Tag Archives: work

The Adjustable Standing Desk I Chose

I’ve wanted a height adjustable, sit / stand desk forever. Yes, literally, forever.

In 2012 I wrote an extensive survey of the sit/stand desk field of products and two years later when I still didn’t have a sit/stand desk I updated and expanded my already extensive survey.

Then I never told you about the desk I actually ended up with (thanks to my wonderful wife, Sheila). Well, I’m about to right that wrong.

I ended up purchasing a MultiTable ModTable. Yeah, that is a mouthful…and unfortunately, they don’t own the modtable domain, so go to multitable.com.

I chose to go with ModTable because

  1. Their prices are about as low as you can go for a real, true height adjustable desk.
  2. The reviews I found about the company’s desks were favorable.
  3. They offered a hand crank model.

Wait, I went with a hand crank model? Yup. I thought about going electric and while it was tempting I decided that a hand crank would probably last me many times longer.

This is my ModTable in sitting position.
This is my ModTable in sitting position. Click on the image to see a much larger image of the same.

The hand crank is a simple mechanical mechanism, unlikely to break – whereas electronic components almost always break down eventually. I have hopes that I’ll still be using this desk ten, even twenty years from now.

Because I want to be a hobo (of sorts) someday I went with a Medium top (24″ x 48″) so that it could fit into a travel trailer, etc. without too much trouble.

I splurged and bought a CPU holder ($100). I initially bought a Belkin keyboard and mouse tray through Amazon, but ran into some trouble getting it to adjust correctly (may have been a broken model or may have been my lack of mechanical skill) and returned it. I’ve planned on getting the keyboard/mouse tray from ModTable but just never got around to it.

Even if the Belkin had worked, it would have been a hack job. The metal crossbeam runs under the middle of the desk and most mouse/keyboard trays are made to have their track run vertically and the crossbeam sits firmly astride its desired path.

This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].
This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].

I did not buy the monitor arms. They were attractive but I opted instead for monitors that were height adjustable in and of themselves – which have worked out quite nicely.

I’m supremely happy with the table. The components all seem to be high quality. My only thoughts for improvement are as follows:

  1. Is the central crossbeam necessary? Could there be a model without it?
  2. The manual crank sticks out a bit and is easy to walk into. You can pull it out so that it isn’t in the way, but then you have to put it back in…which is a very minor annoyance, but if there was a way for the handle to fold under the unit, out of the way, that would be amazing.
  3. Could it go a little lower? I’m on the vertically challenged end of the spectrum and technically the height of the table top is still a little too high for me ergonomically….if I ever get around to getting the keyboard/mouse tray that will drop it to the correct height, but, still, it’d be nice to go down to say 25 in?

As far as any suggestions to those who may be considering buying a ModTable themselves, here are my thoughts:

  1. If you aren’t planning on living/working in tightly constrained quarters, splurge for the larger top size.
  2. Make sure to install the CPU holder far off to the side, otherwise you’ll be kicking it when you are sitting down.
  3. Splurge for the CPU holder and the keyboard/mouse tray off the bat.

Let me conclude by talking about expense. I’m used to owning used desks or pressed board desks – the kind you can pick up fairly inexpensively from Walmart, Target, or Ikea. ModTable is inexpensive compared to other height adjustable desks, but it is still expensive for those of us who frequent thrift stores for our furniture needs.

I heard (I think it was over at Lifehacker) that one should invest one’s money where one spends one time – which makes a lot of sense. Spend money on what you use most in life – a bed, a desk, a car, etc. For me and many like me, a desk is one of those things and the extra expense is worthwhile for our comfort as well as for our health.

How Some Famous Creatives Worked.

This is a fascinating infographic from Info We Trust regarding the daily habits of some famous creative individuals. I’ve included my own observations based on the data below the image. You can click on the image to see it full-size.

