The Three C’s of 3 Screen Working

We are all starting to use an increasing number of devices in the course of our work and home lives.  The blurring of the boundaries for home and work continues to be a challenge for many, but equally having separate home and work technology  increases complexity and frustration for many people.

There is the general principle of “3 screen working” these days. Put simply this is the scenario where you have a smartphone, tablet and some sort of productivity device (for many users this will be a laptop or a more modern ultra-book type device).  These devices clearly vary in features – not least processing power, weight, form factor and functionality.  We should be aiming to take advantage of these newer technologies to make us all more efficient and more effective.

BYOD caused this, when users brought iPads (other tablets are available!) into work – this was for two primary reasons

  1. Access to basic corporate services such as email – but on a device that was less onerous to use
  2. Replacing existing methods and processes – a classic example for the professional being note taking in meetings

I would probably have classified myself until recently as a 1.5 device worker (yet another grey area!) with a fairly standard, functional laptop and a mobile device.   The reason I term it 1.5 is that on the mobile device in addition to telephony function I could do email and PIM functions, but not much more.  Until the market we now know as the mobile market opened up this was OK but it did have some big drawbacks in terms of working on the move, having a suitable device for meetings and events, and having to carry around paper notepads etc.

I resisted BYOD, mainly because it would have been an additional device adding to my travel load, and lacking the integration I would have needed to actually make me more productive.  That said, I did suffer some of the frustrations of my 1.5 device working in terms ease and speed of use, battery life and flexibility – so I did need something to change.

Through our GME programme we are moving towards embracing a 3 screen world. In doing so it’s crystallised for me how we can take advantage of the various devices that are available, used for the right purpose.  The diagram below depicts the 3 screen scenarios, and the key overlays between the devices. Overlays are important. While you can use any device for a specific function, clearly there are trade-offs to be made – and I do continue to find it interesting as I watch people trying to use a particular device type for something that it was never really meant to do!


I see three main use profiles, which are as follows – the 3 Cs if you will:

  • Consumption
  • Creation
  • Collaboration

The laptop is the de-facto productivity device, where you do content creation.  I’d personally classify myself as a fairly basic but heavy user: email, productivity applications and web browsing constitute the vast majority of my use.

Tablets are light creation device for fairly simple things like note taking and basic document creation, but for the most part it’s used as a consumption device.  The major advantages of this kind of device is clearly portability, battery life and ease of use – which make it great for more ad-hoc, mobile or general basic activities.

Then there is the smartphone.  Unlike the other two this is the device you probably always have with you.  In exchange for a convenient size, you trade off some of the features and functions.

In terms of how these devices overlap, it’s broadly as follows:

  • C1           –              I use my laptop and smartphone for what I’d term Collaboration functions.  That is everything from telephony, email, instant messaging, web and audio conferences etc
  • C2           –              I use my laptop and tablet for Creation of content, to different degrees as explained earlier, but depending on where I am and what I need to do –both are viable
  • C3           –              I use my tablet and smartphone for Consumption of content, typically accessing materials on the go – whether that’s emails and attachments, web sites or some other applications.

At the intersect of each of these devices is the common zone.  The point where you could use any of the devices to do a particular task. It’s where individual preference, circumstance or logistic take over.  For me this is basic email, PIM and browsing functions – I’ll use the device I have to hand to achieve the function.

Nowadays everybody seems to have a ‘weapon of choice’ – a particular form factor or operating platform, and the consumerisation phenomenon has really opened that up to enterprise opportunity.  Mobility solutions are quickly catching up to provide a  greater mobilisation of key applications and services that help us adapt our work styles, and make use of technology for content consumption, collaboration and creation that were previously quite constrained.

The interesting part is, it all comes down to people – there’s no hard and fast rules to this, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see people trying to do all kinds of tasks on a particular device, when there may be a better option available.

To me, working more efficiently and effectively means 3 screens – and using the right tool for the job



(Written on a laptop, proof read on a smartphone, uploaded on a tablet)

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Computacenter in the UK & Ireland @PSBray

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