my world of work and user experiences

May 31, 2017

Users and IT – Worlds apart?

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 23:25

As a consultant, I am part of the Office 365 in-crowd. But I also mingle with end-users. Sometimes it feels like these are two different worlds. What is perfectly obvious to IT is incomprehensible or outrageous to the users. And the other way around.

IT terminology?

Innocent users sometimes misunderstand what the IT people are talking about. Of course, this is the case for obvious technology jargon. But product names also confuse.

I am involved in an Office 365 implementation programme, part of which is the migration of the mailboxes to Exchange Online. As a result of some communication about this migration, a user concluded: “So we have to stop emailing with Outlook and start emailing with Exchange?”. Oops, that was not what we meant.

Let’s focus our communication on the tools and tool names that exist in the world of the innocent end-users. The tool that users know and love is Outlook. Exchange is something that lives at the level of the server. 

IT intuition?

I’ve worked with SharePoint for twelve years now, and I know my way around it. I don’t always know by heart how everything works, and I had to pay serious attention when the modern interface appeared. But my SharePoint intuition is sufficiently well developed to get the job done.

I am particularly conscious of my SharePoint, Office 365 or general IT intuition when I notice where some innocent end-users try to click, for example. Someone tried to open Outlook on his desktop by clicking the Outlook label in Outlook Online. I had to see it, to understand what he was driving at, when he asked me why it did not work. Or there’s the new communication specialist who wanted to upload a document and could not find the button. It turned out she was not looking at the homepage of the team site but at the main tab of the OneNote notebook that a link had led her to.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that these end-users are stupid. Not at all. What they do can be very complex and totally beyond me. But if they have no experience at all with the tools, they may struggle at unexpected moments.

Let’s keep in mind that not everyone has the same IT intuition. Watch what innocent end-users are doing, by observing in real life or asking them to share their screen via Skype. That allows you to help them better at that time, and to improve your IT offerings and support materials.

What’s in it for me IT?

To be worth its funding, the IT project has to benefit the business. And to get adopted by the prospective users, so that it has a chance of achieving the business benefits, it has to benefit the people themselves. The users not only need to be able to benefit from the project, but they also need to be fully aware and convinced of what’s in it for them.

For example, Skype for Business is not just a tool that we roll out as part of Office 365. It is the answer to the prayers of users who need to communicate and share with people who are in different locations. Instead of wasting a lot of time traveling or getting stuck in misunderstanding by having meetings by phone in which you don’t see what’s happening, Skype for Business allows you to share your screen or look the others in the eye via video conferencing.

So let’s focus on what’s important in the world of the end-users. And involve the business and the users, to make sure that we really pinpoint the scenarios that address their needs and the solutions that meet their needs.

IT priorities?

The projects and programs that I’m involved with are usually initiated or at the very least supported by IT. In such projects, we often need input of feedback from the business, especially if IT does its best to involve the business and the users to make sure they benefit from it. In any case, the users need to spend at least some time and effort when they transition from the old tools and the old way of working to the new ones.

But the people in the organization are busy building houses, selling groceries, curing patients, auditing companies, or doing whatever else the organization specializes in. In addition to their daily work, they may also be involved in non-IT initiatives and projects. And those may well be far more important to them then the projects that are so crucial to the IT guys.

Let’s plan IT projects in conjunction with the rest of the project portfolio of the organization, so that the IT projects and their priorities fit with the other projects instead of clashing with them.


So innocent end-users and IT people may live in different worlds, but we have to keep in touch and cross over to the other world. Innocent end-users may visit the IT world if they are interested about new technology. But IT has to be able to deal with the world of the end-users, to help them adopt the new tools and the new way of work. Because the job of IT is to support the business and the end users Not the other way around.

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