The routines of some famous creative individuals.
The routines of some famous creative individuals.
  • Length of Work: Gustave Flaubert (5.5), Ludwig Beethoven (8), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (12), Thomas Mann (8), Sigmund Freud (12.5), Immanuel Kant (11), Maya Angelou (9), John Milton (8), Honore de Balzac (13.5), Victor Hugo (2), Charles Dickens (5), W.H. Auden (11.5), Charles Darwin (10), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (6), Le Corbusier (8.5), Benjamin Franklin (8).
    • Note that several individuals (4) worked relatively short days – Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Dickens, and Tchaikovsky.
    • Others (6) worked exceptionally long days – Mozart, Freud, Kant, Balzac, Auden, Darwin.
      • Note that Mozart and Kant both spent four hours working at their ‘real work’ – the rest was their ‘desired work.’
      • Freud may have utilized an addiction to cigars to power through the days.[1] Similarly, Balzac used up to fifty cups of coffee a day to power through his lengthy work hours. Auden meanwhile utilize a stimulant (benzedrine, similar to amphetamines) to work long hours, crashed hard afterwards with vodka, and slept only with the use of a barbiturate (seconal). Finally, Darwin utilized snuff during the work day, reading makes up two hours of his work day, and solving problems while awake at night in bed consumes another two.
      • Overall, this indicates to me that the individuals in general either required addictive substances to retain focus and allow for the longer creative hours or that they worked in the sense we would consider work less hours, but then were productive in other areas for numerous other hours.
    • Some (6) worked average days – Beethoven, Mann, Angelou, Milton, Le Corbusier, Franklin.
  • Sleep: Flaubert (7), Beethoven (8), Mozart (5), Mann (9), Freud (6), Kant (7), Angelou (7.5), Milton (7), Balzac (8.5), Hugo (8), Dickens (7), Auden (7), Darwin (8), Tchaikovsky (8), Le Corbusier (7), Franklin (7).
    • None of these individuals slept less than 5 hours nightly. Only Mozart and Freud sleep significantly less than 8 hrs.
    • Seven hours per night appears to have been the average (8), though a decent number slept 8 (5).
    • Only two slept more than 8 hrs.
    • Only three napped during the day – none for longer than an 1.5 hours.
  • Exercise: Flaubert (1), Beethoven (2), Mozart (0), Mann (.5), Freud (1), Kant (1), Angelou (0), Milton (4), Balzac (.5), Hugo (2), Dickens (3), Auden (0), Darwin (1.5), Tchaikovsky (2), Le Corbusier (.75), Franklin (0).
    • A significant number did not exercise at all (4).
    • Most seemed to prefer walks (9).
    • A few emphasized strenuous exercise (4).

I hope someone will work on further expanding this data set. This infographic is fascinating – but far too limited to derive significant conclusions about the type of schedule that creatives have utilized historically. For example, I feel that Winston Churchill and JFK would need to be included (both of whom took lengthy afternoon naps), it would be interesting to see more religious individuals (e.g. Calvin, Luther, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa), and also an analysis of the existence (or non-existence) of social relationships (this shows that they ate meals, but not necessarily how much time was spent interacting with family/friends). 

  1. [1]Also, 2.5 hrs. were spent reading – most likely a leisurely activity for Freud in some senses.

Dear Mark: Thoughts on Simpleology

Introduction

I’m always trying to improve myself. I’m always learning, always looking, always seeking. I’m a bit of a technophile, I love the ways that technology can improve our lives. I use all sorts of systems – including task management systems. I’ve used a number of them over the years – most recently I was a big Asana advocate (and I still use it)…

One system that I began using way back in the day (2005, 2006?) and have continued to use off-and-on since then is Simpleology. Lately I’ve been using it more and more…I’m not ready to switch everything over YET, but I am impressed by the system and wanted to share a bit about it with everyone…as well as disclose to Mark Joyner (Founder/CEO of Simpleology) and his co-workers my thoughts on the system and the areas that need to improve/be refined before it can really, REALLY be what I need.

Why Simpleology is Different

The first thing to note is that Simpleology is different from other task management systems. Are you familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology? It utilizes task management – but it is not just a task management system – rather it is a process by which one engages life, especially the task oriented aspects of it. Simpleology is along the same lines.

