With many vendors offering cloud delivery of applications and services, the issue of changing what is delivered becomes critically important. In the old model of on-premises software, the IT department had a more controlled way of rolling out new capabilities – major changes every few years, along with some interim fixes and updates. With cloud delivery, one of the value propositions in the eyes of providers is the ability to get new features and capabilities out to market much faster, and indeed while it can be delivered much faster, the change can cause multiple problems.
Consider for example some recent and rumoured upcoming changes in SharePoint Online:
Recently, Microsoft eliminated the Tags & Notes feature in SharePoint Online. It also removed the Tasks menu option from SharePoint Online and the “Sync to Outlook” button, as noted back in September on the Absolute SharePoint blog (which is not run by a Microsoft employee, but instead by Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Vlad Catrinescu).
Catrinescu noted that these cuts were mentioned in Microsoft support notices that he unearthed, but as comments on his blog post note, many users seemed unhappily unaware they were happening or had happened.
Now, it looks like Microsoft may drop the public sites feature in SharePoint Online. Again, that’s not according to any Microsoft official site, but instead to the “Office 365 Answers” blog.
There’s a discussion 76 comments deep on the blog post, with many of the comments critical of what Microsoft is doing.
Abstracting away from the specific changes in SharePoint Online, here’s the problem we face: re-grooving the way we work based on unexpected changes in our systems. Take this pathway, for example:
1. The IT group at your organization makes a case for shifting to a cloud service, for a variety of reasons, and based on the current state provision of various features and capabilities that can be used effectively for getting business done. The organization shifts.
2. Individuals start to experiment with the new features and capabilities, and begin to see how they could make use of those in their work. Over time – some quick, some slow – individuals accept and embrace the new way of working.
3. Individuals introduce the changes they have mastered into the groups and teams they are part of, with early movers becoming a champion of sorts for using the new tools. The groups and teams start to shift to the new ways of working too, finding the benefit, overcoming the annoyances, but slowly refactoring the way they coordinate, communicate, and collaborate.
4. The ground shifts and the way of working breaks. The cloud provider makes a change in the system – advised or otherwise – so that (a) something relied on for getting work done is now removed, or (b) a new and better way of working together is released. The early moving individual now faces a broken system, and the groups and teams that have embraced the new way of working can no longer work together in that way.
5. What’s the reaction among the end user population? Some will naturally say “let’s find a new way,” but I contend that most will err towards “I told you this was a bad idea, I’m going back to the old system.” Thus a technology change by the cloud provider breaks the new social order in organizational groups.
What’s your experience in helping end users overcome the social challenges driven by frequent technology change?