by Mark Gibbs

What Do Your Users Know About the “New IT”?

Nov 18, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsIT LeadershipIT Strategy

The way IT used to educate users just won't work in the new age of Consumerization, according to blogger Mark Gibbs.

You educate your users, right? Sure you do, but what do you educate them on?

One of the things that techies often forget is that the world we live in is hard for mere mortal–like the average user–to grasp. Even a pretty savvy user (you know, the kind that doesn’t ask you where the “Any” key is) usually only really “groks” things digital at a fairly high level.


When you think about educating your users do you understand that what you’re used to giving them is really only a narrow view into a single application or process? You’re most likely leaving the bigger issues of the “whys” and “hows” of the digital age unaddressed.

Now, you may think that kind of education is not the province of IT but considering the way that the Consumerization of Information Technology is changing how IT works, where that work is done, and who owns “control” it may be time to rethink your traditional. a.k.a. “old school,” beliefs.

As consumerization transfers some greater level of control to your users (as I recently discussed) you run the risk of developing a huge population of end points to your system that simply don’t understand the risks or support the imperative strategic issues involved.

If you are going to address this issue, some of the key topics for your users to think about are how to manage their devices, security, how to represent the organization (particularly with regard to social networking), security, how to control data, security, email management, and security. Oh, and don’t forget security.

Your users need to understand that when they bring in devices that they think they understand, they probably don’t—at least to the degree that you need them to–and the only way to make this clear is to clearly explain and demonstrate the issues.

For example, many services collect location data and if the user is, say, going to negotiate the acquisition of another company, checking into Foursquare at the Starbucks around the corner from the target company may be a bad idea.

It’s the whole idea and nuances of “digital situational awareness” that most users won’t grasp. And this is simply because they haven’t been trained like the guys in IT to understand what end-user computing devices really do, how they do it, and what the consequences of failure to manage those devices effectively might be.

As you consider these issues of educating your users remember, politics matter! What you think of as obvious and sensible might be at odds with what they see as their goals and if you’re going to create a smart, informed user base then just as your users need to be “digitally situationally” aware, you need to be “politically situationally” aware.

So, ask yourself these questions: What should your users know? How can you educate them in the context of their jobs? How can you ensure that they “get” the issues? How can you educate them to a high enough level without overwhelming them with stuff they don’t need to know but give them enough knowledge that they won’t be working at cross purposes with IT?

It won’t be an easy job but fail in building an informed, secure user base and your job will become a lot harder.