I suppose you could use Simpleology simply as a task management tool – but its real power is when you get up in the morning (or in the evening in preparation for the next day) and work through the workflow that is Simpleology. It takes the massive amount of ideas, problems, opportunities swirling around in your brain and guides you through the process of selecting which tasks you should actually work on today. It helps you be productive in the right areas and to feel productive at the end of the day.

With other task management systems (e.g. Asana) I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Great, I’ve got hundred of tasks and sub-tasks…but what do I need to do today? How do I decide?

In addition to this, Simpleology provides a number of “life hacks” that help you increase your productivity – and one of its strongest (and weakest) points is the ongoing interactive training that is available to teach you the usage of the web application.

What It Needs

I’m using Simpleology, but I’m not fully sold on it yet…Here are my concerns, big and small:

Big

  • The interactive training for Simpleology is great – it keeps you moving forward at a good pace – but it is also frustrating. Sometimes I just want a PDF user manual[1] to Simpleology. I want to begin using some features before I’m trained on them via the interactive training. Most features are fairly intuitive, but the exact mechanisms and business logic underlying these features isn’t clear and could cause me issues down the road…Here are a few areas I need to know the nuances of w/out waiting for the interactive training:
    • Recurring Tasks
    • Observe & Change
    • Engines (this is supposed to allow custom programmability / triggers within Simpleology)
    • Projects (this is a new feature in 5.5, I haven’t messed with at all)
    • Delegation Station (This seems powerful, but I need to know exactly how it works – what happens when the individual isn’t a Simpleology member and I assign them a task? Can they complete it and tell me it has been completed w/out becoming a member?
  • You can’t jump between different sections of Start My Day. That isn’t true, you just need to change to Expert mode instead of Guided.
  • The pricing model is unwieldy. You can get a great base of features for free, then move up to pro for $7/mo., but then the ultimate, elite package is $57/mo. I’m not suggesting that is too much – but there needs to be more steps in-between. For example, I’d suggest making the Business Growth, Financial Growth, Recurring Tasks, Observe & Change, Update Trackers, Ben Franklin Habits, and Prioritize add-on modules that can be purchased individually. I really have no use for the Business Growth or Financial Growth modules at this juncture. I can probably live without the Update Trackers or the Ben Franklin Habits module – but the Recurring Tasks and Prioritize modules are must haves for me – but there is no way I can afford to spend $57/mo. to get these features (ok, recurring comes with pro…). I think this would increase revenue – and folks might still find themselves throwing in all $57/mo. eventually – but it is a more gradual progression (you gotta boil a frog in a pot by slowly turning up the heat, right?).
  • The lack of storage for historical tasks. Mark informed me these limits are done away with in 5.5.

Small

  • Under Lists there is no way  to make a task disappear from its list once it is completed without deleting it. It should be able to be moved automatically to archived targets once it is completed.
  • Under Lists there is no reason to have “Mental Lockbox (Legacy)” for anyone who doesn’t have items in this category.

Other Stuff I’d Like

Here are a few items I’d like to see, but that aren’t core necessities for me (rated 1-10, 1 being unimportant to me, 10 being very important…although none of these reach the importance of the big items listed above)…

A Little History

[I’ve never met Mark in real life, I’ve never had an extended conversation with him, but I have used his products for years and followed his journey over time…and I figured I’d write down my thoughts and memories before I forget them…This section has little practical use.]

I haven’t been online as long as some, but longer than most. I remember this slick marketing guy I used to follow – Mark Joyner. He wrote a bunch of books, founded a bunch of companies (ROIbot, SearchHound, StartBlaze, Aesop Search Engine, etc.), and I thought ran Trafficology – but it seems Wayne Yeager ran this, maybe Mark can clear that up for me? Perhaps my memory is just lying to me. If you had to sum up Mark in one phrase at the time I would choose the title from his 2002 book MindControlMarketing0.[2]

Mark had a way with words that soothed you into compliance – and he was willing to teach you how you could become a mind control master as well.

