In every organisation promotion and career progression generally involves moving up from the “shop floor” and moving away from end customers. The relationships you enter into tend to be strongest between yourself and customers at the same level. So for example a desktop IT engineer will have much closer relationships with end users than the CIO.
What I see from my position as a Lotus collaboration specialist is the way enterprise support, design and engineering teams are structured. Everyone clammers for technical progression up the career ladder and to get away from 1st and 2nd line helpdesk calls (“I’ve forgotten my password”, “I’ve deleted all my emails” etc.)
But what I also see is that once up that technical career ladder there is then little attention paid to the end user tools but much attention paid to the back end server performance and functionality.
This has started to worry me somewhat as the main impact we have with our users is through the software on their desktop, they don’t care what the server is at the back end as long as it delivers what they want. I’m not putting the argument that back end engineering is trivial and unecessary but I am saying that more attention needs to be paid to the user.
How many companies have got large lab environments for testing new releases of server software. How many have also got user labs and large scale beta programs which involve the customer? I’d argue that the software vendors do this but IT suppliers and departments pay too little attention to end user activity, end user productivity and the functionality that software delivers.
In fact some decisions on the architecture of back end servers have an impact on product usability. A classic example was when a collegue complained that he couldn’t launch electronic meetings from within his instant messaging client. I explained that our instant messaging team had seperated the chat and meeting servers for performance reasons. Yet that one change has a huge impact on the ease of use and productivity of many thousands of staff who want to launch electronic meetings. Instead of select and click from the IM client there is an onerous traul through a browser interface completing this field and that field. What should take 10 seconds now takes 5 minutes.
So my plea to all….remember the user. Remember that the desktop is king. Re-align your teams so that technical advancement isn’t just back end engineering. Remember the desktop and have experts in that area as this is your key interface between IT and the user community. Get it right and the rewards are there in terms of financial, reputation and customer satisfaction.