Change: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
November 24, 2004
As I was looking for a topic to tackle this time around, hoping for a scintilla of inspiration that would move me to write something profound (or at least publishable), I decided to read back over the columns I penned in the last 10 months. While reading the June article, I was struck that some technologies I mentioned less than six months ago are now being relegated to the dustbin of history by the introduction of new products.
Reading the inserts in the Sunday paper did not make things any better. One is hard-pressed to find early implementations of Wi-Fi hardware (the a and b series), and "g" implementations have been relegated to clearance bins. The shelves are now stocked with--get this--"pre-n technology." Never mind that the 802.11n standard is not expected to be finalized before March 2006--about 17 months from now!
I think it is safe to say that by the time the "n" standard is finalized, we will no longer be able to find its related hardware in the electronics stores. By then, we will likely be purchasing the "advanced sneak pre-t" or other such inane descriptions of then-current lab implementations of the Wi-Fi protocol. So what are we to make of this constant churn?
On one side, I confess that this constant improvement and acceleration of technologies is rather exhilarating. The dark side is the chaos this brings to those of us charged with quickly and seamlessly migrating our broadcast environments into the realm of digital television. The technical challenges are enormous, but I would like to focus on the human toll associated with this constant white water that we call technology.
It is not unusual that those of us with a technical background effectively become inured to the constant change. By virtue of our professions, we have to study these issues, analyze the requirements, design new workflows, finely detail the user interfaces and lay out implementation schedules. Quite often, in the midst of all this frenetic activity, we forget about our end users.
These are the often-ignored people that day after day, week after week, sit with us in conference rooms sharing every intimate detail of their current workflow as we jointly strive to remove inefficiencies brought about by years, sometimes decades, of changing business requirements.
They do this even though their daily chores haven't gone away. Moreover, their understaffed departments were struggling with burgeoning workloads even before the process started and sometimes, in a cruel twist of fate, despite the fact that their efforts to improve processes could end up eliminating jobs.
These are the unrecognized heroes of technological implementations who, unfortunately, sometimes get branded as uncooperative and change-averse, as they struggle to understand a new operational paradigm, an unfamiliar user interface, and a whole new set of field names, acronyms, applications and ways of doing business.
As we struggle with the implementation details of these complex technical environments while grappling with our own meager resources, it is easy to forget that these shiny new integrated systems are designed to make life easier.
UNSUNG END USERS
While this reinvention process is often required to deal with new business models or ensure the survival of a leaner organization, nobody should underestimate--or worse, under-appreciate--the sacrifice made by these end users who dedicate untold hours to the effort. At the end of the day, their contribution is likely just as important as yours and often as painful.
So, if your organization is heavily involved in a transformation, and if you recognize yourself or some of your end users in any of the previous lines, make sure at the next joint meeting to take a few moments to thank them for their help in the entire process. You may surprise or even stun them, but I am positive that they will appreciate it. And in the end, that simple acknowledgement will go a long way to ensure that your current and future projects will have a much better chance at success.
Count on IT!