Friday, July 1, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) Enterprise and individual users are different, even when they're the same

My brain has been pondering this for a while, and I still don't see a solution.

Jake Kuramoto linked to a Peter Bright post in Ars Technica that looked at, among other things, the contrasting needs of enterprise users and individual users (primarily techies).

An individual techie user isn't really going to worry if there's only a three-month difference between Firefox 4 and Firefox 5.

For an enterprise user - or, more accurately, the enterprise user's IT department - that's a big worry (although Bright argues that it really isn't).

In a comment on Kuramoto's post, I noted that the issue extends beyond web browsers. Take a look at Adobe Acrobat, for example - some people are urging that enterprises prohibit its use - and I know of one company that has actually implemented such a prohibition. Several years ago, any attempt to use an iPhone for business was controversial - a repeat of similar arguments that were made several decades ago when people wanted to use a Macintosh at work.

Essentially, corporations have to balance two competing facts. On the one hand, allowing the use of product X in the company can offer improved productivity, higher employee morale, better employee retention and recruiting, lower stress levels, higher profits, and Jamie McCourt-like wealth for the approving executives. On the other hand, allowing the use of product X in the company can result in additional compatibility testing, increased risk of bad things happening, and a possible trip to the unemployment line for the approving executives.

What complicates matters is that the users themselves wear two hats. During the day, they use various tools to achieve corporate objectives. At other times (or maybe during the same time) they use various tools to achieve personal objectives.

For example, I'm typing this post at home (no, I'm not typing it on June 30 at 5:00 am) using a web browser that is not approved for use at my company, using an operating system that is not fully approved for use at my company. Frankly, to write this post it doesn't really matter what browser and OS I'm using, but the experience that I'm collecting on this browser and OS is not necessarily applicable to my job - and vice versa.

Despite the reputed convergence between our work selves and our non-work selves, is it possible that we will see a divergence between the two? Will we use Ubuntu and Firefox at home, and then go to work and use Windows and Internet Explorer?

And if so, what are the ramifications of this?
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