Posts filed under ‘Tech Support’
At TradingPartners UK we recently did a mass upgrade of laptops from XP/Office 2003 to Vista/Office 2007.
And you know what? Vista has been ok. Most of my colleagues have turned off most of the “cool” Aero features and set their PCs to work at maximum performance. I’ve found the startup is not superfast and Outlook 2007 can take a while to start, but overall it’s faster than my old PC, and it costs less than my old PC did.
The gripes I’ve heard people at TradingPartners coming up with tend to be around getting used to the way Office 2007 has completely changed the way all the menu items and buttons appear for no apparent reason.
As far as performance goes obviously Vista needs a lot more resources than XP. So on an identical spec of PC, XP will run faster than Vista. But … When you factor in thc falling costs of IT hardware, I am now getting more performance per $ with a 2007 PC running Vista than I was with a 2004 PC running XP.
And I believe that by having Vista now, we’ll have an operating system that won’t look dated in 2 years time.
Was my father in law’s 65th birthday celebration over the weekend. I was hoping to go for a whole weekend without getting dragged into anything computer-related, and nearly did, except for the fact that he had a new digital camera for his birthday and needed to install the software on his PC for it.
The main thing that threw him was that the CD you have to install is called the Solutions disk. He had filed the CD away because he assumed it was for trouble shooting: He had assumed that the Solutions disk was for Solving problems.
Whereas any techie will tell you that solution is just a piece of meaningless jargon which can mean almost anything, but only very rarely does it actually solve anything. When a techie means solution, in the sense that everyone else understands it, they will more likely use the word resolution.
Don’t blame me, I didn’t invent the culture. I am convinced that the plethora of jargon is invented for the benefit of sales people – so they have something with a distinct name that they can sell.
However, from the buyer’s or user’s point of view the jargon is usually irrelevant, even misleading. SOA is an example doing the rounds right now (and I still don’t really understand it myself, or even particularly care). Web 2.0 is another.
Even in my own industry – the electronic reverse auction industry – the term auction has become a confusing jargon term. Sometimes it can mean a piece of software capable of running auctions, sometimes it can mean an event complete with suppliers, some times it can mean the whole process of negotiating a contract – from designing the specifications through to finally awarding the contract to the chosen supplier.
I suppose some of this is inevitable, and thankfully it’s not as bad as using obviously misleading language or meaningless neologisms. But it goes to show that even phrases that people can assume are commonly understood can have wildly different interpretations.
In other words: If the jargon doesn’t make sense, don’t think you’re dumb – it’s the jargon that’s dumb, not you. And also, even if the jargon does make sense – beware – because even common words can have very different meanings depending on who you are hearing them from!
Been on holiday for the past few weeks – the distance from work, and the clear blue seas, help give a new perspective on things.
One of these for me has been the common assumption techies have that users are fundamentally dumb. IT support people are well known for holding this view point. But then again, so do many software developers. For example, all those mega ERP-style systems that implement rigid processes assume that users can’t be allowed to think for themselves and that instead the system must do as much of the thinking for them as possible.
But the reality is that people are all actually pretty smart. If only technologists would start working from this assumption – assume that their users/customers etc are smart. If they can’t operate the technology then assume that it is the system that is dumb, not the users. This shift in mind set would not only help IT be seen to be more of an asset to the business (by reducing the amount of “them and us”), but would also allow technology to deliver more real value to the real users. Which after all is the point of technology in the first place, isn’t it?
The most important job for the technology department is also the least glamorous: keeping the lights on and the servers humming. “The Business” can often expect the infrastructure to be always available. So much so that when things go well “The Techies” are taken for granted and when it all goes wrong they receive no end of grief.
The techies have to take some of the blame for setting appropriate expectations. The reality is that your managers and customers are reasonable people. They will only expect 100% uptime with $0 cost if you let them think that this is reasonable.
So next time the proverbial hits the fan my advice is (when, not if):
1. Don’t get into the blame game
2. Fix the problem, with a smile on your face
3. When the problem is fixed, get out your risk register (with costed mitigation plans) and show to your manager why this issue happened, how likely it is to happen again, what its likely impact is, and the costs needed to avoid/fix/etc the issue in the future
4. Also, while you’re on the subject, explain the other risks that the business is open to right now.
5. Keep in mind that this stuff happens to other companies – and sometimes far worse than what you’ve just experienced. Not that I’d be advocating shadenfreude … but a quick trawl through the news and gossip of the last few weeks turns up:
Kaiser Permanente losing their CIO last week – apparently linked to a disastrous software implementation.
Register.com keeling over a couple of weeks ago after what looked like an epic DDOS attack and taking with it thousands of DNS records.
Morgan Stanley sending out credit card statements last month with all values multiplied by 100.
Then there’s my all-time favourite example of tech muppetry:
Nasa trashing the Mars Climate Orbiter (cost: $125m) because one part of the software had been written on the assumption that everyone was operating in metric units while another part had been written on the assumption that imperial units were the order of the day.
Till next time