No guys, its IT vs. End-Users

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Keywords: it, end-users, future

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Everyone enjoys a little argument and no more so than in the technology industries.  We love to talk about which technology is better, which are the right methods, and which future concept will be a winning reality.  Most recently, and on the AIIM blog especially, the leading arguments have been around Cloud vs. On-Prem, SharePoint vs. Non-SharePoint, Ease-of-Use vs. Professional Services.  Usually when there is an argument, I quickly pick a side and start throwing punches.  However, I’ve realized that we are ALL WRONG!

Not only are our points completely wrong, we are arguing the wrong thing.  Is the contention really SharePoint vs. Box.net or Mobile Capture vs. Document Scanners or Cloud vs. Physical Hardware? Not really.  The really contention lies between IT and End-Users.

Want more arguments?  Follow #ECMJam on twitter. 

Note, almost none have to do with IT and end-users working together

What End-Users want is to solve a problem, or increase efficiency of a common task. Not only that, they want to solve it without spending time on the solution.  Even technical end-users don’t want to waste more brain cells then they have to on technology.  Why?  Because it’s not their job. We are all spread thin with our day jobs, so adding just one more thing unrelated to core duties is very frustrating.

On the other hand, IT is paid to handle complexity, the more complex the better.  IT puts the technology pieces together, and makes things work.  Once they build something, their job is to maintain the status quo until a new approach arrives.  Not only that, within IT are specialties, those who are great with hardware, those who are great with a particular software package, and those who are great with network security.  The more proprietary the technology, the more specialized the admin, the more security.  At least for now…

End-Users are left discovering very convenient technologies in the consumer space, and wondering, WHY THE HELL can’t I do this at work?  They have an itch, they download an app, and itch is scratched.  This makes easy to use applications, limited hardware, and basic UI an ever increasing demand.

So even though I’m sure all enterprise software packages can be formed into an easy to use solution, how long does it take?  How involved do the end-users need to be in the process?  The answer to these questions is contradictory.  The longer it takes, the more end-users hate it, dead on arrival.  Avoid the end-users, create something they don’t need.  Involve the end-users, increase the deployment time.  It’s like one of those metal puzzles I used to buy at “Cracker Barrel” just try to get them apart with ease.


End-users see IT as a hurdle, and seek “underground” technologies to avoid them.

IT see’s end-users as a nuisance, and business use cases a great way to delay deployment.

Yes End-Users vs. IT is cliché.  But every year the “underground” technologies available to End-users increase substantially.  Ultimately this increases their frustration of “WHY NOT”, promotes slower adoption of heavy enterprise technologies, and makes IT and the vendors they support even bigger enemies.

So in the end who do you think will win?  I will go out on a limb and say end-users.  Why?  Because what they do is more closely tied to the core business activities then IT.  Closer tie to business activities means closer tie to revenue.  Closer tie to revenue means power.

It does not have to be this way.  IT and enterprise software vendors need to focus more on productivity enhancement, and business use case.  IT should once again be more cutting edge then their end-users.  Solving problems end-users did not even know they had.  By doing so transforming their value from a specialty in obscurity into a science of efficiency.  And as a community we need to get over ourselves and realize:

Box.net vs. SharePoint = End-Users vs. IT

Mobile Capture vs. Document Scanners = End-Users vs. IT

Cloud vs. Physical Hardware = End-Users vs. IT

Only then can we start considering some startling things.  Such as combining on-prem and cloud environments to maximize the benefits of both, picking the most efficient capture method for the job, and integrating “heavy” ECM solutions with ad-hoc collaboration platforms.

Un-doubtabley this post will even start some argument, if not here, on twitter.  I can only hope it’s one that is more beneficial than above, gloves are off.

