Tough Choices: What Wins Out between Technology Elegance and Human Embrace?, Feb 21

One of the questions facing organizations with an established collaboration technology infrastructure like Notes and Domino is how they encourage new hires to embrace the established tooling for business success. Young graduates joining the organization won’t generally have had exposure to Notes and Domino, but will have seen the newer, slicker and raved about technology options available on the public Internet (everything “Web 2.0”, Flickr, Blogs, Wikipedia, etc.). And so for many of them, Notes and Domino may be a put off. What is an organization to do if hiring the right people is key and critical to their success going forward? (in other words, most of them).

Here’s one way to think about it, and I welcome your feedback, reaction and thoughts via comments or email. I’ve previously argued, most stringently in reaction to people like Rod Boothby and Andrew McAfee, that newer technologies are not necessarily objectively better or worse than established / older / “non-cool” technologies. As such, if human practice in relation to the tooling is perfect (and in some cases over-compensating for limitations of the technology), the tool generally plays only a minor role in the overall quality of the outcome. What I’ve failed to point out, however, is that outcome quality is only one of the possible metrics for evaluating the tools and the people after a project has been completed. There are others, such as (and this isn’t an exhaustive list):

  • TImeliness … How quickly did the team / group come to whatever conclusion was necessary to deliver on the project or activity they were working on?
  • Satisfaction with the Process … How satisfied were the team / group members with the process by which they went through to complete the project or activity?
  • Capability to Work Together Again … Did the work on the team / group raise the ability of the various members to work together again in the future, or did their performance capability remain unchanged, or did it degrade?

I want to add one other thought before I give you my analysis and recommendations. It’s not that insightful, but it is true. Because of previous first-hand experience or third-hand exposure to a certain technology, some people are repelled by technologies that other people find incredibly attractive. For example, Stowe Boyd and Rod Boothby both absolutely detest Lotus Notes. If you asked them to be involved in a project where the project was managed through a well-designed and highly effective Lotus Notes database, they’d puke. They have gone on record as being so repelled by Notes that they couldn’t do it … or if they could put aside their personal feelings, they would struggle mightily to bring themselves with full motivation to the task at hand. They find the tooling disgusting. And yet, there are other people … Duffbert, Rocky Oliver and Ed Brill to name but three … who find Notes attractive and would probably be offended if they had to use some other technology that lacked capabilities they’d come to expect from Notes (security, encryption, local replication, yada yada yada).

So here’s the point … although the outcome quality of the coordinated effort may be similar for one technology vs. another, if you face the choice of turning the majority of people off by your choice of tooling .. that is, if there’s a substantial difference between people’s satisfaction with the process as influenced by tooling choices … investigate different tools. By all means, evangelize what you have, it’s power, what it can and can not do … but recognize too that some people won’t grok what you grok. That’s what makes us unique and individuals. And if it means the difference between being able to hire top-flight people vs. not, put aside technology elegance in deference to a higher goal.

0 thoughts on “Tough Choices: What Wins Out between Technology Elegance and Human Embrace?, Feb 21

  1. Join almost any corporation or firm and you will find that the tools they use are outdated and less slick than the cool stuff appearing on the consumer internet.
    But the value of a system is how well it connects you to your colleagues and the organisation’s IP. And making sure that the barriers to using it are as low as possible.

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