Then in April 2003 Mark sent out a surprising email. You can read it in its entirety here. I think you’ll quickly see the power of his sales phrasing (mind control marketing). I was never comfortable with selling using these techniques – but I still followed Mark for a lot of his more mainstream guerrilla marketing tips (is that an oxymoron?).

Mark decided it was time to go find himself, “Bottom line is, it’s time for me to simplify. My business has become so incredibly complex that it just isn’t fun any more. It’s time for me to clean everything up, finish the unfinished business, and move on.”

Then in 2005 Mark came back on the scene with Simpleology. I remember giving it a try pretty early on. I thought it was cool – I don’t remember much about it other than some PDF books teaching productivity hacks. The usual mind control marketing techniques were evident in the early rendition of the Simpleology site. Mark used the popular technique of offering the basics for free and then charging you for the premium parts once you were hooked. Don’t get me wrong, what Mark gave away for free had real value.

Things took a much more concise approach by Oct. 2006. By 2007 things had developed to the first iteration of the web-based software that has become so powerful now and the old marketing techniques seemed to be taking a back seat. I began using the software again sometime during these early days.

In 2011 the site received a complete reboot – and I once again began using the system. Now, Simpleology has been innovated upon yet again – upgraded to 5.5 and I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the early access users.

I’ve been impressed by Mark’s movement from mind control marketing techniques to creating products that don’t need any mind control to sell.[3] You’ll see some of that old style peering through every once in a while – sometimes you get redirected to pages that encourage you to sign up now and get huge bundles and deals (even within Simpleology). I kind of wish these would go away – but to each his own.

  1. [1]It doesn’t have to be PDF, HTML, DOC, whatever is fine – just something I can read!
  2. [2]He always harped on his time spent in the military working in intelligence and how this provided him with many of the skills he shared regarding MCM.
  3. [3]Not that his earlier products lacked value, just that now his products contain such value that persuasive selling isn’t necessary.

Goodbye Firefox?

The Horror

I still have my t-shirts. I’m not sure how they’ve held up over so many years, especially with how frequently I have worn them – one for Firefox, one for Thunderbird – both from the official Mozilla store.

Image representing Firefox
Image via CrunchBase

I’m fairly certain I’ve been using Firefox since 1.x, and perhaps even before. I jumped ship from Internet Explorer as quickly as possible and having been a long-time fan of Netscape Navigator, Firefox with its relations to Netscape was appealing to me.

Today I did something that I’ve seen coming for a long time now. I’m not sure if it will stick – but I’ve done it.

  • I exported my bookmarks from Firefox into an HTML file (I probably have several thousand, carefully categorized).
  • I imported my bookmarks from the HTML file into Google Chrome (it looks like they came over without a hitch).
  • I closed the almost-always-running instance of Firefox.
  • I unpinned Firefox from my Windows taskbar.

Now I sit stand in front of my computer, the monitor flashing its warm blue glow, my fingers typing on the keyboard as if nothing has changed, and yet something has changed – something significant. For over five years now a large portion of my life and work has occurred via the Firefox browser, and now, now it is no more.

What Happened?

Firefox’s bloat over time was a big hassle for many – but I held onto Firefox through all of that. The slow release cycles compared to Google’s Chrome drove others crazy, but I held on through that.

What finally drove me (several years ago) to begin using Chrome for at least a significant portion of my web activities was the profiles – something that Firefox never really was able to handle well, as far as I know, still can’t. I have different “personas” on the web – they are all me (Dave Mackey) and I don’t pretend to be different people, but I operate for different functions. I am the personal me, I was the corporate me, I am the techie me, and I am the pastor me. Each of these personas was best served by a separate profile. With thousands of links organized into categories, it was too confusing to try and keep track of everything all mashed into one profile – so now, my ministry links are in my ministry profile, my personal links are in my personal profile, and so on.

Any Hope of Reconciliation?

Sure there is. I have never used Chrome as my 100% primary browser. Up to this point I’ve primarily used Chrome for web app (GMail, Facebook, Calendar, Asana, Keep) and have used Firefox for browsing and discovery (e.g. StumbleUpon, Digg, RSS, Zakta). There may be issues that arise when I use Chrome for everything that weren’t present when I used it for only these app’ish purposes…but I sort of doubt it.

