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The Impact of the Consumer Market

In the past, as client technology was developing, there were “casual” users. These individuals avoided technology unless absolutely necessary. The skill set and training was at a very basic level because technology was something to be avoided, if at all possible. The consumer market has changed this dynamic. In contrast to the past, innovation in the consumer market is driving enterprise changes.

Today it is virtually impossible to think of any industry that is not impacted by client technologies and the innovation that sector has initiated. Simply put, today you cannot buy any goods or services that are not directly related to client technologies. The consumer market impacts everything from how you bank (ATM), to how you buy groceries (electronic scanners), to how you listen to music (MP3), to how you rent cars (automated checkouts), and even to the basics of how we communicate day to day (cell phones/smart phones).

At the crux of the technology is a simple proposition: how you access information or content that you want. This is the similar proposition in businesses: how to access relevant information.

As a result of these market dynamics, the consumer market has resulted in an overall rising of awareness of client technologies and a fuller understanding of how devices can work. Therefore, the “casual” user no longer exists; after all, having a PC at home is the norm in many households.

The demise of the casual user has an important impact on IT and lifecycle management. Recognizing this shift in competency is key to lifecycle management going forward. Many IT departments remain skeptical that end users can “handle” PCs. But, this skepticism is misplaced. Many of the end users might have home systems set up that are more complex those they work with at the office. With regard to PCs, therefore, much of the mystique surrounding IT (and its access devices) has diminished. In some cases, a lack of trust develops between IT support and end users. When this occurs, a “Stealth IT” organization might perform lifecycle management work informally.

Another fundamental shift is occurring as a result of the consumer experience: Employees expect the business experience to be at least as robust as they have at home (or experience in their day-to-day activities). This translates into expectations regarding service levels, the types of access devices available, and how support can be delivered. One of the many metrics IT uses is end-user satisfaction. If a business is several generations behind in how its employees can access information compared to the consumer experience, it is not unreasonable to assume that end-user satisfaction may decline considerably.

Although financial, operational, and logical differences between the consumer experience and the business experience will always exist, the gap between the two is narrowing considerably.

Access devices are viewed by employees as productivity tools. Productivity is often considered a “soft” cost, not directly traceable to the financial statements. However, just as other benefits, technology may be considered part of the investment a business makes in its employees.

It is now time to bring in the topic of lifecycle management specifically. Access devices are not considered an entitlement. However, whatever the access devices are, it is expected that the lifecycle-management solution behind them is more than adequate to ensure their effective use.

Self-service support has been available for several applications for many years, but the adoption rate is low. It is anticipated that because of the consumer experience, self-service adoption will increase as end users become more comfortable with that service-delivery alternative. Again, the mystique will be gone. After all, these are the same end users who know how to download music from the Internet to their MP3 player; they can likely change a password.

Remember this old adage: A rising tide raises all ships. This is the impact that the consumer experience is having on lifecycle management.

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