When The Machines Run Your Technology Run For The Hills

I have had this recurring story I tell people, where I have been in situations where the battle is between “How” the current technology works and “How” it should work.  What I am saying is that the computer systems were built in a way that ends up producing a usability issue down the road.  Maybe early on a quick solution was put in place, or perhaps the world shifted and the technology needed to be updated.

It eventually happens that I run into a situation where technology becomes the barrier to change and dictates how things are being done.  When I hear people say that’s the way it works and we can’t change that, I always joke, “The machines are running the show then”.

You Can Change That!

The real question is whether we, as humans, will control modern technology and direct the technology to do what we want it to do, or will we give in and just accept the way it is and let the technology rule.  When we had not so Smart Phones back about 3 years ago, we just accepted the technology the way it works.  I also tell people that consumers don’t know what they don’t know.  Since you and I and your mother doesn’t know something that is coming down the road that will make life a lot easier, doesn’t mean the current technology is broken.  It’s just that technology is evolutionary, not always revolutionary.

The real question here is can you change things.  Well, when I was a technology manager I did try to change things.  People are the barrier in the end, and quite often companies have reasons why they can’t change things.

Case In Point, Pricing.

I was working for a hosting company and I noticed the pricing for their hosting plans were like $9.92, $18.34 and $26.72 for their monthly service plans.  That did not sound right.  I did a little research and found out the problem was the back-end systems would not allow a typical pricing like $9.95 and $19.95, the kind of prices we expect to see.  This was due to the fact the back-end took in a yearly price and divided up monthly. So, what did I do.  I of course set out to change this.  It was a herculean task, especially since there was no inertia to fix it.  When the employees have no motivation to fix things, mainly because they are not really feeling that improvements change things for themselves, there is a major problem.  To me this was the biggest problem I could see at the company.  If you introduce friction in the sales process, what else is more important?

Technology In Business Comes Down To People, Not Technology

Another process that got my goat at this job was the checkout process.  This hoster required people, after adding hosting to their cart, to add a domain name.  It was not an option, it was a requirement.  This was completely deranged.  Why, because the system required it.  That meant that you just added a hosting plan, and now you need a domain. What if you don’t know it yet?  Well, in fact, people would leave.  They would go off and ask a buddy, search on Godaddy.com and work a thesaurus (haven’t seen a real thesaurus book in a while).  What this meant is they often would not come back.   So, how do you get these fixes in place.  You have to go back up the chain of command find out who is in charge and the process of getting it fixed.

Data Is Your Friend

Starting with 10 years of web analytics makes me an unusual kind of web manager (of developers).  What I need is information.  With information, like the funnel accurately assessing these friction points in the checkout, you are prepared to go to battle.  You would think, who needs to go to battle to get things done correctly?  Well, that’s the way of the world.  Most people don’t want to change what they are doing, especially in management.  And they are least likely to listen to their peers.  In most minds in needs to come from the top.  You can work from the top down, but then they hate your guts.  Who are you to make a pronouncement on what happens in “my” area.  Quite honestly, I tried to listen to fellow managers with recommendations.  Just be prepared for the war, by preparing for the battle early with raw information that can not be contested.  The protectors of the machines are many and out there, because the status quo is the easiest way out in life.

A Few Good Men

I am reminded of a case where a fellow manager did listen to my recommendation and did take a piece of code and move it across from one server to another and it had a big impact.  The site was Whois.net.  I asked a program manager to move international domain search technology from his area to this site, and he listened and wanted to get something done.  It was a win-win.  A rare moment as we human unite against the machines for a short moment in time.

 

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Dan Gudema
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