Sunday, August 09, 2009

Technology, by nature, means change

First of all, this post is not directed at anyone in particular, but much like a sermon on Sunday morning, if one feels the conviction, then perhaps one might want to evaluate their own position in the technology field.

Secondly, this post reflects an accumulation of observations over a period of years in my field. This is not aimed at any one particular moment in time or specific instance, though references may be made to specific instances.

And, thirdly, well, there is no thirdly, but learned in all my writing classes that if you have a 1, you need a 2 and 3. So, you learned something already... Unless you already knew that, in which case never mind.

Life keeps moving forward, and with it (or helping it along by pushing), changes in technology. We learn how to do things better, faster, stronger - er, wait, that's the six million dollar man. While new technologies emerge, some people struggle with how to use it and/or *IF* they need to use it all. In my experience, the older one gets, the more 'set in one's ways' one becomes. Now, that is a huge generalization, but remember, I said "in MY experience."

Granted, this comes in varying degrees of resistance to keeping up with new technology. Some folks simply go with the flow, but a slow to adopt. They essentially wait to see what the hub-bub's about and then eventually join the crowd (usually about the time that technology is already being phased out). Some folks go along with the flow, but fight it every chance they get. Of course, many of us know people that simply dig in their heels and refuse to use ANY newer technology. For the sake of this post, I fully acknowledge those folks that are the early adopters, but we're not talking about them today.

I think it's perfectly fine for many folks to be slow/late adopters. And in certain circumstances, it pays to wait (can you say VISTA?). I fully admit that I am in the category that falls somewhere between full-on adoption and slow-to-adopt. Take Sharepoint. We went heads-first diving in, getting a copy of 2007 before it was officially released and going full tilt with it as our production content management system. Likewise, I helped make sure Vista was nowhere near any machine in our offices.

I am in the tech field. Network architectures come and go, change and evolve. Computer programs come and go, brands come and go, people come and go. What I have witnessed lately, however, is an older crowd of folks who are willing to spend hours arguing about NOT implementing new technology or changing the way "they've always done it." In some cases, these folks serve as the only voice of authority in their business or organization. This means that the head of the organization has to trust (or butt heads with) the person in charge of technology, even if that person refuses to move forward.

Now, don't get me wrong here, moving forward for the sake of moving forward is no way to run the show at all. But, when it is time to step back and take a good, hard look at one's environment, the tech person should be the very first person to at the front of the group doing the stepping and looking. I am finding more and more that the tech person is the LAST one who wants to stop and take a look around. I know, a lot of times, the tech is so overwhelmed, they don't think they CAN stop and take a look. But, everyone needs a breather.

There is the, "But, it'll cost too much to change" reasoning as well. While that may be true, what one might wish to consider is the long-term cost of not changing - in terms of manpower, support, general knowledge of the currently implemented systems. In some cases, once the tech leaves, there is NO ONE that knows ANYTHING about what was done or what was being done. This is never good. And, if the organization uses systems that are outdated or are outside of ANY replacements' knowledge base, then the organization spends money on training and in man-hours trying to figure out what's what. Where are the savings in that?

There is the often unspoken but palpable, "I've never done anything like that before" excuse, too. This one is a little easier for me to swallow, as implementing any new technology can be scary - how will it interact with our critical systems or, better, WILL IT even interact? This is where research comes in. But the tech cannot spend months researching without an answer. Do the research and find an answer. If the new technologies work in your environment, move to implement if it will benefit your organization, especially in the long-run. Even if you don't know what you're doing, there is always help - vendors, classes, peers. And, if it turns out that implementation (again, based on research) is not viable, then explain why, in hard facts, why it is not feasible. And, although, "we've never done this before" is a hard fact, it should never, ever be number one on the list. In fact, it should be the very last point one makes, not the first one.

I pointedly singled out older techs because in my experience, these are the folks close to retirement. The closer one gets to finally turning in the keys, I see the desire for change grow weaker and weaker. After all, if one can simply 'coast through' a couple years, then the issue becomes the next person's problem. I don't understand why more folks close to retiring wouldn't rather go full-tilt in the other direction. Here's my thinking, "Heck yeah, we're going to implement this stuff! I'll get it in here, get it started, put my name on the foundations and then hit the road! Let the next guy (or gal) deal with it!" Seriously. That's how I plan on going out...

I know I have rambled, wandered around a bit, and I'm not sure I really followed any given path during this stream-of-consciousness tirade on 'head-in-the-sand' tech folks. But if I leave you with anything, take this: Sometimes putting in new technology is the scariest thing you may do in your career, but no matter how old you are or what reasons you may THINK you have, stop and reflect on how you even got to where you are right now. I bet you will find that 10, 15, 20 years ago, you were the one going to the boss with these coo, crazy notions of technology. Find that person inside you again. Give up the security blanket. Take a look around and SEEK OUT things you can change, things you know in your heart you should change, things that have been around for more than 6 or 7 years. Seriously. And if it is 10+ years old, admit it to yourself. Own it. Then, make plans to update. Above everything else, never be afraid to ask for help along the way.

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