Still, there is hope for reconciliation in my relationship with Firefox. Why? Because, quite honestly, I don’t trust Google. No, I’m not paranoid. Yes, I let them collect all sorts of info. about me and use it to target their advertising at me. I’m not worried about that – I’m worried about commitment. Google has axed far too many products or twisted them beyond recognition to be entirely trusted. I now Google Reader is the latest example, but there have been so many others – anyone remember their attempt with wikified search? Or how about that note taking application – what was it called?

So, Google, here is your word of warning: I’m watching you. Customer acquisition isn’t the whole game, to win customer loyalty you need to be loyal too, and you’ve fumbled quite a few times in this area!

Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Author: Patrick Lencioni)

I’m always picking up books I find at thrift stores and yard sales. One I recently found was Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is a small book clocking in at nearly 230 pages. I read it in three days. Yes, I thought it was that good.

Cover of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Cover via Amazon

Lencioni uses fiction to tell a fable about an imaginary company and its struggles with the five dysfunctions and how it eventually overcomes the dysfunctions. The bulk of the book is engaged in this tale, and a small portion is then more direct commentary and instruction upon the five dysfunctions.

It has certainly challenged my thoughts on team leadership – in a good way. So, without further ado, here are Lencioni’s five dysfunctions:

  1. Absence of Trust
    1. This occurs when individuals do not feel safe speaking openly and honestly about their thoughts on a topic.
    2. It also involves a lack of vulnerability on the part of group members – an unwillingness to admit their strengths or weaknesses.
  2. Fear of Conflict
    1. This occurs when individuals avoid discussing topics because they want to avoid conflict – which Lencioni insists is a good thing.
  3. Lack of Commitment
    1. This occurs when individuals do not discuss a topic, oftentimes not even being given the chance to do so. The individuals don’t “buy-in” to the idea and thus the idea goes nowhere.
    2. Yet, at the same time, Lencioni is not suggesting rule by consensus – but rather that allowing the decision holders to air their opinions and then making a final decision – without the necessity of consensus – and with the understanding that the team will support whatever decision is made.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
    1. Caused by the unwillingness of team members to confront their peers when peers fail.
  5. Inattention to Results
    1. This occurs when the individual puts their accomplishments, career, ego, and so on before that of the organization…or when they put a smaller, internal team’s accomplishments ahead of the organization’s.
    2. This can be countered by tying accomplishments with organization wide goals. If the organization wide goals are not accomplished, then no one succeeded.

That is a very brief summary of the five dysfunctions with some brief comments from myself attempting to explain what each of these dysfunctions means. I’d like to also provide a few choice quotes for your consideration from the book:

  • “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” – vii.
  • “The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.” – vii.
  • “Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction is a failure on the part of the team members to understand and open up to one another.” – 43-44.
  • “Great teams do not hold back with one another…They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” – 44.
  • “[A trust problem exists because of] the lack of debt that exists during staff meetings and other interactions among this team.” – 45.
  • “…teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – 63.
  • “As soon as the reality of business problems is reintroduced to a situation like this [a dysfunctional team]…people revert back to the behaviors that put them in the difficult situation in the first place.” – 80.
  • “Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.” – 88.
  • “If we cannot learn to engage in productive, ideological conflict during meetings, we are through.” – 101.
  • “…don’t ever slam one of your teammates when that person isn’t in the room.” – 121.
  • “We aren’t going to solve this one right here. It’s a process, and we don’t need to get bogged down contemplating our navels for more than a few minutes.” – 139.
  • “Some people are hard to hold accountable because they are so helpful. Others because they get defensive. Others because they are intimidating. I don’t think it’s easy to hold anyone accountable, not even your own kids.” – 148.
  • “You are fighting. But about issues. That’s your job. Otherwise, you leave it to your people to try to solve problems that they can’t solve. They want you to has this stuff out so they can get clear direction from us.” – 170.
  • “I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway.” – 175.
  • “It’s going to take more than a few weeks of behavioral change before we see a tangible impact on the bottom line.” – 176.
  • “As difficult as it is to build a cohesive team, it is not complicated.” – 185.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. Whether you run a company, manage a team, lead a church, or are a parent…I think there is a lot to learn in this small and easy read.

