Technology And Mismatched Expectations

May 19, 2010

Tell you what – I am going to build you a new house!

Now, we are all human, when I say that phrase I am confident that one of the following visions crossed your mind;

a) You saw your current place, the one you have,  it is already perfect – just the way it is now.

b) the dream house you would love to have, that perfect idea of the future

c) or possibly, that worst one you ever had – the place you don’t want to go back to.

With no further information than;  I am going to build you a new house! we fill in our own desires, we fill in our own perceptions and expectations.

Now the twist

I am not going to tell you where this house is, I am not going to tell you what it will look like, and I most definitely will not tell you what it will cost you!

(But I promise to let you see it when I finish!)

Does that sound just a little strange to you?

Unless this is a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, I don’t think most of us would be to keen on that idea.

Think about it!

No idea what the end result will be.

No idea what it will cost you.

And no idea if it even meets your needs!

Yet in business IT we do this all the time!

Michael Krigsman writing at ZDNet has this article titled; IT failure and collaboration: Ten big symptoms
Now look at this quote;

More simply, many projects fail because participants and stakeholders are not on the same page regarding shared goals and expectations.

Now Mr. Krigsman writes for the larger enterprise, but let me tell you bluntly, in the small to mid-market business we are often worse at building our IT houses than larger enterprises.

Most larger enterprises do have methodologies, processes and various governance procedures that try to remove this mismatch in communications and expectations.

And I fully grant that these methodologies may be broken, they may need improvements, and they may need better execution, but they exist.

In the SME, we often do not even have the basics. These methodologies and processes and governance structures don’t exist.In fact in many small to mid-market businesses, there is not even a formalized project management structure.

An Example

I spoke to the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of a SME who was implementing a particular enterprise software package (ERP)

That was it!

No questions or answers on whether this IT house was a 6 bedroom McMansion, when all they needed was a 3 bedroom bungalow

No questions or answers on whether this IT house was rural, urban or inner city.

You get the idea.

From this point forward, the IT leadership will be carrying the ball to implement something that I will bet you a paycheck that no one will be happy with.

I say no one, because each officer in that company is going to have an their own internal perception and expectations;

a) that this is going to work for them, their way, (their dream house) or

b) that it won’t work at all – my house is fine the way it is (yes expectations can be negative)

When there is no discussion on the requirements and expectations, the only data that we as humans can mentally process is what fits our experience and knowledge.

If you have not set the requirements and expectations, and set those expectations clearly – any technology investment is little better than a crap shoot.

Because with no further frame of reference, we all will fill in the blanks with our own perceptions, with our own expectations.

Just like my house example, if 100 people see this post, there will probably be close to 100 different internal perceptions and expectations on what that house would be.

So what do you think my odds of meeting those 100 different expectations?

Your IT won’t be any different.

Oh yes, here is your house – did it match your expectations?

Manage Expectations

Photo Credit Aaron Landry via flickr

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