Whitman’s remote working stance a load of old cobblers

Meg Whitman
Meg Whitman. Image: HP



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8 June 2017 | 0

Billy MacInnesYou have to admire the chutzpah of IT vendors. For the last few years, they’ve been telling everybody that mobile and remote working is the way to go, wittering on about how wonderful technology will be in meeting the challenges of a modern world of remote workers, connected workforces, and the flexibility of people working from home. IT has been portrayed as playing a key part in helping people to enjoy a much improved work/life balance and to deliver a better quality of life.

Given their enthusiasm, you’d think IT companies would be pioneers of the remote and home working trend. You’d be wrong. Many years ago, there was an expression ‘the cobbler’s children have no shoes’ and it sums up the IT vendors’ position perfectly. Which just goes to show that no matter how bleeding edge and innovative they’d like us to believe they are, most IT businesses are just the same as the cobblers of old: selling products and services to their customers that they don’t use themselves.

According to The Register, HPE has become the latest IT vendor (following in the footsteps of IBM) to insist that workers need to come into the office every day. CEO Meg Whitman said: “When you are in the middle of a turnaround, you need to come into an office.”

Now, while that might be a valid argument for forcing workers to come back into the office in the short-term, Whitman also provided a significant hostage to fortune when she added: “Digital tools are great, but having a conversation face-to-face is a faster means to an end.” Again, intuitively we all might agree that makes a lot of sense but it’s at odds with what most IT companies have been arguing in recent years.

And where does it leave the argument from IT companies promoting conferencing and collaborative technology as a means for workers in different countries to talk to each other without having to travel thousands of miles to sit in the same office? Again, the suggestion from Whitman seems to be that there’s no substitute for personal contact.

So does she think people from other locations should be forced to converge on US headquarters for important meetings? If they don’t then, by her reckoning, their influence is likely to be much diminished compared to those people physically at the meeting. If that’s true, why waste money on conferencing or collaborative technology?

After all, if the purveyors of this technology are publicly highlighting its potential flaws and undermining the case for adopting it, why should anyone go out and buy it? It beings to mind another all-too familiar saying: ‘do what I say, not what I do’.

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