On IT Resistance To Change

October 5, 2010

I met a consultant a few days ago that provides SME organizations with implementation assistance in the CRM (customer Relationship Management) space.

In his career,  he saw the writing on the wall and had migrated his skills from dealing solely with on premises software (where you shell out money for servers, software licenses and then try to glue it all together in your office) to tools supplied as a SaaS, or hosted  model.

In our talk he made a comment that I found all too indicative of many IT organizations in the small to medium enterprise. I can’t remember the exact words, so I am paraphrasing a bit here;

.. in larger SME businesses, the most resistance to the SaaS model is their IT departments, it is as if the IT folks need to be able to hug a server..

That is – unfortunately sad….

Because when any part of your business starts thinking in silos, it  leads a business to operate in silos too. That goes for your IT Leadership as well.

In the Small to Medium Enterprise, your IT Leadership must be thinking beyond hugging servers. Beyond the silo of what they prefer, or what they like.

As Philip Papadopoulos of the Papadopoulos Group mentioned to me on twitter;

IT should always be pro-active, approach the business with ways to solve their problems meet their goals

Strategy, Goals &  IT

If your IT Leadership feel that unless they are hugging a server they are really not doing their job, then there is some internal IT change that needs to be taking place.

Your business technology must support your organizational strategies and your business goals. And that can include the tactical decisions you make to support those goals.

Mark McDonald at Gartner writes; (emphasis mine)

The strategist has a point in that new technologies and service models are changing the foundation and underpinnings for IT. The move from IT functions, to solutions and now to services reflects a major change in the way IT works that will require CIOs and leaders to prepare.

The SMB Takeaway

In some cases ‘hugging a server’ may be the recommended solution for a business requirement. But for your technology team to refuse to look at the way technology is changing, and to refuse to look at the ways that this changing technology will impact costs or growth, then they are not doing their job.

Simply but, there is no right answer for every business or situation. But you won’t ever get a right answer in your business technology if you aren’t even asking the questions.

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Yes it is Friday the 13th – and my wife broke a large mirror today – so if you are superstitious, stay home in bed!

Forbes has a good interview with both the CIO and CFO of an organization titled; The Perfect IT Department

In a larger context the article discusses several of the business / IT issues I have written about here for SME business managers. I want to pull out one really good quote;

Because when I look at the maturity of an IT organization it’s not about infrastructure. It’s not about apps. It’s really about information

The SMB Takeaway

Technology by itself should be last on your agenda.

Photo Credit norrix via flickr

I have written before about the risk of taking shortcuts.

I want to revisit this to give an example of how not taking the extra 30 seconds to do something right the first time can add hours of extra work later on.

This scenario is true by the way!

Lets imagine that your company name is ACME Building Corporation Inc.

Lets also imagine that your domain name and web address is http://www.acmebuilding.com – seems simple enough right?

Now lets imagine that it is a few years later, you have been growing and it has reached the time where you want to add a secure Web Mail server for your remote people, or perhaps you want to add the ability for people to shop on line at your website.

The most common way to add this type of security is to add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security technology to your website. This technology is what gives that little lock on your web browser to confirm that the website you are visiting is indeed who they say they are, and to assist in keeping data transfers secure.

To get this SSL technology, you need to request a certificate, the company providing the certificate makes some checks to ensure that the website you want to secure is legally yours, and you get one of these certificates. Again – not overly difficult.

So! step one, you go through the process to request the SSL certificate – Then step two? you find that whomever first registered your company name on the interwebs for that http://www.acmebuilding.com domain, was too lazy to register it to your complete company name; ACME Building Corporation Inc.

They cheated, and took the shortcut of registering it as being owned by the shortened ABCInc.

Since that shortcut of ABCInc is not your registered business name, you cannot add that SSL certificate until you get that company name fixed. In our case we had to create a new company record and actually transfer the domain ownership to what should have been our name in the first place.

As a note, this could also happen if you had a supplier register your domain name under their business name. By this I mean that your acmebuilding.com domain was created and owned by Shay-Dee Web Design Corporation.

The SMB Takeaway

Take the 30 seconds to do it right, the first time.

And a reminder, if you had someone else set you up on the web – make sure it is your name as owner – not theirs.

Too many business technology staff have a disease. Maybe you have seen it?

This shoot first and ask questions later is only a significant symptom, but let me back up first.

All business has a value chain. This value chain is the set of activities in your organization that produce the product or service that is actually delivered to your customers.

If you prefer to think in the concept of Open Systems, we can state that your business does not operate in a vacuum. Inputs, manipulation and outputs are required to physically get your product or service delivered.

And in many businesses, there is one common link that can help tie together each of those inputs and outputs;

Technology

Technology support in your business is not just data entry. In many cases creative knowledge workers can utilize technology based processes to reduce the friction that slows communication between the pieces of your value chain. By reducing friction, I mean reducing the gaps and time lost between individual steps.

As an example? a graphic artist creates material that has to go to print, but the individual that has to give the final approval forgets, so while the work is done, it is stuck in a crack, or gap of your internal value chain. These gaps are the common area where your IT can help streamline your internal processes.

That Technology Value Chain

I am going to break a rule here and temporarily extract your IT function out of your business – just like a schematic diagram.

If you could view your IT service in this way, you would see all the points where your IT  touches and connects to the various business processes you operate.

So let me argue that IT is a type of internal value chain for your organization – any change to those touch points that connect other points  will affect others. It will affect them through change, or it will affect them when they can’t get their job done because something is not working.

This Chain?

Technologists in the SME space must understand that IT does not exist in a vacuum. Nothing is discrete, you cannot just separate it like this simple schematic.

Everything that is done will positively or negatively impact the daily life and performance of somebody else. (And usually many someone else’s.)

