Don't Underestimate Your Users

The “consumerisation of IT” has an interesting side-effect. Historically people mainly used computers for work. But now that many people have smartphones, tablets and laptops at home, their perception and understanding of technology has shifted. Old assumptions about training required when upgrading applications or client operating systems may no longer apply.

This comment at The Register aligns with what I’m seeing:

…We’re at the point now where users are using Windows 8 at home and wondering why the work computer is so dated. It’s the perception of IT people that users can’t handle change holding up that change, not the ability of the users. At home that same set of users has managed quite well with updated versions of Office, updated Windows, iPads, Android tablets, Facebook, video messaging and various other completely new things. Somehow they coped without extensive training and therapy. From what I’ve seen, it’s actually IT staff who don’t like Windows 8 and are trying to keep users away from it…

I can recall being involved in Office upgrades just a few years ago, and being nervous about how that would be perceived. We were concerned that there would be major push-back, because the exact locations of the buttons had shifted. We’d joke that people only knew how to click a certain place on the screen - that they didn’t understand what the actual action, they just knew a sequence of steps. We were worried about how much training would be required.

But this is shifting. Recently I’ve been talking through the use of Windows 7 vs Windows 8.1 with some clients. The IT department is inclined to defer a wholesale upgrade, to focus on other projects this year. But we’re finding that users are requesting it, because that’s what they’re using at home, and they prefer it.

This pleases me - it makes upgrades much easier - but it’s also another case where we need to keep an open mind, and periodically re-evaluate our opinions. Don’t underestimate your users.