Death by Desk Job and CloudFlare.

Mashable has a nifty and informative infographic about the health dangers of working a desk job and simple ways to improve one’s health. Worth the five minutes it takes to look over fully.

On a totally unrelated note[1], I’ve switched the rest of my sites over to CloudFlare – this is around a dozen. Yes, yes, I know they recently suffered a security breach – but (a) don’t get a big head, we are all vulnerable to security breaches and (b) the service is free and awesome.

  1. [1]Except, if we were to say something like…”And you can spend less time at your death-inducing desk job by using CloudFlare! So CloudFlare is good for your health!

Re: An Arab Spring for IT.

The Article…

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Boxing.
Image via Wikipedia

Alan Cohen, VP of Marketing for Nicira, a disruptive startup focusing on altering the IT networking landscape, recently wrote a guest post for TechCrunch suggesting that an “Arab Spring” of sorts is occurring within IT. Reader comments have indicated a significant distaste for the analogous use of Arab Spring in comparison to IT – the one involving the loss of human lives, the other changes in business structure and Mr. Cohen has apologized for the offense some feel at the branding. I don’t think it was the best title for the post – but there has already been rampant discussion of that fact – and I would like to focus more on the content of Mr. Cohen’s post.

Cohen suggests we are seeing a seismic shift in the IT sector – similar to that which occurred in the 1970’s with the advent of the personal computer. He notes early innovators like the iPhone (antecedent to smartphones), VMWare (virtualization), and Salesforce (SaaS). While I agree with his historical evaluation of the situation and also that a seismic shift is occurring within the IT sector – I do not share his optimism about the nature of this change.

Cohen states, “If IT providers do not supply what the end users want, the latter, like the brave individuals who took the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and Tripoli, will take matters into their own hands.” He deems this “shadow IT:” “Bring your own device is shadow IT. Most SaaS applications start bybypassing IT and going directly to functional groups (managing sales through Salesforce or sharing through Box.net).”

Now, working outside the box with one’s own devices/services concerns me enough (e.g. smartphones, file sharing), but Cohen then suggests that it is time for revolutionary employees to step things up a notch – implementing their own infrastructure: “If IT does not provide the end user with the infrastructure they need, the latter can rent it, by the hour or month from companies like Rackspace or Amazon. All you need is a credit card and no approval from IT.”

Cohen concludes by challenging those within the IT industry, “But if you are in IT, you have to ask yourself: What side of history will you wind up on?”

Problems with the Article…

I do work in IT. I’ve been a geek practically since I was born and have worked full-time in the industry for the past six years. But this isn’t about my IT credentials…and it shouldn’t be about defending IT as IT. Truth is we have our weaknesses. Many of us who work in IT are a bit antisocial, introverted, ADD, OCD, or (append acronyms here). We aren’t always the most flexible folks to work with and there is certainly room for growth in our lives and skills…That said, I do think there are some serious problems with the sort of revolution Cohen is endorsing here…and I think his IT guys probably grimaced reading this article as I much as I am now.

Lets talk for a few minutes about the dangers inherent in this sort of “revolution:”

Reduced Productivity

While using a device familiar to the end user may be a pleasure and expedite that individual’s productivity, it may result in a decrease to organizational productivity. For example, if one finds an Apple iPhone easier to utilize than the company provided Android or Blackberry devices (or whatever might be the standard) it is very likely that generally you will not require IT support in utilizing your phone…but then there come those times when you do…

  • When the device craps out and refuses to boot.
  • When you can’t get the company email/calendaring software to sync with your phone.
  • When someone steals your phone and you really, really need to have that sensitive business data remote wiped.
  • When you sell your phone on eBay and someone pulls sensitive data off the storage because deleting data isn’t enough.

