Endless applications on smartphones, tablets and laptops, bring your own device and the cloud have all complicated the choices that companies make in selecting which end-user devices to support. Standardizing is impossible since needs differ widely among, for example, executives and highly mobile desktop or power users. Most users today have an average of three devices, with power users using many more (this technology specialist confesses to having more than 40). Still, we are getting better at narrowing down the choices to support employees and protect corporate priorities, especially around security.
Three questions get to the heart of a user’s needs:
- What is your business function?
- What apps do you use in that function?
- Which devices are required to get your job done?
Exploring answers to these questions can help develop a targeted grouping for device selections, and whiteboarding the ideal device can help zero in on choices, if it’s done in full recognition that the perfect device is a fantasy. The exercise, which gets to the heart of important must-have/could-have preferences, asks: If anything were possible, what would it be? Examples:
- Long-lasting battery
- Light, portable, carry-friendly
- Ease of use/touchscreen
- Ruggedized device
- Unique form factor
- 4K HD Display
- Direct sunlight viewable
Recently, I was whiteboarding with office workers in an environment with floating office spaces who like to carry a laptop to a co-worker’s space to show their work or collaborate. The problem is that a laptop screen sits at an angle when carrying it and standing or walking around. If you are demonstrating or sharing content, this position has an interrupted view of the screen unless you are sitting directly in front of it. They wanted a laptop that lies flat for easier viewing while standing so they can still type or navigate. Other workers said they prefer a stylus or digital pen to capture their thoughts more fluidly. Whiteboarding helped us get as close to their needs as possible, with a plan to get even closer as capabilities advance.
Staying current with change is daunting. Some cellphone-sized mobile devices have processing power equal to an Intel Core i5 desktop (I often say we have more processing power on our belt than on our desktop). Before box.net, Apple iCloud, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, we had to synch data on an external disk to work between different devices and form factors, a slow, complicated and painstaking process prone to human error. Now the cloud can operate as a synch tool, making data available in real time across multiple devices.
Windows 10, Universal Applications and HTML 5 are steps in the right direction so that a document can move from form factor to form factor (phone, tablet, laptop or large screen display), providing a consistent experience to the user. Imagine opening a website on your phone and having the page present to you correctly and not seeing the tiny print that you have to try and zoom to make readable. Or opening a document on your phone next to your bed when you wake up, then picking up where you left off when you take your tablet on the way to get breakfast, and finally landing in the office where you can seamlessly continue to work! Other advances are in the works as well.
We are constantly looking for unifying experiences such as these, so that we can move from device to device as we go through our day with seamless access to our applications and data whether we are on our phone, laptop or tablet. The Holy Grail is one device that that gives us access to everything. We are not quite there yet, but in the meantime, considering all the factors relevant to a user’s experience gets us to smarter decisions about supported devices.
When making the case to decision makers in the lines of business who control the financial decisions and deal with security concerns around key applications and supported devices, IT always needs to strike the balance of delivering devices today with an eye to technology changes on the horizon. Control, support and security are top of mind with any choices: control because not all data on a device is corporate (the issue of digital rights and work/life balance); support for users in the office, at home or while traveling; and security because there is no risk more critical to manage for IT and the organization at large.
Technology creates options we didn’t dream of even three years ago. That’s the opportunity and challenge for IT in its selection of end-user devices. IT organizations are using tools like interactive workshops, environing sessions, whiteboarding and consumption analytics to shape those choices even as new ones emerge.
Are you a whiteboarder, a workshopper or a big data miner? What other tools help you to select which devices to support? I welcome your comments and questions.