“Hang on – what about the users?”

This has been a post I have wanted to write for quite some time, having first mulled it over before the Christmas break

I had started listening to a relatively new podcast, called the Human Factor from Jenny Radcliffe and it was an episode whereby she was speaking to Quentin Taylor. During the course of the interview, they were discussing user awareness training, and how it needs to be personal – something Jenny has discussed on previous shows. Listening to this episode whilst driving back from (and reflecting on) an earlier meeting, I had an epiphany – more on that shortly……

The meeting was with an organisation on the doorstep of a customer we were having a service review meeting with beforehand. We entered to a room of technical guys (folded arms, always a great sign) who explained that they were “a Microsoft shop”, and went on to elaborate on their “mobility strategy”, whereby a key element of said strategy was to use VDI as a means to facilitate mobile working. I happened to enquire if they were prescribing this to tablet users, given that the end user experience is less than optimal (although some disagree). Their view was that it met their users’ needs and were continuing on that journey regardless.

I tried to explain how our consultancy might help in terms of strategy, to be cut short “we do the strategy”. To change tack, I asked “What challenges do you have currently?” Surprise, surprise; the rollout of the mobile working project was being held up because the user community wasn’t returning laptops in exchange for the new tablets! Instead of the urge to face palm, I decided to professionally – but quickly-  wrap up the meeting. As I said to my colleague,  they had been sold on the Vendorsaurs “vision” and hadn’t thought through the policy & process aspects – let alone the people.  They were making the users fit the product, because they had an enterprise agreement.

So, fresh from this meeting and then listening to Jenny and Quentyn it hit me – blatantly obvious perhaps.We forget about the users!

In fact, its worse because not only do we forget about the users – we actually criticise and ridicule them. I’ve done it myself – both during my years as a “proper” IT person, and more recently.

Clicked on the phishing email? Stupid user!

Project rollout stalled?  Luddite users!

(Cue the old alleged Wordperfect helpdesk chestnut)

Its easy to engage in this user slating, however we need to remind ourselves of a simple fact;

Most users probably don’t care about the computers and software that we foist upon them – certainly not in the same way IT folks do. It is merely incidental – something they are forced to use in order to do their job.

Contrast this to the rise (and rise) of smartphones and tablets and it becomes clear why everyone has one or both (and thus the resurgence of Apple and then others in their wake). Regardless of your Mobile OS or manufacturer allegiance, it is impossible to argue that consumerisation and ease of use has subsequently driven up peoples  use of websites, apps etc. way more than laptops have. Walk round any city and look at how people are transfixed with their gadgets – to the point of either getting run over or bumping into people.

I recently explored this topic with a CIO (given his views on “Guerrilla working”) during a meeting last year. Whilst embracing the benefits of mobility, etc. when I asked about the low volume of tablet users the reply came “they haven’t been beating a path to my door”. I conjectured that perhaps they weren’t aware of what was possible, not least due to the disconnect between the technology they are forced to use – versus the technology they enjoy using.

The more I reflect on this, the more I come to the conclusion that IT teams are guilty of making both assumptions and decisions about how their users will use technology – which means it’s no surprise projects fail, we have breaches and there is increasing move to “Shadow IT”. Put simply, we forget about the users – until it turns to crap, then we blame them

I would love to know if anyone has actually done a TCO or ROI calculation and taken into account the cost of slippage and/or failure – set against the incremental cost of using a “not bundled as part of an ELA” software solution or service that their users like using.

To quote Quentyn “Humans are the root of all of our problems, but they are also the root of all of our profit”.  So, maybe its time we started to think about the users – put them at the centre of what we do.  Thus, the most important question in any new IT initiative should be;

“What about the users?”

About Paul O'Sullivan

Speak plainly, work ethically, challenge stupidity

Posted on March 2, 2017, in General musings. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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