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How Are Things At Home? February 23, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Technology.
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You can divide the technology at any company into two areas: the enterprise stuff and the end user stuff.  The enterprise stuff includes all the “heavy iron” in the data center: the servers, storage, networks, monitoring systems, databases, firewalls, and what not.  This is the domain of the IT professional, where we get to do deep analysis and evaluation of technology, cost benefits, and strategic value.  The user stuff includes everything a user touches: desktops, laptops, phones, email clients, web browsers, and PDAs.  Our ability to manage this technology hinges less on technology and more on what happens outside of work, in the user’s home.

We all have early adopters in our organizations: people who try out new things at home, way before they are actively considered at work.  (I suspect that most readers of this blog fall into that category). These people provide wonderful free evaluation services, figuring out what works (and what doesn’t) so that we can make better decisions for our companies.

These early adopters can make or break a product.  Vista was killed in the business market in large part due to the early negative reactions from these leading-edge home users.  Even though Microsoft made huge progress in improving Vista, that early stigma never wore off.

Microsoft learned their lesson.  The early adopter feedback on Windows 7 is almost universally good.  Not coincidentally, I’m beginning to pick up positive buzz from other IT executives about their plans for Windows 7.  Give Microsoft credit: they don’t quit and keep trying until they get it right.

The iPhone is a different story.  Users are adopting these devices at home and love them.  They come to work and want to use them with enterprise email on our networks.  Unfortunately, many IT people (myself included) do not believe the iPhone is secure and manageable enough for corporate use.  As a result, we’ve got a lot of cranky users who can’t use their iPhones at work.  While this provides an opportunity to teach people about security and systems management, it still leaves users feeling disappointed.

Gone are the days when corporate IT led the way in bringing technology to the masses.  Now we are followers, led by the consumer market and ever-more-savvy end users.  To be successful and to stay ahead of the curve, we need to pay attention to what our users are doing and constantly ask them “How are things at home?”

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