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Comments

Christian Buckley

a necessary battle

This is a very complex topic, and it won't be answered in short quips and half-thought-out blog responses.....and yet I'll try anyway ;-)

the ongoing battle between IT and the end user is completely necessary. its part of the circle of life, and drives innovation on both fronts: it forces IT to think more about the use cases and user experience, and it forces end users to think about scalability, supportability, and prioritizing needs and wants. just as the booms and busts of the economy help spark innovation in technology, the IT versus end user battle helps both sides to innovate and iterate.
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

Maybe today, but not tommrow

Christian,

Finally i get to argue against you instead of with you :)

I agree that it is a necessary evil today, but in the future it can't be. Actually in the future if IT is not careful the users will run them over with underground technology. In the private sector at least. I don't want to see this, no one does. The solution to me seems to me for IT to reform, drop the weapons, and embrace the underground technologies as part of a more robust platform. Become part of the solution, or problem, depending how you look at it.
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Christian Buckley

I disagree

I don't believe the users will run IT underground. It simply won't happen, because there's nothing new to the story here -- this is the same cycle that has been around for decades. "Cottage IT" teams within business units pop up when end users don't like what they're getting, and take matters into their own hands. Their solutions typically meet the end user needs, but at a cost -- scalability, supportability, cost, compliance, etc etc. At some point, either the costs outweigh the benefits and the renegade systems are reigned in, or management decides the benefits need to be rolled out more broadly but in a more sustainable way. Either way, the technology iterates, improves. It's all part of the cycle....the circle of life for IT.
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

What is new

What is new is the availability of replacement technologies that do not require IT. The number of ways an end-user can solve their problem or increase efficiency without involving IT is increasing at a rapid pace. I agree sustainability, and organization wise solutions are limited with these solutions, but that may not always be true. Look at Google docs. It's amazing how many companies are standardizing on this. They will even admit where it's lacking, but the convenience, ease of maintenance, and avoidance of heavy IT staff is a huge benefit. I don't think Google Docs is a good replacement at all for an ECM system, but for most companies good enough.
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

another example

Office 365 is still SharePoint, but it too offers a way to avoid IT. It's limitations just may not be enough to throw away it's convenience, and ease of maintenance.
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Christian Buckley

nope, still not new

you've just moved the conversation into the cloud, and changed the footprint of what IT owns -- and made the number of resources/people necessary to run IT smaller, but not removed IT from the discussion. you're talking about point solutions to do specific activities, not replacing all of the enterprise systems that IT owns.
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

No

Christian. No. Just No. Winning
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Mark Mandel

A BIG hole in the discussion

There is a major gap in this discussion - information governance (Records Management). In most cases neither end users nor IT know much about records management.

Therefore most user driven solutions introduce more information silos without any thought to compliance and RM.

IT based solutions require big budgets, which are tight these days. IT folks generally know little about RM also and need to be pushed that direction.

Hopefully these discussions and our influence will help push the market towards cloud based solutions that include RM and eDiscovery mechanisms, to provide the best of both worlds.
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

Records Management

Mark,

Thank you for your comment, while I did not call out records management specifically, to me this is a use case, and thus falls into the area of end-users. It is one where no matter what end-users / governance architects have to work with IT, but most often IT cares very little about knowing what RM is or why do it. This is actually a great example you raise where projects have gone very wrong. Not because of technology, because of this stubbornness of IT.
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Daniel O'Leary

IT= janitors by 2020

With the growth and commoditization of ECM and IT in general, I predict that the traditional role of IT will soon be seen on the same level as the janitor. The real value is making IT align with the business and organizational objectives, not to stifle innovation and protect the status quo. Cloud is gas on the fire, and mobile devices and a virtual workforce also contributes to this.

If you were starting a new business today, would you go out and buy servers and hire an IT guy, or would you go all cloud?
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Shadrach White

The Smarter you are the Dumber you are

As a systems engineer I was the guy who could fix anything and amaze customers, sales people and family with my technical jedi skills. That was the .90s and things are different today. Technology is now in the hands of the old, the young, the banked, the unbanked, pretty much everyone has access to and needs technology.

