Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why do I have to install, test and debug your stupid software selection?

This situation occurred about 6 weeks ago. Our accounting department went to a conference about creating consistency across the enterprise and how accounting/human resources can help. The three people that went were so excited about the prospect for change and came back very enthusiastic. They also came home with new software. New, expensive software.

My professional opinion was that this 'conference' was simply a way to sell software.

I was asked to install the software on two different computers so that the user could start learning the software and their boss could learn the software as well. I asked what kind of licensing we purchased with the software and was handed the CDs (6 cd's in total). When I informed the accountant that I can only install it one place per the license on the box I was asked how to fix it. I told them to buy it again; she laughed.

The solution was to install it on her computer so that she could learn the software then we'd uninstall it from her workstation and install it on the HR computer for it's eventual use. Wonderful.

Now this isn't just any old piece of software. This software helps you write out job descriptions. It also helps you write company handbooks. It also helps you keep tabs on your employees and what certifications/skills they have and obtain. It also helps you create forms of all types. It also helps you develop standard letterheads and company documents. Pretty cool, right? Except for the fact that we have software that will let us do that on every computer in the company. It's called Microsoft Word. It's a word processor. It's pretty easy to use. Have you ever heard of it? Apparently the people I work with haven't.

So I take the CDs from (let's call her Rachel) and go to my computer to read the documentation. I quickly realize that this isn't so much a piece of software, as much as 6 separate pieces of software. So each function you want to use, requires a separate install from a separate CD. My guess is that they feel that can charge by the CD and the customer accepts this because it comes with 6 CDs of awesomeness. Genius, no?

So I install, all 6 CDs (oh, and each CD cost about $120) on the workstation and verify that I can launch the programs. Rachel makes a big todo about learning all this extra software and exclaims that she'll probably have to stay late every night for a month before we can use it properly. I tell her that she should've stuck with Microsoft Word and Google. She wasn't amused.

Fast forward 6 weeks. I have not been asked about the software since. If I had to wager, Rachel has either forgotten the software ever existed or she never stayed late for a month like she swore up and down that she'd have to do.

So my message to end users: Please consult somebody else before buying your stupid software. I could've saved us $720 by telling you to use Microsoft Word and Google examples for consistent company documentation. I would've been very kind in walking you to this conclusion and would not have made fun of you (to your face) at all! However, if you buy the software before consulting with me, I'll be kind and do my job and help you with whatever you need.

It's been a while, so let's jump right back in

I have been on an unintentional hiatus from blogging as severe life changes have occurred. Work hasn't relented as well which creates an imperfect storm of severely reduced time to blog.

Now that I've made excuses, will you forgive me and we can move on?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Dilemma

I'm in a little pickle. I tend to do this a lot in my professional life and my personal life. I'd like to think I do this to myself because I care about the welfare of others and I'm such a nice guy… but the jury's still out on that one.

So here's my situation. Late last year, I was tasked with implementing a solution for our company. The solution involved installing and managing software, training those people who will use it, developing processes around the software and implementing best practices. I have completed and implemented all of the requirements and 'handed over the reigns' of the system to the person who will be managing this process. Here's where I get uneasy about what to do next. The person in charge of this $55,000 implementation isn't using it.

I've invested 8 months of research, development, implementation, training and time away from my family. This project dominated my time for several months. The solution was implemented almost a month ago and we still aren't using it. I've even gone over this gentlemen's head and told his boss what the current situation is. Still no change.

So my dilemma is this… do I pursue this train and make noise until they start using the system I've designed for them? Or do I keep quiet and just let it go? Part of me thinks the president of the company should know what's happened to his $55K investment. Part of me thinks that I've done all I can do and can't force people to do things they don't want to do.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Never Stop being Amazed by People

People never stop amazing me when it comes to technology. Many let it intimidate them to the point where they feel unable to walk through a simple troubleshooting process. What also gets me is that these people have been working with computers for years! Why am I worked up today? I have to show someone how to change a default printer.

For all the flak that Microsoft gets they really do try to make simple tasks, simple. They even have a "Printers" button in the start menu for crying out loud! As an IT guy, who was in the middle of troubleshooting backup issues, it frustrates me when I have to stop what I'm doing to tell someone how to use this "Printers" section of Windows.

However, since I am Tall, Dark and IT, I put on a different set of lenses. I would much rather be bothered about a simple issue, than someone who tried to troubleshoot the problem themselves and REALLY hosed something up. I encourage people to not be intimidated and to try things themselves… but it really is a fine line between when to troubleshoot and when to ask the IT guy for help. I know that this lady didn't want to bother me with what she knew was a trivial problem but in reality, that's what I'm paid for.

