By Justin Kresse
Technology is an accepted part of our daily lives at this point. We are constantly using computers – whether it be your phone to text or check social media, your laptop to finish homework, or maybe a computer system at work – but not all electronic devices we use on a daily basis are created equal. Those who have experience with technology in a professional setting will likely notice that it tends to be more complicated and difficult to use. Why is this the case and what can be done to make professional technology more user-friendly?
So what causes this problem? It mainly has to do with the fact that companies and other large-scale user bases – including schools – have different requirements than me or you. Namely, security is of the utmost importance for bigger organizations that handle a large quantity of sensitive information – especially when they have to use clients’ sensitive information as well. Using older software that’s had more time for security fixes or that just doesn’t require as much use of sensitive data can be a good way to stay safer, but of course it comes at the cost of convenience. Especially schools, businesses and other organizations tend to use these older technologies because they tend to work with a lot of sensitive information like student records and things like that.
Another reason for the less user-friendly technology in professional settings is because of the targeted audience for that technology. When it comes to personal technology, the targeted audience is the user. So for an app like Instagram, it’s designed so that users like me and you will find it easy to use. For professional technology, the target audience isn’t necessarily the user. For instance, with accounting software, it’s usually designed to make it simpler for the company management or accounting department to use because they are the ones involved in the purchase process for this software. This could mean that average employees have more work to do when logging expenses or even just filing time cards, because the software offloads work from management or accounting onto the other employees. One way to fix this problem would be to include the entire staff in the selection process for technology used in say a company setting. That way software could be chosen that would work best for a broader range of users.
Potentially the largest problem of all though could be the fact that bigger professional organizations are trying to do so much with their various technologies all at the same time, and they expect to integrate them all together. Think about it this way: when you’re on your computer writing an essay for school, you probably use a program like Word or Google Docs. Then if you want to listen to music, you’ll switch to Spotify or another music program of your choosing, and you can switch again to say Netflix if you’re done with your work and want to relax. Notice how all those programs are separate on your computer. What bigger organizations try to do – especially places like schools – is to put all different programs like I just described together so they work together.
For instance, at Adelphi there is the eCampus portal website with links to many of the different services offered by the university. Then you use your Adelphi account to access these services. It may seem simple, but a central system like this that interacts with all the different databases and software is much more difficult to manage than just having separate programs. Even if organizations are able to work their software into one centralized system, there are often trade-offs and problems because the programs are not usually designed to be interacted with from a centralized system. Problems like login failure or lost data can happen and make this a much more difficult solution. The only way to fix a system like this is to use a service run by a singular company that encompassses a large number of different use-cases. The only company I can think of that really does this is Google, but even they do not have software for a number of use-cases.
So it seems there is no solution for fixing the problems with professional technology. But there are ways that organizations can improve their technology. Mainly, they should get feedback from regular users of their technology to see how it could be improved and include these regular users in the process of selecting new technology. And hopefully as technology progresses, there will be better solutions for professional technology that is effective, secure and user-friendly.