User Needs for Office Systems Solutions
James H. Bair Hewlett-Packard
Office automation originally was intended to be a solution to the interpersonal communication and information-processing needs of the knowledge worker. However, the cultural forces that drive the mass adoption of technology caused the displacement of office systems by personal computers (PCs). The needs of knowledge workers for communication support and information access have been overshadowed by the rapid influx of PCs. The conclusions from studies of 691 representative office workers define the needs for connectivity with co- workers and information at the work-group, corporate, and public level.
By contrast, interviews at 16 companies to understand the impact of PCs show the need for transparent network connections to corporate information resources, computer administrative services, and user support. The isolation of PCs has generated additional needs rather than solutions. The focus of an office solution is now the work-group computer that provides connectivity and resources to PCs while acting as an interface to corporate resources, and can be operated by a department secretary. The work-group computer completes the office automation solution architecture and provides the shared resources and collaborative tools missing with PCs.
Office automation is more the result of "culture" than the representation of a planned solution to user needs in the office. Understanding the evolution of computer technology as a cultural phenomenon enables the prediction of future market and product direction.