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Talking Usability: Technology is Changing, But Not At the Workplace

150 150 James Cameron

By David Dick, Fellow

We, as savvy consumers, must have the latest technology. We buy the newest smartphone because it has something that our current smartphone doesn’t have. We download the latest Web applications because we believe they will empower us. Our Internet connection is as fast as the provider can deliver because we have no patience to wait for anything. Most importantly, we make the time to learn because we want to become savvy users. Our workplace; however, is another story.

At the workplace, the PC that is more than five years old might be obsolete and slow, but it gets the job done so there’s no justification to replace it. The software that generates reports involves many manual tasks that are automated by a newer version of the software, but there’s no budget to purchase it. The corporate intranet is slow because servers cannot cope with the growing number of users, but there’s no budget to upgrade it. There is no time to learn how to use existing office tools smartly because there is too much work to do.

The cost of introducing new technologies to the workplace is not cheap because you are not buying something for one person to use—you are buying something for hundreds or thousands of people to use. For example, upgrading from Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013 to Office 2016 or Office 365 requires licenses for all users. Additionally, the upgrade might require upgrading PCs to a compatible version of Windows, which will require upgrading other office applications so that they are compatible with the newer version of Windows. Often, new office applications function faster and are less prone to system crashes when running on a new PC.  Finally, the upgrade will likely necessitate training users on the new features and functions. You can easily see the impact that the introduction of one new technology has on the organization and all users.

Attending the annual STC Summit is a wonderful opportunity to speak with vendors about their newest tools and technologies for the workplace. It’s easy to become excited to learn how these tools and technologies will improve the user experience. Unfortunately, not everyone works for a company whose technology is always improving. So for those of you who are not working at tomorrow’s workplace today, make good use of what you have and provide the best user experience you can.