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Is the IT Dept failing users?

Can it catch up with personal devices?

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Desktop The number of tools the enterprise can deploy to enhance productivity is huge. And even if the tools are generally simple to use, they are also mind-bogglingly complex under the skin.

Balls in the air

Each tool, including the desktop PC, has to interact with all the others securely, quickly and seamlessly. It is such a a juggling act that it can seem remarkable that it works at all.

The reason it does is down to the hardware manufacturers and programmers who create the products, but the IT department has to assemble these products a way that furthers the aims of the business.

This is no simple task, now that computing devices are commodities that growing numbers of users have at home. The IT department cannot move as quickly as many end-users would like, not just for cost reasons but also because interactions between devices cannot be foreseen until tested.

Moving targets

This was not the case when end-users started bringing in their own hardware and software back in 1980s, when PCs were rarely networked, and swapping files – usually Lotus 123 spreadsheets and WordPerfect documents – on floppy disks was about as interactive as it got. After a while, standards kicked in and desktop hardware and software became increasingly standardised.

People no longer sit in front of their desktops until it's time to go home

Fast-forward to the 21st century and as well as the performance and functionality improvements that you might expect, the way users work has also changed hugely.

People no longer sit in front of their desktops until it's time to go home. They are mobile in and outside the office, and some come into the office only occasionally.

The result is that the hardware platform needs to change, which means some form of smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Software needs to be smarter too, for example to handle the fact that the network may not always be fast enough to save large datasets, or may not even be connected at all.

Devices are more personal, acting as information providers for people in their roles as both individuals and employees. They expect a lot more say over what devices they can use and when, and more autonomy from the IT department. This is what we mean by the consumerisation of IT.

This time it's personal

At the same time, legislation and experience demand that the organisation has greater control over its data. This requires a more complex IT environment that can separate end-users' personal data from company data.

IT departments need to adapt to the growing diversification between the needs of the organisation and those of individual employees. Instead of a big, one-size-fits-all desktop rollout, they could, for example, gather feedback from end users about their expectations of IT.

The IT department needs to adopt a consultative approach. It can no longer control everything from the centre and hope that users will fall into line. To win their trust, it needs to target leaders, such as power users, and win them over to new ways of working.

It needs to listen and seize opportunities for transformation. Above all, it needs to recognise that all the policy documents in the world cannot make end-users more co-operative. ®

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