An analyst is warning companies that NCs may give rise to skills problems because they do not require the same level of training as PCs. This will leave a computer skills gap unless organisations buying NCs offer sound user training programmes.
Browser-based interfaces are simple to learn, say the supporters of NCs, and server applications can be altered without affecting the desktop's look and feel. Because of this, and the low cost of NCs, companies can adopt them to make migration to a new application easier, to provide computers for non-users, and to bring new functionality to those who already have desktops.
However, in all these cases, the strategy will fail if the company skimps on training. "NCs must not be seen as a cheap route to providing everyone with a certain application without the need to provide the right skills," said John Lord, an analyst at researcher Aberdeen Group.
This is particularly true when NCs are being given to users who have no previous computer skills, or have used a dumb terminal with a text interface. "Browsers may be simple but people still need to learn to use them productively, and to acquire the mental approach that a computer requires, or the money will be wasted," said Lord.
An NC strategy may allow functions to be extended to all users, when previously this was cost prohibitive, but again training will be required.
Safeway is one company that is moving from PCs to NCs, partly in order to deliver decision support tools to everyone's desk rather than just to select managers. However, one of its IT team admits: "It's a whole different ball game training hundreds of users in decision support tools than a few people. And if it's not done the tools can just be time wasters."
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