At these times stress goes up and productivity goes down – for you and for the IT department. In time that could have been spent deploying five new computer systems only one thing is now accomplished – getting a non-standard piece of hardware working again (or wiped or whatever).

Reduced Security

There is significant danger in the use of non-standard equipment and services for achieving business goals. It is hard enough for IT to maintain complex password requirements on the variety of internal systems any organization utilizes, let alone managing password requirements on non-standard devices. This is especially true of file sharing services. A handy example would be the recent takedown of MegaUpload. While largely used for illegal purposes, numerous individuals used that site for personal or business purposes – to manage their files. It seemed “safe” – and now it isn’t. Doesn’t matter how hard your IT department tries – if you put your files on a system that is raided by the feds, say goodbye to that data – even if it is important financial info. for the management of your institution.

Reduced Effectiveness

Cohen greatly oversimplifies the simplicity of the services currently available to perform complex functions. Amazon, Rackspace, nor even Salesforce are “insert your credit card get your DVD rental” simple services. For the last few days I’ve been spending a decent number of hours pouring over books and documentation on Salesforce – and it isn’t a piece of cake. Do you want to set up Users? Roles? Profiles? Groups of Settings? Are you sure that the way you setup the permission inheritance will prevent Sally Jane from seeing everyone else’s social security numbers? Do you want to use Salesforce? Force? Heroku?

Valid Pain Points…

I understand there are real pain points for end users in organizations. Not being able to share files in a simple and efficient manner is frustrating. Using outdated and clumsy software to manage customer relationships is frustrating. Learning new technologies and devices outside your comfort zone is time consuming. These are real issues and IT needs to pay better attention to them…but…and this is a big BUT…looping around IT will not decrease but instead increase these pain points.

Sure, you might be able to happily use an iPhone even though IT says no and never have a single problem…but then again…and as the complexity of the device/service increases the issues exponentially increase.

Finding a Road Forward…

Now the real question is, what is a workable way forward? How can end users and IT cooperate to achieve optimal effectiveness, productivity, and security? Well, it isn’t an easy or short road…but then again, real revolutions never are. I’d suggest that the consumerization of IT is a short-term bandaid fix for the real needed change. Too often we take the easy way out rather than working through the difficult decisions that really need to be made.

Communication

IT needs to get better at communicating what they are doing in their little forests of IT solitude and why we aren’t really just sitting around playing video games and watching youtube. On the other hand, we need end users to get better to actually listening to IT. So frequently folks ask me, “How did you do that?” But they usually don’t want me to tell them…b/c as soon as I open my mouth their eyes glaze over and their fingers drum impatiently on the desk. Now, I know I’m using some technical terms – but I’m willing to explain them if you are willing to ask questions and listen. Maybe with time you’ll learn more about the tech terms I use and I’ll get better at describing technology in clearer terms.

Prioritization

One of the biggest challenges facing everyone everywhere is the constant call to do more simultaneously and faster. Oftentimes the issue for IT is not lack of desire to improve a given service to the end user, but lack of time. This means the organization as a whole and its individual departments need to determine what projects are most important – and what projects (in spite of being so important) are less important.

Consideration

IT needs to consider not only what is the best technology but also what will have the greatest net positive effect for end users. Meanwhile, I’d recommend instead of bringing in new devices and services to circumvent IT folks ask IT, “what can I do to have the greatest net positive effect for you?” By focusing on those areas you reduce time IT has to spend in them and free IT to focus up on working on those devices and systems you really want.

Forgiveness

We can all be nasty at times…and if you haven’t personally been nasty to someone, I guarantee someone else in your department has. A lot of us walk around with a heavy bundle of war wounds. You walk into an IT person’s office (or vice versa, into an end user’s office) and a single word, your position, or what happened earlier today may cause that person to dive underneath their desk as if someone just shouted that mortars were incoming. Getting along means letting bygones be bygones and when new items come up, dealing with grace and humility – for both sides.
What do you think? What is your experience working with IT folks? Or working with end users? Is consumerization of IT really the way forward? If not, what is the alternative?