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Leaving the nest is almost always more traumatic for parents than children.
After about two decades of worrying every time your children stay out late,
dye their hair blue, or drive with wild inappropriate friends, they are off
on their own, free to choose their own fate in their own way. You know you taught
them well and you should be okay, even pleased, to have them on their own, but
how can someone just a few short years out of diapers deal with the difficult
and sometimes nasty realities of the world? On their own they might buy an SUV—which
you tried to teach them is proletarian, prone to roll-overs, and detrimental
to the environment. With your years of experience you could get your children
the best price on an appropriate vehicle, ensure that they provide you with
grand children that all get accepted by Ivy League universities, and get them
to invest for a happy retirement in the golf community where you plan to spend
your golden years.
IT departments have traditionally fostered a parent-child relationship with
their users. At one time, when computers were large, expensive central resources,
which could only be understood and managed by specialized gurus, that was an
appropriate relationship. You never saw your users grow up because they have
always been grown up. But computers have changed. They have been out of diapers
for some time now, and your users are ready to leave your IT nest and have a
relationship with them with much less IT involvement, as uneasy as that makes
you feel. Users will still come to you for help, just as your adult children
may still come to you for money and even occasional advice, but once out of
the nest, users and children alike need your support, not your control. IT will
change from being less the CEO of their users to being more a consultant to
For users, leaving the nest has been a slow process with IT departments often
pulling back on the apron strings. Personal computers took IT out of computer
center basements and put it on the desktops of users. For a time, some IT departments
responded with diskless PCs. Why should users have complex operating systems,
applications, and their own files on their desktops? They’d be sure to
get into trouble. Of course users have gotten into trouble just as children
skin their knees and ding the family car and we hope not too much worse. Even
if users sometimes put orange text on an orange background, fail to back up
critical files, use a search engine that you know is not the best, or claim
to know more about IT than you do, they need empathy, not reproach. IT can be
Enterprise portals have the potential to free users to be much more on their
own than ever before possible. Even more liberating, users can personalize their
portal pages to reflect the way each one of them prefers to work. Portals, self-service
applications, and the trend towards Web services that can be tailored by users
will have users largely determining their own IT environment, a function previously
the exclusive purview of IT departments. IT staff will be faced with supporting
users, every one of whom might have a unique amalgamation of applications, fonts,
skins, and profiles on their screens. This will be a challenging change to deal
with, but there is no choice. Users are ready to try their IT wings and nothing
will stop them for long.
Personalization may be a trend, but is it really essential for users or just
an expensive, little-used convenience? Why not let the IT experts design Web
application layouts, fonts, colors, and so forth as they always have? D'es it
really improve productivity to have users choose a raspberry kiwi color scheme,
as they can in my.lycos ?
Amazon.com under “Your Account” lets you correct your birth date
and address. Can your users do that? My.excite gives you 14 themes and 22 color
schemes, and lets you personalize the content and layout, and add custom links.
Canon’s current ads stress customization. “The Canon imageRUNNER
is flexible and can be customized to address your business requirements.”
Some video games allow you to be part of them.
Henry Ford offered his model T in “any colour you like as long as it’s
black.” When cars were in their infancy that was fine, but as cars and
car users became more sophisticated, car buyers demanded more features and more
ways to personalize their cars. The concept 2005 Ford Mustang has an instrument
panel with a user-configurable choice of 125 colors. Most paint suppliers offer
computerized paint matching services. Bring in any object and they’ll
match its color with one of a zillion colors they create on the spot. People
are happier and work better when they’re in control.
You want the most choice when you buy a car, decorate a house, or arrange
your computer desktop. So do your users. Comcast advertises their video on demand
offering with the slogan, “TV has a new schedule…Yours!” You’d
think giving users over 150 professionally programmed channels would satisfy
them. But viewers are asking for video on demand, the ability to switch cameras
during sporting events, and more control over their entire viewing experience.
You’ve done a great job making your users ready for this next step. Let
them go with your best wishes for their wonderful future.