The Pit Of Despair Called Seat 54F, The MacBook Air, And Why People Are Bringing Them To Work

Most I&O professionals travel far less than the road warriors they serve, which means they could be missing an important personal connection with new forms of client computing. After years of lugging boat anchor-class laptops around and a broken shoulder from a skiing accident, I gave in last month and bought a new MacBook Air (yup, 13", i7, 4GB, 256GB SSD), and then spent the next month's worth of weekends getting it to work for my job. Here's why I did it, and why people in your firm are doing it too:

"Veev been vaiting for you," the Frau at the front of the 747 hissed as I stepped through the door with a sweat stain on my shirt roughly the shape of Alaska. Those of you who fly frequently on Star Alliance carriers may have noticed that Lufthansa is the only one that doesn't seem to care who you think you are on any other airline. I could be George Clooney (see "Up in the Air") with 10 million miles and a gold card from the chief pilot, and I'd still have to sit in a center seat -- 54F -- in the last row. No matter, it's where I always get to meet fun people like Ginny -- the wisecracking 101 year old grandmother from Wyoming, and Jim -- the head of desktop infrastructure for a large retail chain, who later became a customer.

Those of you who know what seat 54F is like on a Lufthansa 747 have a whole new understanding of customer intimacy, but the hundreds of hours I've spent in that pit of despair have taught me some fascinating stuff. One is that if I ever find the architect who failed to add the "Star Gold" field to the Lufthansa reservations database and seating workflows, I'd have the overwhelming urge to pull his toenails out. But the second is how wonderful it is that the MacBook Air is the only laptop I've found where the screen opens so that the bottom of it sits behind the keyboard. That gives an extra inch or two of clearance at the top over my old Dell, so when the football player in front of me tries to turn his coach seat into a lay-flat bed, I can still get some work done.

And so it is with productivity and the choices we make for our own IT needs. I ditched the company-issued boat anchor and spent my own cash on the MacBook, and in the process got back 200 working hours over the course of a typical year. Since my boss will probably read this, I'll base the ROI on 80 hours a week, or 5% of my salary he now gets back in productivity. For me, that's 200 hours more I get to spend doing something else. Over the 3-5 year lifespan of a laptop, that's 600-1,000 hours of time back in my life, 4,200,000 beats of the heart, and maybe even a saved marriage.

My point? It's time to wake up to the new forms of client computing and how the empowered knowledge workers of 2011 must be freer to make the choices they need to deliver value to customers and to the business. Remember Jim I mentioned above? He became a customer after I used an iPad to show him some slides, piqued his interest and connected him with sales when we landed.

I hope you'll join me here over the months and years to come. I'm a new Forrester analyst covering the client management, client virtualization and client hardware spaces. I'll challenge you to love and understand the people who depend on your work, and I'll share the things I learn from the world's finest organizations I have the honor to speak with, offering you practical, actionable things that you can do in your fine organization to face straight into disruption and empowerment and come through with a promotion.

Next up: I'll ask your feedback as we prepare the Forrester Wave™: Client Management Suites. This is gonna be fun!

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/david_johnson

If you’re interested in how to offer your workforce better customer service and experience, I encourage you to attend Forrester’s upcoming I&O Forum in Miami, Florida, on November 9-10. The theme of the event is “Build The Extended Enterprise: Differentiate With Customer-Centric I&O” and I will be presenting on “Transforming The Desktop Experience To Drive Customer Intimacy.”

Comments

walking in the shoes of your customer

Hi David,

I can relate to your article. 10 years back I was in a job based 50% in Boston, 50% in London/Munich. Our IT guy insisted on giving me a brick of a laptop, and after one 3-week stretch involving 18 flights, my boss fought for me to get a super light laptop that cost twice as much as the others. Thankfully for me, he won the battle so it didn't come out of my pocket.

Your first sentence reveals the problem - when a person doesn't walk in the shoes of their "customer".

--Amrita

Thanks Amrita - You got it.

Thanks Amrita- you understand perfectly what I wanted to say. Thank you for your comment!

Don't forget the battery life

I finally cracked and picked up my first 13" Macbooks as well (Air for personal, Pro for work) and both are awesome machines. And it's not just the size that helps usability on ever shrinking airline seats, the battery life is killer! I've easily gotten 6+ hours on a flight.

Thanks Abbas - 100% right

The SSD drive I think is the key to the great battery life. If I turn the screen way down and take some breaks, 7 hours is doable. I'll look at these drives and hybrid SSD/magnetic drives in more detail in an upcoming blog.

Best,
Dave