I Miss My Tech: Life After Working In A Tech Company

(This version below was as originally submitted to PC.com as an op-ed article. The final version of that appeared in PC.com’s March 2015 issue can be viewed as a PDF here)


Up until recently, I worked in the technology space with one of the world’s leaders in computing technology. For the self-professed geek that I am, it was an eye-opening experience. I was exposed, especially, to what was amazingly possible in the context of a commercial/work productivity setting;  that is, just how much more companies could be using technology to enhance productivity at work. I’ve recently left the tech industry to begin a new adventure in the energy sector, and wow, what a change it’s been in terms of technology usage at the work place!

The change in my productivity technology environment has led me to some initial observations, from a lay-person user perspective:

  1. Productivity technology adoption outside of tech companies is slow(er). And the bigger the company (especially in terms of number of employees), the slower the adoption. Tech companies need to help their customers compress the learning and adoption curve if they want their customers to see value in their products and offerings. Having a good track record in, not just implementation, but change management, builds credibility for the next purchase cycle.Users in customer environments tend to fall along the lines of a standard technology adoption lifecycle bell-curve, which means that only a very small minority will be innovators and early adopters. On the flipside, the majority of users will be slower in adopting whatever “newfangled nonsense IT has just made us install/upgrade to” (not an actual verbatim statement, but certainly representative of what I’ve heard along the corridors). If the starting point of the curve begins once the contract is signed, then the clock has already started ticking before users make lasting judgments (informed or otherwise) about the productivity technology they are being “forced” to adopt. As such, companies focusing more on driving adoption and deployment, rather than just measuring sales alone, is a step in the right direction. Also, needless to say, the ease and user-friendliness of the technology greatly accelerates the learning and adoption curve.
  2. Workarounds thrive in the user environment – and it happens primarily through the browser. My present productivity environment is “locked” – that is, I can’t download and install any other software that isn’t pushed from a central IT-approved repository. Also, there is a somewhat limited and regulated BYOD policy in place, with a strict, conservative emphasis on security. Having come from a personal and professional place of productivity where I’m used to having almost everything cloud-based (or at least, cloud-empowered) and leveraging some useful third-party productivity apps, it’s jarring for me not to be able to install some of the programs I relied on or have some others connected to services on the web.My workaround? Going through the browser. So far, most of the cloud-powered for me is still accessible via the web, and that’s why my one constant go-to, always-on app is the web browser. From it, I can still access quite a few of the services I need for productivity (for example, I use OneNote quite extensively for work). The web browser has become my window to the outside world and having a browser that helps users get things done quickly – whether via desktop or mobile – is vital. In fact, I’m writing this blog on OneNote Online – accessed through Google Chrome.
  3. Workarounds are consumer-driven. The consumerization of IT is a reality – everyone I’ve seen in work environments outside of technology carried their own device to work; whether it was a smartphone or a tablet. Many of them have pushed IT services to provide means to access work calendars and emails on their own personal devices. This is an interesting space to watch because the surprising (given that it’s viewed primarily as a consumer brand) winner is presently Apple.Apple has come a long way from being just a consumer device. It’s turned its leadership in the consumer space into a platform to enter the commercial/enterprise space – and it’s clearly working. This has been further aided by the confluence of a) many users wanting to use tablets and smartphones for work, b) IT services acquiescing by providing policies that make it possible to support access to work calendars, emails and more, as well as c) Android’s perception for less-than-stellar security – resulting in iOS being the popular option for mobile productivity in my previous workplaces. The only other option available? Blackberry – some users would rather just forego the option to access work calendar and email on their smart devices altogether, unless forced to carry one by their manager! What about Windows Phone? (Disclaimer: I used to work for Microsoft) Well, at a current share of less than 1%, it’s got a ways to go before IT policy decision-makers feel compelled enough to do something about it. There’s certainly a compelling case for IT companies championing productivity to win the consumer first, before they can start thinking about winning over IT policy decision makers and the rest.

It’s been an interesting transition – from dogfooding some of the latest innovations in productivity technology – to being relegated to having my technology options determined by the IT department. I’m certainly hoping that these observations will help IT companies figure out a better strategy to bring the light of cutting-edge innovation to self-professed geeks trapped in the recesses of the majority-laggard part of the technology adoption lifecycle!