access the screensaver. Why do we do that stuff anyway? Because we think it reduces our support costs and increases reliability. All it does really is make sure that you have to call the helpdesk for everything, even if you know how to fix a problem yourself.
4. IT can’t only be about cost. I am so exhausted by the amount of effort we go to reduce cost. I mean, I’m not advocating that everyone should just go and spend anything they like on shiny gadgets, but really, this laser sharp focus on cost containment prevents you from moving things forward at a decent pace. IT is an asset, a strategic enabler. Do you ask a starving athlete to run faster and longer with less food? Not really.
5. Standardisation may make things easier to manage, but it is also a way to shackle your best people to the lowest common denominator. I suppose that’s OK if you work in an organisation where keeping talent isn’t a key differentiator. But I don’t know many organisations that have that view and keep on living long.
6. IT needs to give up on the idea that the most important thing is reliability, scalability and security. Those are important things. But if you want a decent computing experience, they are secondary to making the job at hand as easy as possible. Secondary. Our IT experiences are terrible at work because we’ve all forgotten this.
7. People are on their computer for at least a third of their day. I, personally, am on mine for 12 hours a day. I therefore cannot tolerate shoddy equipment that doesn’t do exactly what I need perfectly all the time. When you have to deal with little frustrations 100 times a day, they’re not little any more. They become big and central parts of your life. Personally, I don’t need technological niggles to be the thing I talk about when I finally get off the computer. Dinner conversation: “yes, I made two cups of tea whilst waiting to boot this morning. Then I made two more at lunchtime when the net was slow. And then I had another one waiting to log out. So don’t bother to offer me more tea with desert”.
8. Internet access is not a privilege. Social network access is not something that will suck up otherwise productive work time. Doing social media is not only a home-time activity. Wake up.
Actually, I could keep on going here for ages, but I think you get the point. Those of us who are IT leaders really need to move where the rest of the world is already, and create great computing experiences for staff. The time is coming where they’ll demand great experiences or they’ll leave. I know lots of traditionalists don’t believe that, but have a chat with the fresh talent and see what they think.
Frankly, things have moved. It isn’t about the IT folk and what makes it easy and cheap for us to manage the IT asset any more.