About file sharing and lost identities
The marketing people have once again stuffed the master file with lots of huge pictures. PowerPoint is crippled, and Outlook refuses to transport the file. And my boss is pleading with me to get the file to him, because he wants to present it in a management meeting 10 minutes from now. Scenarios like this will no longer scare office workers. They’re IT-horror stories of yesteryear. Thanks to file sharing.
File sharing – data from the cloud
File sharing made a big splash when it first appeared on the scene. Today, it’s old hat, a remnant of the local-work universe we had “back in the day.” Cloud-based computing, with memory resources that support ubiquitous access to files of any kind, has changed the situation completely. A small footnote on the pertinent history: This is the kind of scenario that has shaped the way the public views cloud computing. Scenarios involving automatically scaling computing resources (for example) have not had the same effect on public perception. Needless to say, we now all use cloud-based memory resources.
Onedrive – the final solution?
Microsoft’s OneDrive has made file sharing a routinely used resource for office communication and workplace collaboration. It gives employees their own cloud, with access from anywhere. Like other file-sharing products, OneDrive elegantly spans the gap between tried-and-true local working and cloud-based working. When I create documents, I have them both locally, on my own computer (which eliminates dependency on network quality and availability), and in the cloud, as copies. Whenever I reconnect with the (corporate) LAN, any changes I made while I was offline are automatically synchronized in the background. My cloud files then again mirror my local files.
The desktop as a work hub
It is convenient, supports mobile working, and gives me added flexibility. I can quickly check my files on any approved device, such as a computer in our desktop pool or a colleague’s computer. On the other hand, the screens I then see may look very different than what I am used to. Did I say convenient?
How do you organize your desktop?
Many users – myself included – organize their work via their desktops. They stack current documents on them, just the way they would on an actual desk. All kinds of virtual dossiers pile up in corners; files, folders and applications that are constantly needed get lined up along margins, for fast access. Work itself takes place in the middle of the desktop. Yes, smart lighting, smart room-temperature control, background music and plants are all nice to have. But the desktop is still the office worker’s central focus, as all the screen-background customization with pictures of vacation scenes, smiling family members or sports cars reminds us.
Conventional file sharing ignores user profiles. It simply makes data available. In flexible working arrangements, in other words, file sharing does not take account of individual aspects of workplaces and users. This gives us pause in that we – as employees or simply as human beings – do not define ourselves solely via our work tasks, do we?
… User profiles?
Our user profiles can be thought of as condensed identities of our work. In web conferences, for example, I like to take note of each participant’s (each screen sharer’s) favorites. They reveal a great deal about the relevant person and the way they like to work. Some people, for example, choose internet favorites that optimally support their work (or their interests). In the file-sharing approach, such individualized work customization gets lost, at the expense of work efficiency. I’m sure you can see how much your own efficiency can suffer. For my part, I just note that when I have to search for extra-long URLs, instead of simply clicking on links, I lose work time. I think anyone would agree that this worsens my user experience (#UX).
From file sharing to profile sharing
In device-independent working, we should be able to take our profiles with us, and not only our files. That would be a “pro version” of the file-sharing application – a PROfile sharing version. In addition to giving me access to my files, it would give me my complete desktop environment, including all functionalities such as network drives and Internet Explorer favorites.
Providers of professional collaboration tools need to offer that kind of functionality, if they are interested in delivering a good user experience. And this functionality must be able to operate in the background, without the users having to be consciously aware of it. In addition, it also needs to work in hybrid environments, regardless of whether the relevant office suite is being operated on-premise, from the public cloud or from a private cloud. In closing, I offer some good news. This is all doable. Relatively easily, in fact.
So, start taking your profiles with you, and not just your files.