Putting An End To Torture At Work
This post was first published on my business blog, which I’m closing down now that I’ve retired, so I’m archiving some of the better posts to this blog.
Employers quickly learned that when it comes to company cars their employees wanted choice, on-mass employees rejected employers that didn’t provide a car allowance, that provided a catalogue instead. Unfortunately those same companies decided that when it comes to computing devices a standard selection, of perhaps three or four options, would meet everyone’s needs. After all computers really only come in a handful of form factors (small and light, big and heavy, deskbound) so what’s the problem? What’s the problem!! Lets go back to cars, it would be inconceivable now for people to be happy with the ‘choice’ of a 4 seat, 5 seat or 7 seat car, with no other options, everyone gets the same manufacturer, the same colour, the same base model and once they’ve made a decision of course they are stuck with it for 3 years (or maybe 5). Somehow most people have accepted this situation, if accepted means being annoyed and frustrated with it every day.
A couple of days ago in an excellent blog post, that surely deserves the award for longest title ever, Stu wrote In 2015 and beyond as much thought will need to go into knowledge worker dock and screen selection as goes into PC device selection today the key message of the post (to me at least) was the need to design a docking solution that provided flexibility: flexibility to plug in any mobile device; to choose the number and size of displays, the type of keyboard and mouse.
To further help me make my point, in an earlier post Stu raves about his experience of using hybrid devices, devices that I find unusable. Stu and I agree that conceptually a hybrid that provides an ‘all in one’ experience, the best notebook, the best tablet, and enough power, when docked, to be a good desktop is a worthy goal. Take the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that failed me for me for subtle reasons that grew huge over time. All those little annoyances piled up throughout the day: first I’m annoyed by the trackpad because I like dedicated mouse buttons below the keyboard; then I miss having an integrated mouse pointer; later I’m struggling to use an application that’s too small on the high resolution screen; as a tablet it’s too heavy, it makes my arms ache; still later the battery dies and I can’t pop in a spare. For Stu though these are hardly even issues: he uses a separate mouse; he’s more dextrous than I am; he’s younger, his eyes are better and he spends less time away from power.
We only need walk around the supermarket, a mobile phone shop or a hardware store to realise that we crave choice. There are more options — for screwdrivers — than companies provide for laptops in most companies, it’s bordering on mental torture! It needs to change and it’s going to, the pent up demand must be huge, it’s like a dam waiting to burst, all waiting on Microsoft delivering finally delivering a BYO solution in Windows 10.
It’s going to be interesting if they succeed. For balance though it’s important to point out that while everyone’s different, sometimes this difference is a persons degree of acceptance with what they are given. I’ve met plenty of people at work who calmly accept what they are given, my wife’s one of them. I buy her phones and PCs for her, she’s content: so long as it doesn’t crash; run out of battery and has a keyboard and screen it’s fine. But the people who don’t accept what they are given, the people who demand more, who see all the little problems and want to fix them, these are the people who companies need to attract.
Providing an end-user computing service that lets people work the way they want to, where they want to, that evolves with them, that provides flexibility and choice is a real competitive advantage. Too often in IT we say we provide people with what they ‘need’ rather than what they ‘want’, well times have changed, wherever we can we need to start providing what people want, but because not everything in life can be a choice we also need to make people want what they need.