Breaking the Paradigm Wed 17 Jun 09

How Do You Get People To See The Possibilities Of New Technologies?

Help question mark cobber99 I've been following a lot of the conversations about Twitter in the blogosphere/twittersphere and it is amazing the range of opinions.  There are those that see no value in it and feel it is a passing fad and then there are those that think it is the greatest technological innovation ever and then there are many opinions in between.  This all got me thinking about how people react to new technologies.

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An IT Question: Are Access Database The Problem Or Only A Symptom? Mon 08 Sep 08

Help_cobber99_3User-written Access databases (and other similar applications) always present a number of issues for IT.  Issues of on-going support, documentation, testing, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, security, backup, licensing, disaster recovery and so on.  They represent all of the challenges that we continually work to minimize.

Some in IT view Access databases as the root cause of these issues and therefore the solution is clear.  Let's solve the problem by outlawing Access databases and limit user ability extract data from or to update data in the ERP systems other than through IT provided means.  No more user-written systems, no more issues.

Others view these user-written systems as a symptom of a larger issue.  The larger issue being that users take this route because IT doesn't give them a better alternative.  They don't feel IT is responsive enough to their needs and therefore they must take matters into their own hands.  Those that believe the Access database as a symptom issue don't believe we can ever eliminate them (users will always find away to meet their needs) until IT resolves the issue of responsiveness thereby providing a better alternative to users?

How do you view Access databases?  Are they the root cause of the problem or are they symptoms of bigger issues? 

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An IT Question: What Do You Expect From The Project Sponsor? Mon 28 Jul 08

Help_cobber99Occasionally I turn the tables and ask you the readers for you input and since it has been awhile since I've done that this seems like a good time.  Here's the scenario--

A major IT project for the Sales department is about to kick-off.  You stop by to talk with the with the VP, Sales about it and the dialog goes something like this.

VP, Sales - My team has told me they are excited to finally get this project going.  We've been wanting it for a long time.  We really expect to see a lot of benefit from this.

You - I'm glad to hear that.  As you're the Project Sponsor we really appreciate your help in getting this done.

VP, Sales - I'm behind this a 1,000%!  You can count on me.  Make sure to let me know when it is done I'd like to host a congratulatory dinner for everyone on the team.

You - Well I truly appreciate your support but we need more than that.  Your active participation is required if we want this to be successful.

VP, Sales - Oh.  (significant pause)  What exactly is it you want me to do?

You - . . .

How do you respond?  What do you expect your executive project sponsors to do?  What is their responsibility?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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An IT Question: Disappearing Car Doors and the Theory of Negativity Mon 17 Dec 07

Help_cobber99 Liz Strauss has called me an SOB.  I actually find that very flattering since it doesn't mean what it usually means (which according to Wikipedia is actually quite a few things).  Anyway because of this I try to faithfully check out her weekly listing of new SOBs she's found.  This week iDunzo.com was one and I was floored by the post that happened to be the most current one.  It seems a company called JaTech has developed a disappearing car door - that's right it disappears.  Check out the video.

When I Googled this I was even more floored by the reactions to this new technology.  Most of them were overwhelmingly positive expressing the same amazement that I felt.  However, I was caught off guard by the reaction of some who couldn't help but dwell on problems and issues.

Some examples:

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An IT Question: What Has Disaster Taught You? Mon 12 Nov 07

Help_cobber99_3Experience, it is said, is the best teacher.  Oh so true.  I guess that is why we do disaster recovery tests rather than just waiting until disaster really strikes.  This got me thinking - what is the most surprising thing you learned as a result of an actual disaster recovery or even a test?

Mine was that people expect your disaster recovery process to cover everything.  In one of my previous jobs we had a major fire at the corporate office and it was necessary to relocate people to the plant about one hundred miles away.  From an IT standpoint we were able to keep things running and or data loss.  What surprised me was that when people came to the plant they expected IT to provide them with a PC, which we did, but a PC complete with office, furniture, office supplies and administrative assistants.  Apparently when people fail to plan for disasters they look to those that have a plan as their rescuers for everything.

So, what is the most surprising thing you learned as a result of an actual disaster recovery or even a test?

