A lack of user-friendly technology in the marketplace is exacerbating a digital divide in the workforce between those who can use technology effectively and those who can't and is likely to provoke a backlash among users, according to a new Technology Predictions for 2007 report from consultancy Deloitte, released today.
The research predicts that technology vendors will focus increasing resources on the user interface in their products this year, and adds that "certain products have become unnecessarily complex and unusable, due to the incomprehensibility of their user interface"
"Businesses cannot afford to have a digital divide in their labour force," said Deloitte technology partner David Tansley. "They need to be in a position where the vast majority of employees interact with the vast majority of the technology needed to do their jobs with little need for training."
Tansley added that many firms pay for functionality which is never used because the workforce does not have the required skills to do so.
"Even the typical PC running a Windows environment accessing applications is still fundamentally quite complicated," he added. "But as technology gets cheaper and better there will be a move [among vendors] to improve usability."
Peter Critchley, strategy director at IT consultancy Morse, agreed that firms often purchase technology with more functionality than can be used, and highlighted CRM products as particularly difficult to use successfully.
But IT departments can overcome usability issues by building more flexible, user-orientated systems which meet business needs more closely, he added.
"Roles used to be very application-specific, but now workers are more interested in workflow, collaborative applications, agile use of data and unstructured use of computers, which inevitably leads to [usability] challenges, " said Critchely.
Deloitte also predicted that environmental issues will have a significant impact on IT departments in 2007, with CIOs being increasingly expected to support new greener ways of doing business.
In particular, a greater focus on encouraging email as opposed to paper-based communication, and video conferencing as an alternative to traveling to meetings and to the office, will put pressure on IT managers to ensure the high availability and performance of these technologies.
"A year ago it was rare for green issues to be discussed by the board, but now it's on every CEO's agenda and every CIO has to have an angle," argued Tansley.