Obsolescence Happens

Whether planned or not, Obsolescence Happens.

It always seems to sneak up with you, when you least expect it – even when you know it’s coming.

  • That fleet of Smartboards you have dozens of, can suddenly no longer have their firmware updated, because those models are no longer supported by the vendor. And just when you needed the very feature, that the new firmware will allow you to use, too.
  • Your “lifetime warranty” switches, that you bought years ago – now made meaningless – because the vendor no longer makes them. Sure – you can update for a price – but lifetime meant the lifetime of the switch, not yours.
  • You upgrade to the latest and greatest WiFi standard access points, only to find out that your controller needs to have its firmware updated to support them – but by doing so, disables all of your old WiFi standard access points. You can either upgrade your old access points, buy a new, separate controller – or, simply cry into your pillow.

The fact is, any hardware you have in house is going to be obsolete at some point, no matter how well you maintain it, or try to stretch out its lifetime.

Even if it never gives you a minute’s trouble.

Fleet replacement planning is one of the least “sexy” things technology administrators do – but impacts day-to-day sustainability, and success, as much as any other activity.

If you haven’t already put into place a technology / fleet replacement plan for your pcs, infrastructure, and hardware systems, make time to do it now. Or tomorrow. Or, the day after tomorrow.

Because when Obsolescence Happens, it will happen when you can least afford for it to happen. Better to choose your time and place for updating your technology, before the terms are dictated for you.

Remember: need never made a good bargain.

And neither did unexpected outlays of cash, to keep your critical systems running.

 

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Audio

Commit Me

It’s mind-boggling, how much energy we spend on unanswered questions… pending decisions… the uncertain future.

It’s the metaphorical equivalent of sitting in your driveway with the engine on, your foot stomped on the gas pedal, all the way to the floor; furiously burning through everything in the tank, but going absolutely nowhere.

Truly, many problems are entirely outside our span of control, perhaps leading us to believe all we can do, is offer up some semblance of the serenity prayer, and simply hope for the best.

Look at the people you know, who are successful. Who achieve. Who get things done.

What trait makes them so effective at what they do, while others seem to sputter and fall?

They are able to commit. And, to reap the immediate benefits that commitment brings along with it.

Commitment

When you wholly commit  – to a course of action, to a strategy, to a purpose – your decision making power, authority, and focus amplifies, by definition. That’s because all the mental energy and head space that you were formerly devoting to indecision, may now be brought to bear in actually doing.

The aphorism, “Don’t let the Perfect, be the enemy of the Good Enough” gets at the heart of the power of commitment. We can freeze ourselves in place, searching for the ultimate, most perfect solution – or, we can move ahead with something that is effective and workable and acceptable – and getting one step closer to achieving what we desire, in our lifetime, rather than never.

The unmade decision is often our biggest regret. It represents opportunity lost. It represents energy lost.

And it represents future lost.

Evaluate your options. Listen to trusted advisors. Consult the Oracles. Search your feelings.

But most importantly: Decide. Commit.

Go and be you.

Audio

You Didn’t Respond… Are You Interested?

Puppet

One thing’s for certain, when you’re in charge of an IT department:

If you don’t control your vendor relations, they will control you.

We get dozens of cold calls and pitches, each and every week, from vendors of every stripe and walk of life.

Most are professional. Many are not.

The communiques that get most under my skin go something like this:

“You Didn’t Respond to my previous x emails… can you let me know if you have any interest in my product or service?”

Asked, and answered.

If we haven’t responded by now, we’re not gonna.

It’s not a question of being a jerk to vendors, or potential vendors. It’s a simple matter of survival.

My job is to further the institutional mission of my employer. Anything that detracts from that mission is non-essential and extraneous.

That especially includes answering unsolicited pitches and cold calls.

Not every pitch requires, or deserves, a response. If I’m interested, I’ll respond. If I’m not, I won’t.

It’s really that simple.

What especially irks me, is when vendors blast every email address at our place of business, asking for the “person responsible for X.” Without fail, this generates a few armloads of inbound junk mail, from well meaning colleagues trying to direct them the “right way.”

My advice to our people in this regard is as follows: I will treat anything from a vendor that they pass along to me as a personal endorsement, with the requisite ownership and accountability that such an endorsement carries.

It effectively keeps the volume of pitches down to what we would buy, what we would consider buying, and things that we actually need.

This approach isn’t anti-vendor. It’s pro us. A stratagem for keeping the signal-to-noise level at a level where the truly useful opportunities aren’t lost in the blaring din of unvetted cries for unsolicited attention.

Exercise your agency. Take ownership of your vendor conversations. Don’t let misplaced obligation rob you of the drive and focus your employer demands and deserves.

Go, and be you.

Being There

One of the major failings of learning geography or history, at least as experienced in classrooms, is the inability to get a genuine sense of place as an actor in the story.

If you’ve never been to Washington, D.C., it’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the place, and why the city is situated where it is. Or, if you’ve never travelled through the swamps of South Carolina, it’s hard to imagine the difficulties the armies faced in simple logistics, moving through this harsh and challenging terrain, during the American Revolutionary War.