Complexity and Ease of Use can co-exist. All the underlying components of even the simplest and most widely used apps(eg: AngryBirds) have complexity supporting them. The device, distribution infrastructure, cross platform support, codebase.

The smartest of the smart people make all this complexity transparent to the end user. That is why I put Legacy models on the later declining stage of the bell curve. Anyone who has actually implemented Legacy software (everyone who has responded so far) knows for a fact that a major shift is taking place. Those that don't are in denial.

We will always need IT and geekdom will continue to exist but the days of clunky UI's and overly complicated, feature bloated software are numbered. Give a user what they need nothing more nothing less. Listen to the consumer --> rule #1
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Consumerization of Technology

I think you’ve summed up the root of the problem in this one statement: “WHY THE HELL can’t I do this at work?”

Ease-of-use based productivity enhancements are fine in theory, but when it comes to a bottom line ROI and ensuring proper management of data, content and systems, it falls “below the line.”

To me, you can’t do “this” at work because the way technology works in business is different than how it operates for consumers. A massive amount of very detailed IT work has gone into making difficult things easy for anyone to do, and corporations (in general) don’t want to spend their resources that way.

Take a simple Google example. I live in Toronto Canada, and if I go to Google and search the word “go” my first hit is for Go Transit, our local commuter rail system. If I’m in Chicago, I get go.com etc.

Real effort – IT effort – went into understanding the likely context of the single word “go” given my geographic location. Google spent money to make my search experience better. How does an organization make money or cut costs because of that type of IT effort?
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William Cellich, ECMm

Google is the most successful ad agency in the world.

It has developed technology to enable ADVERTISING.

They gather demographic data 'voluntarily' provided billions of times a day, grab IP and other info from your browser, and then take a 'best guess', based on pattern recognition.

The fact that you may actually find something relevant to your search criteria is not all that exciting, given the huge amounts of data residing in your 'dossier'.
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William Cellich, ECMm

Business Processes drive the Organization, and IT is just a service department

IT is a service bureau that has a very specific skillset. But, IT forgets (mostly) that it does not OWN the data. It stores it, manages it, and moves it around for the worker bees, and it provides interesting ways to report it for the Suits.

The worker bees want the job to be easy (just like at home, bless their naive hearts!), and IT just wants the engines to run smoothly. When someone can load iTunes on their PC, it does wonders for their morale, and maybe even boosts productivity a bit. That is somewhat quantifiable, so Suits think this is ok. But, the cost of bandwidth resources, potential attack vectors, and other infosec issues make the IT pros pull out their hair, because they rightly argue that essential services are being jeopardized by this concession to the end-users.

End-users are certainly the experts of their own work flows and business processes from the standpoint that they...um...USE them every day. And, they are probably the best people to ask about areas where improvement MAY occur.

IT is the logical place to attempt to make those changes real. And, IT does itself a disservice to exclude asking those daily experts what they REALLY want.
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Jim Wade

Quick question

Great topic, I would like to know if the Business Analyst is a business user, an IT person or a team of both?
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Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp

Excellent question and point

I see Business Analyst as that hybrid tie between end user and IT. All the business analyst I've worked with have filled that future objective that I mentioned in the post. Of focusing more on value to the user, and looking forward. And have always been less combative with the end-users. It's a position that I hope is on the rise.
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Christian Buckley

The Rise of the BA

Completely agree. I think the Business Analyst is the key role for the future enterprise, where virtualization and the cloud will move the focus of the conversation from cyptic technology to business productivity. And the BA will be the role that helps with this transition, translating the technical into the business, and vice versa.
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Silke Dannemann, ECMm BPMp

A shift in IT skill sets

As end users find it easier and easier to move into an environment they like, traditional IT must shift. Increasingly, traditional IT will no longer be the source of the end-user experience as that will lead to new ways to circumvent something that has been handed to them but does not fully meet their needs. The focus now has to be more on IT management in alignment with business processes.
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This post and comment(s) reflect the personal perspectives of community members, and not necessarily those of their employers or of AIIM International