Better Communication: Technology Isn't Always The Best Solution Tue 04 Jan 11

Kiddo Discussions Bindaas MadhaviIT folks get a lot of knocks for poor communication skills.   In response we typically react by increasing the number of emails we send out and the announcements we post on our company's intranet.  Ultimately we are shocked to learn all this extra effort doesn't improve the perception of IT as poor communicators.

This is like the comic situation of meeting a foreigner who doesn't speak your language and assuming that they will surely understand you if you simply speak louder.  The sad reality is that when people refer to our poor communication skills they are often referring to the quality of our communication rather than the quantity.

Simply increasing the amount of poorly done communication doesn't make things better.  We need to change our style instead.  Email and intranet posting can be great ways to communicate, just not for all situations.

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Lessons From Apple's 'Antennagate' Wed 21 Jul 10

Sometimes how you handle a problem is more important than the solution.

IPhone 4 bumper Yutaka TsutanoLast week Steve Jobs addressed the antenna issues of the iPhone 4, the so-called "antennagate."

The "-gate" suffix is rather illustrative. The original "gate, Watergate, started out with what is commonly called a two-bit burglary and ended up bringing down a president. Nixon wasn't forced to resign because of the burglary but because of how it was handled and what it revealed.

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IT's Business Lesson Wed 28 Oct 09

Learning how the business side works can yield better IT systems and service.

Different Approaches To Time I just returned from a week of vacation in London, which was fun as always. The great thing about being an American in London is that it forces you to rethink a lot of things. This ranges from driving on the other side of the road (I hope my U.K. friends appreciate that I did not say the "wrong" side of the road) to fries being chips and chips being crisps and so on. Many things seem the same--but not quite.

Obviously the British have no difficulty with these things. It's second nature to them, it's their culture. It is only those new to their way of doing things who have to adjust. This is the same feeling many of our users experience whenever we roll out or modify a system. We roll out systems, processes and programs that perform adequately but somehow never feel natural to our users.

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A Better Helpdesk Wed 19 Aug 09

Emphasize the customer's needs--not IT's--when you design technical support systems.

I've always believed that the quality of helpdesks and support technicians are the most important factors in shaping user perceptions of IT. Not the big application that you just rolled out saving the company big bucks, not the amount of money you've saved by consolidating your data centers and certainly not all of your promises of new systems and hardware yet to come.

Helpdesk_arycogreYour helpdesk and support technicians truly are your Directors of First Impression by which people judge your entire organization. If you can't fix my PC quickly or are rude and provide no status information on my problem, why should I think you can deliver on the expensive new application project?

And yet so often we set up our helpdesk and support technicians for failure. As Jessica Rabbit said, "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way." Likewise, our helpdesk and support technicians are not incompetent or uncaring, but the process we so often make them work with just makes them appear that way.

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Good Customer Service / Help Desk Operations Wed 29 Jul 09

Yahoo! Small Business Demonstrates Help Desk Customer Service Can Be Done Well

Yahoo_Small_Business_logoMany bloggers, myself included, write about the various happenings in their life and use these events to demonstrate a point. In many cases the happenings are used as a bad example.  This time instead I have a good example of customer service. The unique thing about the example of good customer service is its rarity.

I use Yahoo! Small Business for my email and domain (mwschaffner.com) hosting and have been very pleased with it.  I've been using the older, i.e. classic, email version and until recently it worked fine.  A few weeks ago I started having problems switching between my yahoo.com account and my mwschaffner.com account.  When I would click on the link for mwschaffner.com I would get a Page Not Found error.

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United Breaks Guitars Mon 20 Jul 09

Leadership Is More Important Than Ever In Tough Times

Broken guitar paul j sI've been out of touch for much of the past 2 weeks dealing with a family emergency and then a strategy meeting at work so I know this is old news but I couldn't help but comment.  It seems that Canadian musician Dave Carroll was traveling from Halifax to Nebraska on United Airlines and observed baggage handlers throwing his guitar around and ended up with a broken guitar.  

