End Users: Should We Put Them In Padded Cells?

End Users: Should We Put Them In Padded Cells?

Summary: What comes to mind when you hear "end user"? If you're like most of us, your mind has a conjured-up impression of a cosmically clueless person who actually gave you a hard time once, and the picture is now your mind's own avatar for everyone you support.

TOPICS: Mobility, CXO

If you're an I&O professional, what comes to mind when you say "end user"? If you're like most of us, your mind has a conjured-up impression of a cosmically clueless person who actually gave you a hard time once, and the picture is now your mind's own avatar for everyone you support. It's not usually a positive image, is it? I used to picture a middle-aged, BMW-driving executive with his hair parted on one side wearing an LL Bean sweater, probably an Ivy-league grad, who couldn't be bothered to actually take responsibility for his own personal computing destiny…he always had servants to take care of trivialities…and hence he was ruining my day with his incompetence. Let's call him Ascot Rothschild III.

An image like that is a powerful thing, and the painful memory of this individual's willful, arrogant ignorance then pervades our future thinking about what we're up against when we set IT policy like BYOC. Ascot becomes the poster child - in our minds anyway - for every garden-variety corporate doofus that we'll have to deal with if we give people any more rope than we already do. They also give us plenty of reasons to take more rope away. In my case, I used to sit on a helpdesk for Remedy customers, and my team had a collection of "special" customers we wondered how they managed to get dressed and find their car keys in the morning. As I later designed Remedy and Peregrine applications, I did so with these "edge cases" in mind.

In other words, we tend to calibrate our thinking and design infrastructures for the worst case scenarios. We gear our decisions and prioritize our spending toward those who are least likely to truly benefit from the investment, in the hope that they won't run into trouble and bother us. It's a peculiar thing really, because it causes us to spend most of our time thinking about problem avoidance and not enough on opportunity creation. Worse…our understanding of these people and their true needs is usually dead wrong.

The interactions with the people we support paint a skewed picture. We hear from people when things aren't going well, and they're probably at their worst. We don't get to see the real Ascot Rothschild III, father of 2 beautiful kids, and loving husband who paid his own way through college, and discovered oil reserves for your company last year worth $500M. These details are lost, along with our willingness to think about what he needs to find the next $500M opportunity. It may be better to dispense with the term "end user" altogether and use the term "internal customer" instead.

So I would like to lay down a challenge to you: As you execute your plans for your BYOC and client virtualization initiatives in 2012, and make critical decisions, such as whether to lock down desktops or not - which Ascot Rothschild III do you really know? Which potential are you designing your infrastructure for: the potential for problems or the potential for innovation and out-sized business results? Can you achieve both? I'd love to hear from those of you who have.

Topics: Mobility, CXO

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  • ...

    ... what's this?

    A random rant about some guy's image that nobody really shares, even though he claims so?

    OH, it's Forrester. That explains it.

    Yeah - IMO Forrester really is out of touch with the real world. They really are.
  • A different world

    In my world, end-user is a term of respect. Our CIO makes it clear to IT staffers: end-users are the people who earn money for the company, they pay our salary and we are here to support them. We've created a number of self-help options over the years, but they are enhancements to the service, not meant to reduce cost and quality to "acceptable minimums."

    We have some people who need a lot more help than others, but we never make the mistake of thinking that they don't deserve whatever support is needed to get their jobs done.
    terry flores
  • What Terry Flores said!

    If your attitude isn't the same as Terry's; you probably don't belong in I.S. and for that matter, maybe shouldn't be in any customer service field.

    In 99% of all businesses, I.S. is not the tip of the spear; we are the shaft that supports it. And when we don't do our jobs properly, the ones on the tip get the shaft. And worst, the bear eats the spear holder.
  • You're missing the real issue.

    There's nothing wrong with "problem avoidance". It should be at the heart of all software and system design.

    The real problem is that users don't want to make the /least/ effort to learn how hardware and software works, and the best way to use them.
    • RE: don't want to make the /least/ effort

      Do you mean those who have to be "hand held" day after day????

      Do you mean those who [i]never[/i] take the initiative to learn how the software 'works'?

      Do you mean those whose [s]incompetence[/s] lack of forward career progress limits their usefulness?

