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Information Technology is Not Black and White – By Chris Gebhardt

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Author: Chris Gebhardt, Director of IT at Air Medical Resource Group

This posting is directed at the everyday users of technology.  As the title says, technology is not a black and white, yes or no, this or that, and ironically, a 1 or 0 type endeavor.  I hope to share some insights into why that is so.

I Can Do It At Home (or at my other job)
Many users become frustrated with IT staff for a myriad of reasons.  Today’s average worker has more experience with technology than ever before.  Most use desktops, laptops, cell phones, and tablets on a regular basis at the office and home.  So when they can’t do something technology related at work or the solution provided by IT does not seem to appease them, they grow frustrated assuming the task they are requesting is easy.  And therein lies a pain point.

Change Comes
We have been using this system the same way for five years.  Then along comes change and we must adapt or become frustrated. Sometimes this change is orchestrated by IT or the InfoSec groups.  Other times, it is just that the software/hardware has changed and it is beyond the control of IT.  Regardless of the source, the user is ultimately the one affected.

More Than One Way
Technology allows us to do a single task in multiple ways.  We often use the same way to accomplish the task due to repetition (we’ve always done it that way.)  I prefer to use the keyboard commands Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X, and Ctrl+V for copy, cut and paste instead of using the menu or mouse click.  I can think of at least five ways to copy something to the clipboard.  Neither is any better than the other.

Black and White Equals Grey
So why can’t users do what they do at home at work?  Or why do we have to change?  And why are there so many ways to do something?  There are many small reasons but I believe the major reason is the complexity of technology. Many rules come into play in a business setting that don’t at home.  Regulatory rules, accounting rules, and much more.

One thing I believe in is presenting options to people who ask IT related questions.  Generally, there is no one way to accomplish what they want.  Given that today’s workers are more technology savvy, shouldn’t they be able to decide for themselves and, therefore, have some ownership in the decision?   Well, not always.

Some users just want a simple answer.  A one solution type answer.  And that is respectable.  You either trust IT to provide you with the best solution (or fastest) or you don’t want other options.  It is when IT provides you with many options that things turn to grey and tensions rise.  Or when IT gives you a single answer and it was not the answer you expected.  I believe there are two solutions to this tension and pain point.

IT Should Ask if You Want Options
Yep, it is our job in IT to make sure we are presenting you with what you have asked from us.  One question I would ask in return of someone’s request would be, “Would you like all the possible solutions to this or just the best solution.”  We are happy to make a decision if that is what you’d like but how do we know if we don’t ask.

You Become Involved
The better option is for users to become involved in the solution.  IT presents the options available and we collaborate on the best solution drawing from our IT expertise and your business acumen.  Many times, greater progress can be achieved through this partnership than one of us going it alone.

The moral of the story here is that as users become more sophisticated and knowledgeable combined with more and more technology exposure, users must also accept the complexity of technology.

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