Monthly Archives: October 2010

Why IT Folks Don’t Always Play Nice

I’ll admit that the IT world has a little bit of a bad reputation.  We are known for being stubborn, unavailable, arrogant, and sometimes, downright surly.  But I think I can explain some of why IT folks don’t always play nice.

When you hire someone to mow your lawn, you come to an agreement with that person – for a set price, s/he will mow your lawn, probably trim around the trees and flower beds, and pick up the grass clippings.  If you want something extra done, such as a flower bed planted with new flowers, you create a new agreement with the landscaper and an additional price is decided upon.

When you purchase a software product, you usually purchase a defined, packaged software product shared by many companies and users.  If it’s a custom software package, a Scope of Work is written, and the specifications and price are agreed upon.

So, the customer has purchased a software package, and starts using it.  The trouble begins when the customer will come up with a list of features/ functionality that s/he felt “should” have been in the software package purchased, regardless of the software specifications agreed upon.

“Well, I don’t understand why I can’t export reports into pipe-delimited format.”  Nevermind that there are 14 other formats to choose from.

“Why doesn’t this application, by default, require the supervisor’s phone number, address, and email when asking for work history?”  (It doesn’t matter that requiring that information drastically increases the number of incomplete applications.)

“Our organizational structure is division, then business unit, then location, all co-mingled so that a location can be in multiples of each and sometimes a business unit is subordinate to a location and sometimes it’s the other way around.  Why doesn’t your application support that?”  Huh?

I can understand that questions will arise as a user starts using a new product.  That’s not a problem.  The problem is when the customer berates support staff because a software package doesn’t include all of their various “needs”.  I understand that business needs may require functionality different than the norm.  OK.  Then let’s design and agree upon new functionality that will meet your needs.  And yes, it will cost extra. 

IT folks get surly when they get brow-beaten by those who think the application “should have feature x as a standard feature.”  A feature in a software package requires time to build.  IT time is worth something – it is valuable.  Yes, software should be upgraded frequently, and good software companies listen to their users when planning the next release, but when you buy a stock software package, you buy that package, you aren’t buying a programmer in your pocket for the next 10 years.  

You wouldn’t ask your landscaper to weed the garden bed for free, would you? We just want to be treated as nicely as the landscaper.

Is There Anything More to America Than Name Brands & Celebrities?

I recently returned from trip to the city of Seattle and my faith in human goodwill has been restored.

I admit that I have been bogged down by the constant barrage of designer shoes and reality TV.  I began to wonder if I was the only person in America who couldn’t tell a Jimmy Choo from a Reebok. I began to doubt that there was anything more to America than name brands and celebrities.

But sometimes it takes a change of scenery to knock the cobwebs from my perspective. My recent trip to Seattle did just that – it reminded me that life is full of rich experiences beyond name brands. It reminded me that the majority of America operates outside of the Fortune 500.

How, you may ask? First of all, I was warmly welcomed by all I came across, friend and stranger alike (and I was even wearing shoes I bought at Payless).  Because I was going to a city I had never visited before, I envisioned more of the same of New York, Boston, DC, with imposing companies, structures and people.  I saw evidences of Fortune 500 companies, yes, but more importantly, I engaged in commerce with thriving businesses you’ve never heard of.   I worked with a privately owned software company, stayed at a regional-brand hotel, ate food at locally owned restaurants, and didn’t even have to drink Starbucks.  After my business was complete, I spent a day sight-seeing, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, by myself, yet meeting so many friendly people along the way.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to me, peddling quality software in a world in which giant marketing machines reign supreme. But this trip reminded me that there is so much more to America than the big brands, so many rich experiences for us all to share in, and for that I am inexpressedly thankful.