You can give me an iPhone but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
No doubt, there are many sound technical and financial reasons federal agencies make changes in mobile devices or services. Within the past year, we’ve seen federal agencies shifting from BlackBerry to the iPhone, Android-based smartphone or a device of choice, citing security lapses and cost. NOAA, ICE, DoD, NTSB and government contractor Booz Allen among others, have all moved away from BlackBerry after considering their options. Recent research indicates an overall drop in BlackBerry usage by federal managers to just under 50 percent and an increase in iPhone use by managers to almost 23 percent. And the General Services Administration created a wireless blanket purchase agreement to make it easier for agencies to buy wireless services and devices, including smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Much has been written about the mobile movement. But what happens after the movement? What happens once the longtime happy BlackBerry user has to learn how to use their new mandated device?
My job as the program director of a multimedia news organization, in some ways, is similar to that of a federal manager. I have a commute. I have several meetings a week, if not a day, that are held somewhere other than my office. I am expected to be available to my staff and other stakeholders at any time of the day, even on weekends. I understood and optimized my BlackBerry as a tool provided by my employer. Three weeks ago, after five years of loyal service, my company replaced my BlackBerry with an iPhone5. I have spent the past three weeks trying to learn, trying to like, my iPhone5.
It’s no small thing to change employees’ workflow, so I’d like to share my experiences as a BlackBerry Tory with anyone else who may still be resisting the American (Mobile) Revolution. If only to say that you are not alone.
The iPhone is pretty to look at but unpleasant to hold. Glass and metal meet at hard corners and do not feel comfortable next to my ear. I miss the Blackberry’s smooth curves and thicker depth. I never cared that the screen was smaller.
I have to “Slide to Unlock” every single time? Good gracious, I’m already exhausted.
Then there’s the “keypad” also known as the “illusion mocking my once excellent typing skills.” iPhone users admit this. As proof, many add the phrase “which explains mistakes” after the “Sent from my iPhone” signature.
Instead of learning to type on the iPhone, I usually wait until I’m at a physical keyboard before I respond to any emails. I’m not sure this saves any time, but this does reduce the number of times my hand cramps from using my right index finger to type and swipe the touch screen.
And the touch screen, after all that typing and swiping, gets so dirty!
Lest I seem ungrateful to my boss for upgrading me, I would like to point out a few of the benefits of my new iPhone5.
The weather app gives me the local weather and current temperature for Annandale.
My kids know an iPhone has games. So now I have games.
It’s also very quick with Internet access. This little mini-computer that lives in my purse helps me remember forgotten song lyrics, provides directions to my kids’ friends’ houses and makes it easy to post the pictures of our holiday decorations on Facebook.
Yes, I can also see budget spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, click on hyperlinks within text and review any graphs or charts sent as .gif or .pdf.
For more than a year, I was the last manager at my news organization to hold on to their BlackBerry. Since the switch three weeks ago, my colleagues cheer me on with encouraging statements like “you’ll get used to it” and “the apps make the iPhone worth it.” For all of the folks whose mobile workflow will also be changed with a mandate, I would say “I bet I will get used to it” and “I’m sure the apps are very cool”.
While I appreciate these encouraging comments, the question comes back to mission. How does the latest iPhone, smartphone or tablet computer help me become a better program director, or in your case, a better program manager, contracting officer or head of policy? I contend, as of now, it doesn’t. And in the end, isn’t that what our careers are about, fulfilling mission, not playing with the latest shiny toy?
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.