Change And Users

Asking users to change is often like dropping magnesium in water, drop and run! Why is it so hard to implement change, and can or should we do anything.

Why do we change?

Working in IT change is painful, not just for the end users. The bigger or more drastic the change the more time we as IT professionals put in trying to make it as easier for end users, either out of altruism or(highly more likely) because we don’t want to be buried in the killer asteroid that will be the ticket queue. Usually it’s due to one of a few reasons; patching a security vulnerability, new features(you asked for it), new features(we hope you like this as much as the sales guy says), bug fixes(my bad…), and last and my favorite is hardware retirement. In all of these cases change is needed, and in most required.

You will accept this change…

These are usually the changes related to bug fixes, security patches, or hardware refresh/retirement. These are required changes, why? Well, in the case of bug fixes, it’s usually something users have been griping about over and over without end. These usually aren’t a big issue, so long at that fix/patch doesn’t cause any unforeseen issues(like every “Patch Tuesday” from Microsoft, see this post at AskWoody on Susan Bradley’s MS-DEFCON system). Security patches are more of a black bag as they have more potential to break things (usually for good reason, see SMB v1 and copiers). The last is hardware, and very few users like hardware changes. Hardware changes are usually because it either can’t handle the workload anymore or it’s getting ready to release the magic smoke and go to the big recycle bin forever.

Do we have a choice?

No. All things change and we have only to keep up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make this transition easier. In the various positions I’ve had over the years doctors and teachers are among the most resistant to change, and be change is worse than the whole magnesium in a glass of water thing. If you have the support and the will making major change can be survivable, but the best way (if possible) is changes over time. Computers one year, infrastructure another, core software after that. In cases like a Windows 7 to 10 migration, it’s not always possible to make smaller changes.

Surviving the torches and pitchforks

Aside from the bottle of something to put in your coffee there are a few things we can do to make things easier. Get support from on high, get superiors to back the changes and the help you project that yes it’s needed. Write up documentation, and better yet, get vendors to do onsite training classes. Biggest and hardest is patience with users (they can smell anxiety and fear) and with the expanding ticket queue. Unlike the expansion of the universe, this larger queue will pass and shrink back to normal (if you’re really lucky it’ll shrink beyond that). Last, remind users you are there for them, it might take a few times, and keep things moving forward. Proving you can handle it will lessen the blow the next time things change and as anxious as we might be about a change the users will be exponentially more so. That anxiety can cause a feedback loop that chews up everyone.

It’ll be alright

Remember, change is inevitable but also manageable. Do what you can and communicate ahead of time, set policies and procedures in place, keep the brass on your side. And the rest will work itself out.

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