Blame the Tools
Over the years I’ve worked with technology, I’ve listened to many, many complaints about the technological tools that folks are using in their work. Everything from poor interfaces, slow response times, and various limitations of the tools.
One of the more interesting ones I’ve seen though, are the folks who get bad data from a tool, and blame the tool. I.e., your firm’s contact database lists the wrong information for someone, and after you tried to use that information and found the error, you blame the contact management system, as opposed to the user who entered the wrong information.
I used to work for a membership organization, so maybe I’ve become a little more sensitive to it than most, but I really don’t know why users turn against a tool, when it’s the user’s entering bad information that causes the problems. (Garbage in, garbage out, anyone?) I’ve had to listen to users complain about outdated information not being updated, information not being in a database because no one ever actually collected it, or errors in their own searches, and in each of those cases, their suggested “fix” was to get a new database system. As if that would somehow magically make everyone collect, track, and update correct information when they never have before?
That being said, if you work in IT supporting one of these tools, your life is going to be so much better if the information in it isn’t actually garbage. If it is, your users will turn on the technology, and possibly even you. If the information is good, they will like the tool, and by extension, be very happy with you.
Obviously, the more people entering data, the less control you have over it, but what can you be doing to help make sure your tool is still full of useful information? What training can you do to help users pay closer attention to what they’re entering? What information might you want them to collect that is going to be helpful to various departments? What kinds of random “checks” can you put in place to find trends that may cause a problem down the road?
You may not feel like that’s your job, and you’d be right. It is the responsibility of each user inputting data to make sure it’s complete and correct, but when everyone in the organization quits using the tool that you’re paid to develop and support, where’s that going to leave you? Get out in front of problems before your tool turns into an albatross around your IT department’s neck.
I heard a story over Christmas vacation, about a voting system that had some problems recently. Apparently someone had neglected to load the right tapes, which meant that not all the voters were listed for the poll workers. The news reported it as…. “a computer error.”