I must appreciate that these people don't want to take up my time but they also don't want to make the problem worse. I am a big believer in teaching people how to fish, so I try not to be frustrated when they ask what hook they should be using.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Thoughts on Social Media

A couple of years ago I attended a class on how to use social media for a business advantage. It focused on building an audience by fulfilling a need. The instructor suggested using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools to advertise and build your brand but to never forget your intended audience (or customers). The strategy was very active; not at all passive. It made perfect sense.

I made a strategic decision that I could not put in a good amount of time to use social media effectively for the company I work for. I went through the steps of securing usernames and handles but never implemented a social media strategy. I did, however, develop a passion for using social media in my personal life. Not building a brand or making a name for myself, per se, but using social media to build relationships with people I would normally have no contact with.

There are many people I follow because they do fulfill a need; whether that be knowledge, comedy, or information. There are also people I follow because we're friends and we interact with each other.

Some of the people I follow  are no longer fulfilling my needs. I've evaluated my thoughts  about why I no longer value their social media streams and here are my conclusions:

  1. I am no longer their intended audience
    My thought is they are changing their intended audience to gain something; the jury is still out on whether it's more followers, more exposure, 'building their brand' or financial implications. It's also possible that my tastes and/or needs have changed and thus I no longer value their social media stream (more on that in point #4).
  2. They are trying too hard to fulfill or to create a need
    Everyone has met somebody who is trying too hard to be friendly. It's not that we dislike these people; it's just that these people don't come off as genuine. It's hard for me to value the opinion of someone who isn't genuine.
  3. I value the subject in short bursts, but not every 5 minutes for 5 hours a day
    In my opinion, social media is most effective when it's concise. I am a busy person and I enjoy reading my social media streams but I can become overstimulated on a topic rather quickly. A few tweets a day that are enlightening and or funny is acceptable.
  4. The need has been fulfilled
    I tend to follow people in which I share common interests. Sometimes their interests change and sometimes mine do. If I'm no longer interested in the subject I no longer have a need. Also, it's not uncommon for me to follow a brand in order to get customer service. If the service is complete, the need gets fulfilled by definition and I move on.

I understand the desire to 'build a brand' and get famous for my thoughts and opinions. I also understand that I am one of almost 7 billion people in a world that doesn't need one more schmuck on the internet who rams his ideas down other peoples throats. All that to say, I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of all of these things at one point or another. These are simply my opinions and they probably don't really matter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Any Android users out there?

I apologize now for this post. I am an Android user and this post contains a lot of terminology related to Android. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment!

I absolutely love my Android phone (HTC Droid Incredible). The first day I got it I rooted it and searched for different ROMs to put on the device. I started off with a ROM using HTC's Sense UI but decided I wanted more of the stock Android experience. I discovered CyanogenMod and didn't look back.

I am very excited at the possibility of a decent Android tablet coming to the market soon so I am trying to migrate a lot of my workflow into the Android environment (I rely heavily on Exchange and some of the services they provide and am migrating to the equivalent Google service) to make my potential tablet more effective. I recently discovered Google Reader and have fallen in love with it! The problem is, it appears to crash my phone.

I am running CyanogenMod 6.1 (stable). Since I started running Google Reader (February 2nd), my phone will work great for a day or so but then Google Reader causes force close after force close. I reset the device but get caught in a boot loop (the boot screen loads, freezes then the device resets itself). I have been making backups like crazy so I don't lose any data but I do lose about an hour of my life as I get my phone operational.

I was discussing my issue with another Android-loving friend of mine and he gave me the confidence to try a nightly build of CyanogenMod v7 (beta).  V7 is built on Gingerbread which I'm very excited to try. My hope is that this fixes my FC issue using Google Reader. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I know, let's have the IT guy do it!

I was recently asked to add users to our computer system. This requires me to add users to the login system, give them email addresses, add them to our ERP and data management systems, provision the computer with the proper rights for that user, and finally setting up their accounts under their user profile. This process doesn't take a whole lot of time but it takes thought and planning to execute.

Once I verify that everything is setup properly (for the user and the computer), it is my assumption that the supervisor will take over and make sure the users know what they need to know. After operating this way for a couple years I was informed (by the users' supervisor)  that this assumption is incorrect. The supervisor told me that the users had no previous computer experience and that it was my responsibility to show them how to log into and use the system.

I understand the argument but I feel that it's being used as an excuse to hand off responsibility (this isn't an isolated incident; this type of thing happens a lot in every company). Why can't a supervisor (someone who is familiar with computers and is familiar with the users' new role) show someone how to press alt+ctrl+del, type a password, move the cursor to the "Outlook" icon and double-click the mouse?

If someone needed training on Microsoft Access or how to manipulate files or data in our PDM system then I wouldn't give this request a second thought. But please take responsibility for your subordinates (and yourself). If they need to learn something and you have the knowledge and the capability to do so… train them. Don't pawn your job off on the IT guy.