This week, we’ve been reminded of the vast distances between where we live, and the far-flung reaches of the outer edge of our solar system. Even traveling 30,000 miles per hour, it took the New Horizons spacecraft ten years to reach Pluto… and it has been only in the past week that Pluto has become for us, for the first time in history, a place.

I’ve worked remotely on projects, often for years at a time. It was a successful model for me as a developer. But it is still a model with a very serious drawback – it’s inability to transcribe place as a component in how business actually happens.

Our presence allows us to experience serendipity – unplanned, unexpected, and spontaneous discovery – that aids in our understanding of all that a place is.

Place

If we could send actual geologists to any of the planets, they would discover more in 30 minutes time, than all the robotic explorers we can send in the next 100 years could ever suss out.

There’s a value in being there, that can’t be replicated through technology.

It’s more than sensory.

Being there is often the difference between totally “getting it”, or missing understanding altogether.

Go, and be you.

Audio

First Principles

You have to crawl, before you walk… and walk, before you run.

This is only one of many examples in life, where one must master the fundamentals, before moving onto something more advanced.

But we are too often sidetracked by the new and the shiny, on our way to becoming disruptive innovators.

We forget that in order to be successful, we first have to remain true to our First Principles, our core mission, our raison d’etre, before attempting the fancy stuff.

Because if you can’t do the bare minimum of what defines you as a person, as an employee, or as a professional – you’ve failed before you’ve started.

Remember: before going out to conquer and change the world, make sure you’ve taken care of the basics at home, first.

Establish trust in doing the core things required of your position.

Then, feel free to disrupt and innovate, when you’ve proven that you’ve kept the main thing, the main thing.

Go, and be you.

Audio

It’s Not You. It’s Us.

Relationships are tough.

There’s the understatement, of this, or any, century.

When they’re good, they’re great.

When they’re bad, they’re intolerable.

Yet – we seem to overwhelmingly tolerate bad relationships, even when it’s blatantly obvious that the relationship is uneven, or when it is unhealthy for us, or when we could do much better, by just getting up, and walking away.

Why is that?

It’s because all real relationships are composed of contact, experience, and time.

When a single occurrence of an interaction between two people (or two companies) occurs, it is just a transaction (contact). However, what begins to build relationship between the two parties, is a series of such transactions (experience) over a prolonged period (time).

It’s the way friendship works. It’s the way love works. It’s the way family works.

What makes bad relationships difficult to walk away from, is the sunk cost we have in our experiences, and in the amount of time we devoted to cultivating the relationship.

Let’s bring the conversation back from the touchy-feely, and into the concrete, day-to-day world of vendor relationships.

Why do we put up with bad vendor relationships?

Because we need the vendor. Or we don’t know any better. Or we’re forced to use them by rule or dictate.

But I’m guessing, more likely than not, it’s because we have invested too much time, and emotional investment, in the relationship, to simply walk away.

Your vendors know this. They count on it.

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A wise friend of mine once told me: need never made a good bargain.

If you want to have healthy vendor relationships, you have to be willing to walk away, when the relationship no longer provides more benefit than pain, or when better alternatives outweigh the overall good that the vendor relationship brings.

This is always easier to see from the outside, than it is if you have a personal investment (prestige, standing, ego) in a bad vendor relationship.

Life – and career – is too short to put up with poor service, neglect, and victimization.

You have to be willing to say: It’s not you. It’s us.

Go, and be you.

Audio

You Do Know Why We’re Here, Right?

One of the “occupational hazards” of working with a blogger is the real possibility you might be obliquely quoted or referenced in a post. Today is one such day, though I will protect the anonymity of my colleague.

Recently, we started working with a collaborative workgroup package, one of the handful of unicorn startups you’ve probably read about.

Our impetus behind using the package, is to close a hole in our customer service footprint, a hole that many service organizations also suffer – the gap between recording incidents in your internal ticketing system, and responding in real-time to customer service needs, that require an immediate response.

As I was explaining our use case to a colleague, they said: “You realize that our users will want to use this all the time?!?

Yes. Yes I do. That’s why we’re doing it.

This exchange underscores an attitude that I’ve seen at many, many service organizations, particularly IT shops: the feeling that we don’t want to be bothered with user problems.

And every time I run across this in the wild, I think: You Do Know Why We’re Here, Right?

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In this specific case, this person has only been exposed to a particular brand of customer service; albeit a not-very-friendly-to-customers brand of customer service.

Our challenge, which is by no means unique, is to re-wire our thinking about customer service, particularly customer service as practiced at a learning institution.

The school doesn’t exist for the IT department; the IT department exists because of the school.

Many companies have mission statements, but few who work there can rattle them off on command.

Your true “mission statement” is to serve those who depend upon your services and abilities. Your people should be able to ascertain what that mission statement is, by simply looking at how you go about your work, serving others.

Know why you’re here.

Go, and be you.