      At WROK PALCE, we had our share of those PITA types who would drive the help desk, and IT in general, nuts. These clowns constantly went crying to the CEO about IT's [i]refusal[/i] to "help". All I have to say is this: "There are times when being faced with layoffs [b]is a GOOD thing[/b]. Read whatever you want between the lines.
      • Sadly true

        Although we have some customers who are willing to put in a few hours of effort to learn the system - to their own advantage - many simply phone up and complain because they cannot be bothered to read the manual or even to take a guess at what a "Send email" button might do.

        We then get abused and downrated because we don't hand-hold them through the most trivial and simple processes time and time again, and because they can't even be bothered to [i]remember[/i] how they did it yesterday, and the day before that...
  • end users

    Just think of them as costumers. The pictures clears up
    • End users

      What sort of costumes would they be wearing? Clown suits?
  • The customer is always right.

    Well, OK. Not ALWAYS. Still, I consider my users my customers and let them help me help them. It is a two-way conversation most of the time as I put IT in their terms and they put their needs/desires in my terms. We all learn more about each other's abilities and constraints that way. Works out pretty well once you realize there are always some really sharp users, some geek wannabes and some who are just computer-phobic.
    • You're half way there

      True, the customer is not always [i]correct[/i], but don't make them wrong for that, or you WILL end up with a dissatisfied customer.
  • Ditto on Terry Flores.

    As a CIO at a software company, our employees had better keep in mind exactly who is paying the bills. Without users of your software you are out of business. They need to be respected - regardless of their skill level - on how to use 'your' product. Get creative on your SA to handle the ones who need more handholding than others.

    With that said, sometimes there comes a point where hard decisions need to be made by companies on firing the users, yes I said fire. There are some 'users' who are such a drain on the company, impossible expectations, countless hours of impossible demands, wanting everything for free, etc. that just don't make it worthwhile for an organization to keep them as a customer.

    It's a two-way street here, they don't have buy your product and you don't have to sell to them. But if a company decides not to sell to them, at least do them the courtesy of explaining why. Sometimes I've seen them completely turn around and become an asset to the company and sometime even become our stongest advocate because they were treated with respect, but then again I've seen them bad-mouth the org at every opportunity they have. There are some people, no matter what you do, who can ever be satisfied.

    My point is respect is a two way street, just as in personal relationships, business relationships are the same. Treat your 'users' with the same respect you would like to get - it may not be returned everytime, but at least you'll sleep better knowing you did the right thing.
  • You've all missed the point of the article...

    The point is that, because of our mental image of end users, we (as designers/developers/architects/etc) have a tendency to focus our efforts on creating systems that meet minimal requirements of functionality but provide maximum protection against user error. In other words, we often leave out functionality that could greatly benefit the customer simply because we're afraid the necessary increased level of complexity will create a barrage of calls to the help desk - which is usually true, but should NOT keep us from including said functionality.
  • Programmers of Windows 8 and Ubuntu Unity believe this

    I think those who create dumbed down versions of Windows and Ubuntu believe that all users are perpetually dumb and require totally basic interfaces that can't be altered. Even completely new users aren't as clueless in their second week as they are the first time they launch a new OS. Don't make us all suffer for the sake of the first week experience of a few users!
    • RE: make us all suffer ... the first week experience of a few users!

      But, what do you do when those "few users" are C level [b]clowns[/b] that will not even attempt to learn HOW to use the software. As I had said in another comment, layoffs can be a good thing.
      • Often the worst offenders

        A classic case was a government minister who was "too busy" to spend 20 minutes learning how to do something he would need to do every day.

        The following day he phoned in and abused us for not showing him how. He then phoned in every day after that complaining that it didn't work properly. We would go out to fix it, only to find nothing wrong. We would then offer to show him how to do it, but he was always too busy.....

        God spare me from people who seem to think that their ignorance is somehow your fault and not their responsibility.
    • RE: Ubuntu Unity

      We rolled it out to some select 'guinea pigs', and almost to a 'man', the response was: "Who designed this clusterf--k?"

      "What a pain in the @$$ is it to use!" It looks like we will be still sticking to Gnome 3 when 12.04LTS gets deployed.
      • Didn't like it, huh?

        My guess is that they would [b]hate[/b] Windows 8 Metro!