And that is the problem

This shoot first,ask questions later in SME IT is a disease. Too many technologists never think of the impact that their decisions will have on others.

You can recognize the symptoms of this disease in many ways.

On symptom of this disease I call  pop-a-clickaitis. Which is the tendency to think that if you click enough times, in enough places, stopping  this or starting that, add in reboot as much as possible, that things will magically work out better. It won’t. At most people have been kicked out of whatever work they were in.

Another significant symptom of the shoot first disease?

An attitude in technologists – that says; “hey do it anyway , if something breaks, we will fix it afterward”

So what we have hear is ‘who cares about peoples work!

The SMB Takeaway

This shoot first tendency in many technologists is a self inflicted wound.

Ensure that it is eradicated in your shop

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If your perfect beverage at Starbucks is a Grande nonfat no-foam latte, does that mean that it must be my perfect beverage too?

Would you consider that it is reasonable to attempt to define perfect by one individuals personal preferences?

Personally, I think we would agree that humans are a diverse species. What feels perfect for each and every one of us can come from cultural or  socio-economic backgrounds, along with any one of a dozen other reasons.

So we can understand that your perfect beverage at Starbucks will not be the same  as mine.

Perfection In Business TechnologyPerfection is in our experience

For general managers in the small to medium enterprise, I have argued many times in a left brain analytic mode that perfection is not a result you can expect in your business technology function.

Give me license to use that left brain term because I argued this concept with the math of Pareto’s law (the 80-20 rule) and various iterative processes.

The Other Brain

In this piece titled; Why Better Will Always Beat Perfection Tanveer Naseer has an excellent look at a different perspective of perfection;

..the definition of perfection is based not on empirical facts; instead, it’s a reflection of what we’d like to experience.

( Emphasis the authors)

The SMB Takeaway

In technology, if we can never even agree on what perfection is, at least we can agree on what can make it better!

As my Dad used to say; put that idea in your pipe and smoke it!

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Photo Credit Ethan Hein via flickr

I grew up with two brothers on a small farm.  And yes, like all farms, there were always plenty of chores to be done, more chores than young kids wanted to do!

As simple as it sounds, one of those chores was just cutting the grass. Yup that good old pastime, mowing the lawn.

Cutting the grass on our farm was a little more work than the average suburban house. The lawn was in three huge sections,  (at least to childhood memories they were huge) two of these sections covered the front and side of the house, and a third that extended beyond the driveway and right to the road.

As part of our after school chores, we could usually count on getting one section cut per day, so every three days or so the entire lawn had been cut.

The Never Ending Job

While we would finish cutting the full lawn every three days or so,  this chore always seemed like a never ending job. Simply enough because by the time we finally finished the final section,  it was usually time to start all over again! A little bit of rain?  then we were pretty well guaranteed to have to start again.

And like that chore of cutting the lawn, managing and implementing business technology processes and tools is also a never ending task.

I know we would love to think that we can spend some amount of time and money to get a particular benefit, tool, or capability and then be able to forget about it for decades.

But that won’t happen.

You choose to implement a new tool or process, and  over a period of time you think you have beaten the learning curve and are comfortable the way things have  gone.

By that time, circumstances and business drivers have changed, and it is usually time to start over again.

Fundamentally business technology can always be improved, it can always be better. In fact I would argue that anything you have implemented, but have never revised is probably an obsolete silo that is sucking the life out of your organization.

I am sure you know that one, people call it; ‘The way we’ve always done it ’round here”

The SMB Takeaway

Yes. By the time you finish one thing,  you may start over.

It is an iterative process, you  don’t stand still. Bit by bit you improve.

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Having been working with computers since the late ’80’s, I have a confession; (actually two of them!)

Are you a Mouser? or a Keyboarder?

First confession, I am a keyboarder – I avoid using the mouse and only use it when absolutely necessary.

And my second? I am a computing speed freak. Not in the sense of the biggest, fastest computer out there, but in quick response to application commands. (by that I mean keyboard commands!)

And those are two areas that Software as a Service (SaaS) is truly weak.

And yes, that even includes this WordPress blog.

In the time it takes you to click your way to your Google docs account, on my Wintel PC the CTRL-ESC keys bring up the Windows Start Menu, typing the letter ‘R’ brings up the RUN box, (if you have more then one thing starting with the letter ‘R‘ just type ‘R‘ again) and typing winword opens Microsoft Word.

Ditto opening my Web Browser Firefox.

No mouse required and fast.

In that same vein, I save my work at least every couple of lines or spreadsheet cells I write. At the absolute longest, I save every minute or two. In Windows applications CTRL-S does that. No stopping required, I can just type, type, type CTRL-S, type -and keep on going.

In fact I did that CTRL-S about 3 times in that previous line.  (I will explain that in a minute!)

That same keyboard shortcut on a web application just tries to do a Save As and tries to save it to your computer. On a Web Application You have to use the mouse to hit the save button, then just sit back and wait until that data refreshes back to you. (and probably it defaults back to the top of the page so you have to scroll down to where you were working!)

My E-Mail? CTRL-R or ALT-L replies or replies to all. Oh yes, CTRL-SHIFT-B brings up the contact list. I will race you in replying to email on your Web mail provider of choice!

It drives me nuts.

I know it is the wave of the future. And yes – I use several SaaS tools. But that is still something that annoys the hell out of me.

PS, when I write for this blog?

I write all the text you see here in Windows’ pure ASCII test editor notepad (CTRL-ESC / R / notepad) then when I have finished, I have to log in  to WordPress, select all my text (CTRL-A) copy it (CTRL-C) and past it (CTRL-V) into the new post area in WordPress.

Then I take a deep breath, hit the WordPress Save Draft button and go refill my coffee.

Photo Credit john a ward via flickr