This week’s profound advice: Be plausible.
I was “talking” to Quicken’s chat support. I’d been trying to add a new investment account — something I’d done several times without trouble over the twenty plus years I’ve used Quicken.
The quick and accurate diagnosis: I’ve been using Quicken Starter Edition. That feature now requires Premier. The last update I applied removed it from Standard.
If Quicken sold cars instead of software and I bought a Quicken Standard, three years later, during a scheduled oil change, its mechanics would remove the turbocharger because the Standard no longer comes with one.
Look, kids, when you sell a product, the buyer decides if its features justify the price. Having paid that price, removing some of the features fails the plausibility test.
Speaking of plausibility, I recently had to renew my Minnesota driver’s license. Minnesota was one of the last holdouts for the TSA-mandated REAL ID, so sadly, REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses won’t be available in Minnesota until October of this year.
But that’s okay, because in the meantime I can get an Enhanced driver’s license, which isn’t a REAL ID license but is REAL ID compliant. It gets better: An Enhanced license but not a REAL ID license lets me drive in Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda.
Terrific — I want one! Especially for Bermuda in January! Only … I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis, but here at the Hennepin County Government Center building in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota DMV isn’t equipped to provide these. To get an enhanced license you’ll have to go to the Minnesota DMV office conveniently located in the nearby suburb of Plymouth.
I’m sure there’s a logical reason for this. I’m sure some committee somewhere looked at the available budget, drew coverage map alternatives, debated, erased, and re-drew until the budget was exhausted and so were the committee members.
And yet, right there at the surface where people walk up to the service desk, this is utterly implausible. It simply makes no sense that the location serving the largest number of people who need driver’s licenses doesn’t provide the most complete set of services. No amount of explaining will make it appear remotely plausible, no matter how much actual thought and logic went into these decisions.
How about you?
Take a common approach to IT governance: For IT to implement a solution, the business areas that want it have to submit a request that includes the business justification. An IT steering committee of some kind evaluates the requests, sorts them into priority order, and decides who gets some or all of what they asked for and who doesn’t.
If you’re on the inside of designing this sort of governance it probably looks like it makes sense.
But imagine you’re on the other side of the metaphorical IT services order counter. You’re a member of a five-person workgroup, you’ve found inexpensive or open source software that will make the five of you, say, 20% more effective at what you do. You add up the time needed to learn the proposal process, fill out the required forms, and defend it at the next steering committee meeting.
It’s more time than you or IT would need to just do the job.
Only you can’t because IT locks down PCs so you can’t, and IT can’t because your project is too small for the steering committee to worry about.
The loud and clear message from IT: We won’t do it for you and we won’t let you do it yourself, either.
So you kludge together something in Excel instead.
It’s utterly implausible.
It’s also easy to fix, which makes the reality even more implausible.
The fix comes in three parts. Part #1: For existing applications, go Agile. Whether they’re epics, features, or enhancement-scale requests, they all go into the backlog as user stories. The product owner sorts them. Problem solved.
Part #2: For small new needs, the IT Steering Committee allocates pools of IT developer hours. Requesters “spend” out of their pool. See how easy this is?
Part #3: Information Security sets up an application screening group. When someone in the business identifies a potentially useful application, the screening group evaluates whether, where, and how it might pose a risk. The default is a green light, which is given unless InfoSec identifies and explains the risk, so the requesting organization knows what to look for when researching alternatives. Nuthin’ to it.
And that’s the point. Avoiding implausibility isn’t hard. As the poet said, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!”
That’s all it takes.