Satch Kirkpatrick has been involved with technology since he wrote his first program on an Apple IIe, he’s not proud. He enjoys bringing a pragmatic view to technology and its implementation that targets process revitalisation and building value for you and your people.
Technology Business Trends and How to Set Successful Business Rules
In my career as a Systems Administrator, when confronted with yet another overgrown and mismanaged file share or email server I would often use the term ‘organic growth’ as a negative. The mess it leaves signals an IT Department that is at best struggling; at worst, being ignored by the business they support.
I’m a technician at heart. I’m confident in my systems and my processes, and I build them to support the budget and direction of my employer. I was sure that organic growth occurred because the people who caused it were being ignorant, selfish or stubborn.
I was wrong. About my process I mean, not the people. Most of the time they were being difficult, but from the flip side of the same coin I was on. I was missing the point to how my employer wanted to use technology, no one had explained the rules to me.
The building of computer-human interface has been a hotbed of activity ever since Douglas Englebart designed the first mouse. Behavioural science, user interface and experience design, cognitive psychology and computer-human augmentation studies all push to understand how humans use technology.
In regards to the experience of detrimental organic systems growth, one simple observation can be made:
“A negative pressure upon an individual to conform will not moderate that individuals adoption of a tool.”
In short, if your technology puts rules in place that don’t make sense and are not in line with how your people believe your business should run? Good luck trying to get them to use it. If you force the issue you’ll see the organic growth I was talking about, as your staff seek to work around the issue and drive your IT Department insane.
What should a healthy system look like?
For technology to work it needs rules that dictate it’s use and connection to value. The same is true for a pencil as it is for a laptop. Obviously there are a few more steps to ‘sharpening’ a laptop, but the analogy works.
Currently, the top three characteristics of rules for easily adopted systems are:
Elasticity. Rules must be flexible with a tendency to return to its original shape. When defining what it is that your business does to make money, don’t attach those rules to any technology. The rules should be able to bend to encourage experimentation but eventually technology you adopt should be able to support your businesses ‘original shape’. If that technology is not there already? It’s time to innovate!
Weight. There must be an inherent importance to the rule for an individual. This value can be economic (I get more done following the rule), cultural (The rule makes sense) or social (I feel connected to others when I follow the rule). This weight is transferred to the technology used; if it is positive weight individuals will persist even if the tool is flawed. If it’s negative weight, that’s obviously going to cause problems.
In Process. The rule has to be included within the typical activity for the individual, or be engaged naturally as an expansion or addition. The true indication that a rule has been adopted is that no one notices it any more. There are no hurdles, no savage learning curves and no one needs to ‘buck’ the system. A rule that just clicks can provide enhanced cognitive absorption (the sense that “time flies when you’re having fun”) and greatly emphasize the individuals active involvement in a process.
So you’ve defined rules that your people can follow, how do you get IT Department to buy in?
I’m going to be brutally honest. If you’re a business that has put the cart in front of the horse by letting your support services dictate how your business runs, then you really need to review your rules. Your IT department is filled full of personalities that cherish order and structure, give them the instruction that they need to be able to deliver. Explain the rules to them as you explain them to all of your people.
The great news is that technology is shedding the inflexible, high cost, maintenance role that used to make IT such a drag to deal with. If you find that your IT Department typically responds with ‘No.’ or ‘It can’t be done.’ then they desperately need to be challenged.
If you’d like to know more or would like to have a chat Satch can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or can find him on twitter @satchkp.