New Mission for Installed Software: Protect End Users Time

eLABorations: IT should maximize the benefits of productivity ware, so users can focus on what's important, says Nielsen

The Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) provides top-notch Web and technology usability guidelines. And Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., a principal at NN/g, has some interesting advice for IT managers.

"Business process automation is where IT should be focusing, not on acquiring new technologies," said Nielsen in an interview May 30 in San Francisco, where the company is hosting its User Experience 2002 conference.

In many ways I agree with him. NN/g focuses on helping companies develop Web user interfaces that "protect the users time, allowing them to focus on whats important and shielding them from what is not."

NN/g provides usability guidelines that can be downloaded for a nominal fee from A broader range of people than just application engineers should take a look at these recommendations, since many organizations probably have a number of productivity wares that are underutilized because they were never integrated into the business process.

This is not to say that additional work must now be done to try to put a new user interface on products ranging from network management tools to server monitoring systems. It is to say that with shrinking budgets and head-count reductions, now is a very good time to take a new look at products already in use in the organization and squeeze every bit of functionality out of them.

In fact, this is a good time to do a little research on just what the products that are already owned by the organization can do and then request some class time so that the full functionality of the products can be leveraged in the organization. Reflecting on the reviews Ive written over the last five years, I recall many times saying the products had far more uses than most IT managers would be able to put into place.

Maybe the spending spree of the late 90s still has some productivity gains to offer those who are willing to go prospecting in the hidden valley of shelfware. IT managers who go on this mission with the idea of "protecting users time," as NN/gs Nielsen says, may find that the effort will bear fruit, even in these tough IT times.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at