My wife and I recently had a glass of wine with a woman who is a sys admin for a small company here in Seattle. I asked her what systems she supported and her reply was refreshing. She said, "Whatever my users need to do their jobs. For some, it's a Mac, for others it's Windows." Contrast that with my friend Jim who told me last night how his company's I.T. department dictates what tools will be used without understanding the business needs of the individual worker. I realize, of course, that in the enterprise, it can be difficult to support multiple platforms and practical considerations sometimes dictate a single platform for all (or most) users. After all, that's why both Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines standardize on the Boeing 737. Makes it easier to train cockpit crew and mechanics and you only need to stock parts for a single platform. Still, if our jobs in I.T. are about helping our users work more creatively, productively, and efficiently, doesn't it make sense to choose the right tool for the job instead of applying a universal solution to everyone?
Shouldn't we spend some time each week listening to our users to learn more about how they work and what their needs are? That way, we can craft technological solutions that will help them work more creatively, productively, and efficiently. If you're already doing this, please send me an email telling me your story. It just might end up in the next edition of The Compassionate Geek!