Why Your Enterprise Environment Is Probably Still Terrible, and Why Users Will Bypass It

Brian Washburn
Brian Washburn

Summary Bullets:

  • Pervasive network access and the cloud have created a tipping point for workers; IT departments may be aware, but may fail to follow users going over the edge.
  • Work habits continue to shift, as established enterprise tools, processes and platforms have become inefficient and dated.

I am usually not a fan of ‘personal experiences’ blogs. But, sometimes, it helps to reflect on our own enterprise technology challenges and how they resemble issues faced by our enterprise readers. Executives and work teams strive to be more efficient, whether IT is an enabler or a roadblock. In the context of personal experience, I submit the following observations:

E-mail Is a Terrible Workflow Tool. Executives have been passing work via e-mail for 20 years. In that time, network speeds have improved; e-mail clients have become sleeker; and now, there’s calendaring and collaboration, among other integrated features. But, 20 years on, workflow via e-mail remains commonplace, as it is in our enterprise. Tasks and content co-mingle in that inbox with external and internal communications. Yet, e-mail is a poor process management tool: the typical executive inbox receives more than a hundred e-mails per day after spam filtering, and e-mail servers are frequently still single points of failure.

Thick Clients Are Lousy Productivity Devices. Even five years ago, business computing meant Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac. Software and user content resided in the box: woe to anyone whose computer failed or was lost without recent backups. Dedicated software, memory and processor power requirements spiked hardware costs. The Windows experience degraded over time through operating system patches, security software and applications cruft. Most enterprises, as is the case with our enterprise, remain on a Microsoft-centric stack of operating systems, applications and file formats, and many companies in this position choose to sweat out aging assets. Thin clients and/or virtual workspaces could resolve these issues.

Open Enterprise Security Efforts Hamstring Usability. IT departments have added web-enabled key internal applications, such as intranets, and external cloud-based HR and CRM applications. These join hosted file servers and other corporate resources. Web-enabled apps enable ‘bring your own device,’ a productivity boon. But, each service has its own security policy: password length, upper/lowercase, numbers and/or special characters, prohibited characters, re-use and expiry schedules. Some accounts also require obscure usernames. How many different tools do workers in your organization have? Our enterprise about has 10, and this is probably common. It gives workers no recourse but to match all their passwords and/or write them down; both are bad policy. A corporate-sponsored password manager/single sign-on could resolve these issues.

Network Changes Everything. The point of these factors is not (just) to gripe, but to note the vector of a typical enterprise approaching new technology tipping points. Broadband access is now pervasive and cheap or free (for U.S. and parts of Europe). Coupled with the cloud, broadband enables these new ways of working and collaboration: virtual workspaces, or Microsoft Office 365/Google Apps for Work, show how the potential to change how workers can do their tasks. Security policies aside, knowledge workers end up going in these technology directions when it helps them do their jobs more efficiently. As we’ve often seen, user habits end up evolving with or without the authorization of IT departments.

What do you think?

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