Forty-plus years into the information age, it's become pretty clear that the way we ask end users to access and manage information is fundamentally broken.
Everywhere you go, you will find end users struggling to find information that is stored in any number of files on the server or on the desktop with little to no help of correlating that information. In fact, the only way they ever really accomplish anything is by making mental notes about where important information is. That pretty much means that transferring any of that information over to anything that resembles an institutional memory is pretty much hopeless.
At a time when most organizations are hoping that their investments in IT might pay off by increasing the productivity of their employees, the current state of affairs when it comes to the overall usability of enterprise software is nothing short of dismal.
What most organizations really need is a new approach toward managing information that brings messaging systems, various file repositories, the Web and any number of enterprise applications into a customizable framework that makes it easy to correlate information.
There have been some notable steps in the right direction as of late. If you look at Windows 7 or the Macintosh operating system, it's pretty clear that how we access applications is evolving. Similarly, companies such as Cisco and IBM are bringing to bear new approaches to collaboration. And there are even fairly robust workflow and process management platforms such as Nimbus that move us closer to thinking in terms of information-driven processes, rather than just trying to manage a bunch of application silos.
Unfortunately, we've spent the last 20 years conditioning people to inefficiently interact with computers because the industry as a whole never really concentrated on increasing the productivity of the end users. Instead, most of the development effort from the vendor community continues to be focused on adding application features in the hopes of driving an upgrade, as opposed to working together to increase real productivity by truly improving the overall user experience.
If we're truly serious about leveraging enterprise IT to increase the productivity of the employee, then the time has come to rethink the entire enterprise software experience rather than continuing to think in terms of disjointed operating system functions and isolated sets of application features.