Google and the Circle of Life
A few weeks back, at a LSNC organization-wide staff meeting, I gave the type of tech presentation I am always asked to give at such events: A state-of-organizational-tech overview/update, reviewing what has changed at LSNC in the last year and what changes are coming in the next, with a few tech funsies to keep the crowd awake. We did have some real fun with the session. Among other things, the LSNC tech team attempted some Harry Potter shtick involving an audience volunteer, a wizard’s hat, an incantation of “Google nexus transportus confundum!” while automatically uploading a photo to the web clipboard in Google Docs, via a Google Nexus phone. While amused by the shtick (you had to be there), the smartphone-savvy audience was also largely unimpressed, as if to say, “Tell me something I don’t already know.”
Whew, is it ever getting harder to impress our staff with technology. The transformative Big-Bang days are long over. The technology bar has raised considerably the last few years within our organization, and while changes are appreciated they often evoke an expression akin to “Is that all you’ve got?”
To be fair, we were able to show our staffers a few things that were new for them, most notably a preview of the Google Apps + Pika integrations everyone at LSNC have been hearing about but most had not seen before. Folks were attentive as we showed them the Google Calendar and Google Docs integrations, their silent nods saying, “Good, good.” When we showed them how the Gmail integration works, the reaction was anything but silent. All we did was show a Gmail message and drew attention to a new button at the bottom of the message. When the presenter Mark Sawyer said, “… and when you click on this button the message is automatically copied over to your Pika case notes,” the room exploded with applause.
Was the applause a measure of their being impressed by the technology? Not really, in my view. I think it was a measure of how users of very familiar technologies — in this case the Pika case management system and Gmail — now think or expect the technologies to work… together. It was not an “Oh My God” moment. It was a “Thank God” moment. The applause was a shared expression of technological redemption from the tedium of having, for so long, to copy-n-paste email messages from Gmail over to Pika. The audience was not so much amazed as relieved.
Such sentiment is a shift in what are practical, reasonable expectations among our users about now common technologies working the way they need them to work. In our organization’s case, the adoption of the Google Apps platform is not about what is cool or even “the Google” itself. What it is really about is the shift in a larger, overarching work paradigm. The desktop, the cloud and mobile devices are not separate work paradigms. They are simply tools that we can reasonably anticipate our users need or will need soon enough to do their work, to be productive. To be Google-specific about it, that is the thinking behind our efforts at exploiting the Google API to integrate or share, as seamlessly as possible, select content within Pika with Google Calendar and Google Docs, or within Gmail and Google Groups with Pika.
Although there are pockets of differences within our organization, it is fair to say that most here have settled into the new work paradigm: the networked desktop is just another device connected to the web, which is the cloud, which is accessible most everywhere via any number of mobile devices. Hakuna matata, my friends. It’s the circle of life.