Options Lead to Issues

“Walk on road, hmm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later… get squish just like grape.”~ The Karate Kid, 1984


I am a strong proponent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for students and personal ownership of the tools needed for professionals to get their jobs done.

However, in any successful organisation policies, procedure, norms, and culture eventually become established. Within the culture, standards around technology are formed, and hopefully those leading technology have taken the time to write these standards down for others to learn.

This structure does impeded on some freedom. It does say ‘Yes’ to somethings and ‘No’ to other things. Maybe it is evolution, and maybe it is a mistake, but it is how must organisations define themselves.

Lately I have had some conversations with technology leaders who are facing challenges with people reverting to practices that have been removed through policy. It is frustrating and time-consuming to re-hash issues that were settled in the past. The fact is, technology leadership often enables this type of behaviour by proving or allowing too many options.

Here are a few examples to outline some common scenarios where allowing people choice can cripple an implementation.

First off, cloud storage. For the most part, I love using cloud based systems. I am not going to explain why, but I am pretty good at selling people on the benefits. It is easy to sell people on things that I personally use and see the same benefits in. However, it is common for people to try and delay migrating to cloud storage in favor of using their old network shares.

Most of these delays  are related to departments not wanting to manage all the garbage files and illegal files they are using. Garbage is not referring to quality, but to age and file duplication. Within most organizations their are quotas and rules set for file storage. However, most organizations make exceptions to these rules over time. A few departments get so bloated with content, that they cannot move everything to the cloud easily. Nor can the technology department help them, because the time to migrate is days not hours.

Allowing departments more time is a common reaction to the problem. This, unfortunately, is bad for everyone else (usually the majority of users). The people who were initially compliant will continue to access their old network shares. The access was not removed because of the delay caused by a few departments. This flexibility in the plan allowed the community to revert to an old plan and model. The option enabled more bad practice.

I would approach this problem by giving the angry few 24 hours to move all their files to their personal laptops, and then remove their network shares. Why? Because they caused this issue, and they need to decide how much of their data is really going to be worth moving to the cloud. They need to audit the illegal content and find a way to share it so that the technology department is not using official organizational resources to manage illegal data.

Another issue that often surfaces in technology is when a school switches to a new database system, but old sets of data are scattered around in offices. Although the new database is up-to-date and functional, a few offices will always be sitting on years of old spreadsheets. These are not shared or even fully accounted for, they are, however, a threat to maintaining data integrity.

Some people will email data from old spreadsheets instead of generating new spreadsheets from the updated database. Often the solution is to set a data usage policy and hope that people comply. Setting policies and hoping people comply is diplomatic, but it does not keep them from reverting to their old habits and beliefs they may hold in the old system.

I think a better solution would be to create a 14 day period where all work has to be done on new hardware with the new software, and no access to old user profiles and documents. This will not only prevent the bad data from flowing, it will also expedite the training. Nothing is being deleted. Access is merely being regulated.

Working in technology leadership,  I spend most of my time saying ‘No’ or ‘Yes, but not that way.’.

I rarely find myself approving good ideas without providing some structure. I think it is very easy to slip into a comfort zone of trusting people to voluntarily transition out of their comfort zone.

The truth is leadership often involves not being popular. It involves thinking about the whole organization, the stakeholders, and the people depending on longterm success.

Setting a plan in motion and choosing a direction is always a risk. However, once a choice is made it needs to be followed. If the choice is wrong, the momentum will stop and the damage will be assessed. A new direction and choice will be set, and the process will begin again.  A plan can die right out of the gate is it is not allowed to move and evolve down its planned path. A bump along the way should not create forks and decision trees.

Choose and move, and find a path. Stay in place, and wait to be stepped-on. Those are really the only two choices.

Tony DePrato