The Digitally Disaffected End User – Why Things Need to Change

Tim Banting
Tim Banting

Summary Bullets:

• IT no longer holds all the cards in terms of the devices, applications, and services being used in their enterprise

• IT should put employees’ needs and requirements first when it comes to procurement

Having returned from a recent analyst event hosted by Jive Software (a leading vendor in the enterprise social networking space), I reflected on the presentations and noted that the phrase “end user” was never mentioned. Instead, the vendor purposely chose to use the word “people” and I did not feel it was a mere nuance. The word “end-user” should matter to vendors and buyers alike, as this term can oftentimes be indicative of the attitudes of suppliers and IT departments. For me, the term “end user” sounds derogatory; indeed, it seems to originate from a place where employees are devalued and are seen as an afterthought. Although this might be a legacy term from the days of the mainframe, the phrase has made its way into modern day parlance and is reminiscent of a bygone age where docile users had little choice but accept the business tools that were supplied to them by their IT department.

The term “people” or “customers” implies that users are at least considered as part of the IT procurement process and that their views and opinions respected. Where IT departments force their choice onto end-users many employees rebel out of pure necessity, as increasingly tech-savvy staff have sought out their own answers to specific business problems. This “shadow IT” phenomenon creates a great deal of animosity towards IT and the rise of cloud-based services have created a new avenue for end users to circumvent that which has been forced upon them. Conversely, shadow IT creates resentment within IT departments as risks associated with data security, privacy, and compliance can be introduced into the organization.

While it can be easy to place the blame on either side of the digital divide, both IT and employees have their share of responsibility in this matter. IT departments no longer holds all the cards in terms of devices, applications, and services being used in their enterprise, and perhaps the most important aspect of this issue is putting employees’ needs and requirements first when it comes to procurement. The benefits are widespread: there will be a lower barrier to adoption, the ROI on which the buying decision was made will be realized more quickly, and organizational governance will be maintained under a more cooperative “digital democracy”.


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