[Update 10/12/2007 afternoon - corrected typos including "did not suffer any systems downtime" and "they look to those that have a plan"]

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An IT Question: Who Should Pay? Wed 12 Sep 07

Help_cobber99_3Now that budgeting season is upon us I thought I'd ask a question about who should pay for your IT services.

Should you charge your users based upon how much service they get from IT?  Will this drive them to the lower cost "shadow IT" with its inherent risks and problems?  Since they are paying will they opt out of programs and policies that are in the company's best interests?

Conversely, should IT be free with no charge to the users?  This may encourage them to use IT but will it be done effectively?

My question is "Who should pay for IT?"  What do you think?  How do you do it at your company and why?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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An IT Question: Are Some People Special? Wed 22 Aug 07

Help_cobber99_3It's Friday afternoon and your already thinking of the weekend when your Help Desk lead comes walks briskly into your office.  "We have to talk", he demands.  He goes on to excitedly explain that he just got off of the phone with one of the VPs.  It seems the Veep wants his more storage space for his email inbox.  "Doesn't he know our standard is to set everyone up with the same amount" the tech  blurts out in an ever loudening voice as his face gets redder.  "And what about those engineers, they claim they need more than the allowed amount of network storage for their precious test data" he says as the veins begin to show in his forehead.  "Last week it was the HR folks claiming they need personal printers because of all the "confidential" work they do.  I bet they are just trying to get around our standard of having everyone on network printers."  Earlier in the day it was the graphic arts department wanting to get Macs because someone told them it would they fit their needs better.  "My gawd, don't they know we're a PC only shop!", he exclaims.  With arms flailing and spittle flying he lets out one last desperate cry - "What do these people think they are -- Special?" and then collapses to the floor. 

It seems that in all the excitement he has forgotten to inhale and has collapsed from a lack of oxygen.  Fortunately, being a well-prepared IT leader you have a staff of paramedics on call in the office next to yours for just such emergencies.  While the paramedics bring the tech back to consciousness you stop to think, you know as soon as he starts breathing he's going to want your response.

So, how do you respond?  Are some people special and deserve special treatment?  If so, how do you determine who is special?  How do you answer people when they ask, "Aren't I special too?"

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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An IT Question: Blocking Non-Business Internet Sites Wed 01 Aug 07

Help_cobber99_3One of the company Vice Presidents stops by your office and expresses concern that some of their people may be spending too much time on the Internet and wants to know if there is any thing you can do about it.  You mention that you do have a filtering program but it is set only to filter objectionable sites such as gambling, porn, etc.  You explain to that filtering non-offensive but seemingly non-business related sites may be counter-productive as it is often difficult for IT to determine which sites truly have no business application.  You go on to cite examples of the need to view sports, restaurant, job boards, real estate and other sites was business related.  The VP is not impressed and insists that you block all sites that are not obviously and directly related to your company's business.  You know other VPs do not have this concern.

How do you respond to this request to block Internet access to "non-business" sites?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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An IT Question: How Far Does Your Responsibility In Training Go? Wed 25 Jul 07

Help_cobber99_3 I often hear IT folks comment on the lack of knowledge of computers and systems within the user community.  When the discussion turns to training, techniques like user manuals, classes, FAQs and online help are often mentioned.  And yet our users still don't seem to have the knowledge they need to utilize the computers and systems efficiently and effectively and we are taken to task for this.  It seems as though we want to be held accountable for our efforts (providing the training) - the things we can control.  However we are often measured on the outcome (how much the users learn) - something not entirely within our control.

How far does our responsibility  go in making sure our users are properly trained?  Is it our job to simply provide the training or is it to make sure people are adequately trained?  What do you think?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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An IT Question: Responding To A Request For "Just An Access Database" Wed 18 Jul 07

Help_cobber99_3 It's not unusual for a user with some degree of familiarity of PCs and programming to come to IT with a request - "I need help developing an Access database to analyze ZZZZ".   You know that the Access database could be done quickly and you know that the database would be beneficial.  You also have some concerns about security, documentation, testing, backup and support with these user developed systems.  Due to resource constraints it will be at least 6 weeks before you can provide an IT solution compared to a few days if you help them develop the database on their own. 

How do you respond to this request?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

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