United being United basically didn't seem to care and wouldn't do anything about it.  However,  Carroll not willing to take apathy for an answer put his musical talents to work and wrote a song about it and made a music video on YouTube.  The song is really quite good and the video has had over 3.2 million views so far.   Here is the video:

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Writing policies with an attitude Wed 27 May 09

The_Law_smlpcouk I received an email the other day that was offering to sell me pre-written IT policies to use rather than writing them from scratch.  Using a template may be a good way to develop policies as long you review them carefully and adjust them for your particular situation.

But I'm not writing about policies.   Although I think we in IT sometimes have too many policies for the wrong reasons I'm really all in favor of them and I also support the idea of enforcing them.  With that behind us I wanted to point out what really got me about the way this particular company decided to market their product to IT people.

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Technology in the Airline Industry Fri 06 Feb 09

Changes In The Airline Industry Making New Demands on IT

At_the_airport_giacomo_p Kim Nash has an interesting article on CIO.com, What the Airlines Can Teach You About IT and Business Strategy.  The article discusses how the events of the past few years have created new demands on the airline's IT groups.  Dealing with legacy system while trying to provide new services and features is a challenge.

Just in case anyone from the airline industry is reading, I thought I'd remind you of some suggestions to put on your to-do list.

"At the airport" photo by Giacomo P.

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IT Doesn't Have To Be Annoying Wed 04 Feb 09

How to improve the perception of IT departments.

Annoyance_in_retrospect Brighton, Michigan made the headlines not too long ago when the city council passed an ordinance that you could be ticketed and fined for annoying someone.  I don't intend to get into specifics of what's going on in Brighton, but I couldn't help but think any information technology folks passing through Brighton might want to be very careful, given our reputation. This reputation of annoying people with our indifference, poor customer service and overbearing policies and standards may not be accurate or deserved, but it persists.

Because it persists perhaps we should do something to counteract it. Why is this so important? Think back to your childhood. You're in the back seat of the family car on the way home from an outing with your parents and your brother or sister. It's been a great day of fun, laughter and fellowship. And then your brother pokes you in the arm. No big deal. He does it again and you give him a dirty look. He pokes you a third time and you yell, "Quit it!" He doesn't and mayhem breaks out until dad bellows, "Don't you make me stop this car!" That's what set the tone for the day--not all the good things but being annoyed with your brother.

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Trying Harder In Hard Times Wed 24 Dec 08

IT departments with poor customer service might not survive the recession.

Customer_Service_Heres_Kate Perhaps the most common topic at holiday parties in Houston this year was the ramifications of Hurricane Ike, which hit us pretty hard in early September. The conversation typically started on what I call Phase 1 of the hurricane--the damage it caused and the resulting cleanup and reconstruction.

Since many have successfully completed Phase 1, or are well on their way, the conversation would typically quickly move on to Phase 2--dealing with the insurance companies. I think it's fair to say the frustration and exasperation levels of dealing with insurance companies easily go beyond those of dealing with the hurricane itself.

Typically the conversation would go something like this:

"The insurance company is dragging its feet. I'm on the third (or fourth or fifth) adjuster. They keep asking for the same information, even though I've already given it to them. They don't return my calls and want to give me a lot less than they should. I don't understand why it has to be such a hassle."

A sharp IT guy would look at this and see a number of ways that process and system improvements could greatly improve the situation. Unfortunately, these suggestions wouldn't be welcomed by the insurance companies--it's to their competitive advantage to be inefficient and provide poor customer service.

The aim is for the claim filer to become so frustrated that he is willing to settle for less, just to complete the process and get some reimbursement--thus saving the insurance company money. And since all insurance companies have the same incentive and operate the same way, no one has to worry about their poor customer service driving their customers to the competition. It's just normal industry-accepted practice.

So how is this relevant to IT? Let's just change a few words to the story above:

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