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As we get more devices and connect them to the cloud, it’s only natural that the rise of user-centric computing should follow. What is that, and what effect does it have on the IT industry?
Let’s start with defining user-centric computing. According to OneStopClick, “A user-centric computing system is a ubiquitous system consisting of information and devices that users can access anytime and anywhere.” Wikipedia says, “The chief difference from other product design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product.”
Both of these definitions are similar, but there’s a little more to it than that. When the focus is on the user instead of the device, that also means the focus is more on the psychological aspect and less on the machine.
What does it mean to make the user the center of attention? Part of it comes from designing applications that are not only easy to use, affordable, and integrate between devices well, but they also truly are about the human who’s using them. What’s the user’s current situation? Does their current technology/work environment inspire them to be more productive and efficient, or are they struggling to adapt different applications to different devices? Are they spending less time on their job or more time learning applications that may be different from what they’re used to? Do they feel empowered to move faster and make better decisions based on the applications they use? Can they save their preferences across all devices? Are they allowed to tailor the interface how they want rather than being forced to adapt one they don’t understand? IT must consider all of these aspects and more when designing an application that really has the user in mind.
Of course, a huge factor in driving user-centric computing is the cloud. Without it, it would be almost impossible to sync our devices to each other, in real time. It’s helped give rise to user-centric computing, along with BYOD and desktop virtualization.
The B2C market has generally responded well to making the user the center of attention, but enterprise IT still has some catching up to do. That slower speed of IT to its lines of business (LOB) has potentially serious consequences, according to Martha Bennett, vice president and head of strategy ant Freeform Dynamics. “First, if people have to work with technology that doesn’t quite meet their needs, they often find ways around constraints – this has potentially far-reaching implications in terms of IT security and support,” she writes. “Second, loss of productivity and morale often occur when technology is employed that users have difficulty getting to grips with.” In other words, if users are generally unhappy with the technology they’re being forced to work with, they feel frustrated and will look elsewhere to satisfy their needs because they can. This is shadow IT, and it’s exactly the kind of thing CIOs want to avoid.
On the other hand, when we move the user to the top of the priority list, they are more likely to be satisfied with what they have to use, less likely to become frustrated, and less likely to go out on their own to solve their problems. IT can breathe a little easier knowing that they are still maintaining governance over the applications and can manage that pesky shadow IT problem. And according to Bennett, “Users who are on the whole happy with IT tend to be more tolerant and supportive and this, in turn, can make it easier to get support or funding for IT-initiated projects.” It’s a win-win for everyone. The more money IT has, the more they can put toward making the user happy.
User-centric computing is all about the shift from a device-centered world to a consumer-based one. Consumers know exactly what they want and are much more sophisticated than even 20 years ago. If IT can place themselves in the user’s shoes and give them a sense of control over their environment, they can curb the rise of shadow IT and even potentially get more money for their budget. The user is the future, and keeping them in mind will have benefits that extend to the entire organization.