Solving problems the wrong way

WrongIn a previous post I described the fact that for many people you can describe their IT needs in terms of 4 layers,  this is important because it means that if you try to provide a new IT system that meets a need in layer 4, when the persons needs in layers 1 – 3 are not already met then you will struggle to motivate people to use it, because their focus will continue to be on meeting their needs in layers 1–3.

If this is true then this model has important implications for how you meet needs in the lower layers.  Let me explain;  you really need to meet needs in layer 1 in a way that makes it easy to then meet needs in layer 2 and you need to meet needs in layer 2 in a way that makes it easy to meet needs in layer 3.  You may think this is so obvious that its not worth mentioning, however, obvious though it may be – over the last 10 years we have consistently failed to do this in the enterprise deskop services management. 

To illustrate lets consider some examples:

About 10 years ago the industry invented the idea of a standard desktop environment for all,  with a locked down standard image delivered to a small range of PC’s with a small range of approved peripherals.  Software was delivered to these devices from a central repository using remote software distribution technologies.  This was a good solution to the tier 1 need, ie:

Initialy a person is motivated to get access to a computer and software that is reliable and has good connectivity.  Until they achieve this they achieve this they are unlikely to worry too much about anything else

What we didn’t consider was the fact that as soon as we met this Access need all of our users would rapidly move on to want to meet their tier 2 need:

Once they get access to a reliable computer they will seek to maximise their personal productivity, which will often express itself as a desire to control their IT environment, customising it, installing additional software, and generally making investment decisions that match their personal priorities.

Oh dear, we solved their tier 1 needs in a way that minimised the control they had over their environment, therefore forcing people with very diverse business requirements and personality types to all use the same standardised environment.  In some businesses even the monitor size and resolution was standardised.  In addition whilst we had good software delivery tools the cost and lead-time to get a new software product evaluated, tested, packaged, purchased and deployed was so long and painful that many people gave up before they even started.  What happened, a whole load of frustrated employees who either left the company, started to use their home PC’s, started buying PDA’s, or bringing their laptops into work etc.

So what did we do next, we decided we had solved the needs of individuals and needed to move onto solving the needs of teams, where I contend our users were actually focussed on Personal Voice! 

their priority will start to turn to control over their personal voice, ie how their contribution is seen by their managers and peers and other stakeholders.

How did this happen,  well – we failed to listen to the users and listened to our customers, and many of these customers were strongly motivated to focus on managing the costs that they controlled and in many businesses that didn’t include the lost opportunity costs associated with delivering end-user productivity.  So not only did we fail to fully deliver personal productivity, but we skipped completely the need for Personal Voice and went straight to addressing team/knowledge management needs.

Then we hit a problem,  the team/KM systems didn’t get used very effectively because the people who were meant to be using them were focussed on trying to sort out their personal productivity and were concerned that if they put all of their effort into making other people a success their personal voice/contribution would not be heard.  Had we done things in the right order it should have gone like this:

Once people feel they have control over their personal voice, their priorities will switch to the success of others, or to the teams of which they are members.

In my next post I will provide a rough sketch of how to address each of these layers in a way that considers the needs of the other layers.


Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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