In last decade or so, the talk of convergence of various telecommunication technologies has created a lot of buzz in the information technology industry. Proponents have rallied behind convergence by branding it as “inevitability” and have proclaimed that every competing organization will have to embrace it. On the other hand, critics have dismissed convergence of technologies to be a “passing fad” or “all eggs in one basket” kind of proposition. Before miring ourselves into this debate, let’s understand what convergence is. In my opinion, convergence is a confluence of myriad number of technologies aligned to be able to do more for less. The list of converging technologies is long, if not endless -Voice, Video, Data, Mobility, Application services, Media services etc. In convergence, we would like to squeeze all aforementioned technologies and services to be running on the same IT infrastructure.
This convergence quandary has posed a serious challenge to the technologists and organizations using and maintaining these new technologies and related infrastructure. No wonder Wikipedia goes one step further, defining telecommunication convergence to be a "disruptive technology".
To add insult to the injury, many new technologies, implemented in good faith, are wrongfully considered a bad executive decision just because they are not well managed during and after the deployment. The most common statement I hear from my users is, “I hate this new system”.
On this post, I will touch upon a few ideas that can help operational organizations in making sure the new technologies do not overwhelm their operational managers and can keep their employee morale high. Let’s look at:
· Framework- As recommended by well known practices like ITIL, most customers currently use very structured tiered approach to manage their operational organizations. With the continued transgression of technology due to convergence, the lines between the different tiers of frame work have been blurred. This strongly impacts Tier II staff, sandwiched between two tiers, should be able to effortlessly glide both vertically and horizontally to handle technologically demanding and diverse requests. In words of my colleague, Scott Totaro, “We need generalist not specialists” or “ mile-wide and foot-deep” kind of people at this level of framework.
· Training – Train, Train, Train- was my philosophy until six months ago. But a recent article in Wall Street Journal (http://sloanreview.mit.edu/business-insight/articles/2008/6/5067/lessons-learned/) refined my perspective. “The effective training isn't necessarily what happens in the classroom. It is what you do afterwards" the article says. It goes further quoting that studies suggesting that only 10% to 40% of training is ever used on the job. Having said that, I would like to clarify my position that technology training is essential but not just enough to successfully run day-to-day operations. The greater emphasis is needed on the on-job-training and ideas like mentorship must be fostered and rewarded in one’s organization.
· Tools - The biggest challenge I see in this category is availability (or lack) of user friendly and need based operational tools. I always see a lot of money and training hours spent on tools that nobody likes to use and are not customized to the organizational needs. Before investing in these tools, carefully weigh the upgrade possibilities, feature road-map, current features’ user friendliness and reporting customization. As these new technologies mature, the newer, better operational tools will emerge but the peril of technology getting obsolete always lurks in the darkness. Moral of the story- “Invest in a product that suits your organizational current and future needs”
· Staffing – The demands of new technology are ******* today’s and yesterday’s generation. We spent countless hours in learning new technology. ( I struggle with new MS Office 2007 features and my father-in-law struggles in finding the “Shutdown” button on “Windows Vista”- He used to have “Windows 2000”). It is even worse on today’s manager that have to find people who can keep up pace with the ever moving target called “technology”. “Aptitude” and “willingness to learn” are the two traits I recommend when hiring operational personnel. This will keep one’s organization dynamic and competent.
· Other Options- Be realistic about your organization’s abilities to manage these new technologies.” If I cannot manage, I will pay someone else to do it”. Initially, this realization can be tough but can help one in effectively managing these technologies without scarring customer confidence.
My parting thoughts: There are many challenges with fast moving technology, but only way we can keep up, is by staying organizationally nimble, be willing to learn, experiment and adapt.