The car…

Purple car“You don’t expect to buy a car with no engine.”

“It’s like buying a car and being told a steering-wheel isn’t included.”

“When I buy a car, I expect to fill it with fuel occasionally.”

The car analogy seems to fit all circumstances. Within IT, it’s used regularly to convey complex issues in simplistic terms, with varying degrees of success.

It’s lazy, often throwaway, but it can occasionally help to get to the heart of an issue by emphasising requirements, expectations or circumstances that are perceived to be illogical, unfair or just plain dumb. Both suppliers and customers use the car, internally and externally, to highlight things that they feel are wrong.

It does become tedious though, and I wince internally when the analogy is employed poorly, as it just clouds the real issues. “If you have a car for more than 3 years, don’t be surprised if stuff begins to go wrong.”

As a mechanism to try and convince a customer to buy into a 3 year IT refresh cycle, this is way off. UK car drivers may change their cars on average every 4 years, but this analogy has nothing to say about the benefits of refreshing your IT environment, and the saving that could result. It’s a blunt instrument – “old stuff goes wrong.” Perhaps it’s true, but it’s not a compelling argument to invest in new technology.

The car is, however, entirely pervasive. Everyone can relate to it, and that’s not surprising considering that in 2012 there were 1.2 cars per working household in the UK.

The vast majority of working-age people drive, and have access to a car for work. Very few organisations provide company cars for their staff today, a car allowance is the norm for those who are required to travel regularly.

Where am I going with this? I have skipped (inexpertly) from a ubiquitous analogy to facts and figures about car ownership, and how businesses generally expect employees to sort out their own travel arrangements.

Well here’s another set of statistics; in 2011, 99% of working households in the UK had 1 or more computers. In 2012, 84% of the total UK population had internet access.

To return to my tired analogy; “99% of the workforce have cars, and over 84% of the workforce can commute.”

Not very snappy, but you get the picture. As with car access, computer and internet access is becoming the norm. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, organisations will treat computers in the same way that we treat transport; a requirement of the job.

How you get yourself to work every day is your business, perhaps you are given an allowance to help with the costs. Similarly, we could soon be in a world where access the corporate systems is your business, perhaps you will have an allowance for that also.

The tools to achieve this are already out there, and some organisations are beginning to move in this direction.

The temptation of breaking the 3 year desktop support / refresh cycle, and replacing it with a more manageable personal allowance is appealing to many, and moreover, it gives employees the freedom to choose their own technology preference, without the support overhead for the IT team.

When you buy a car, you don’t expect the sales guy to choose it… Or something like that.

TobyAuthor: Toby Skerritt, End-User Computing Lead
Toby is responsible for the design and implementation of EUC projects for Foundation IT’s clients. He has worked in a variety of roles across the IT industry, often focused on the educational benefits of technology.

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