Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Enemies Far Far Away

Guest Post by Tiffany Songvilay

I had a great time in Jim Adcock’s SharePoint Group Therapy governance session at SharePoint Saturday Houston. He tells a story about how he embraced a squeaky wheel and turned her into one of the biggest fans of the project. On an Enterprise scale, I disagree with this approach.

I have a quote in my Change Management 101 presentation, “In situations where there are strong pressures to conform, lone dissenters can have a major effect” (Scott Plous, Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making). In my experience as a change management consultant, the squeaky wheel is typically a laggard on the technology adoption lifecycle. When I go into an organization, I am not surprised to see that the majority of their technology support effort is being spent on an audience that is resistant to change. My strategy differs from Jim’s in that I see a higher success rate in moving the squeaky wheels into technology silos. If they don’t want to change, I find it’s much better not to force them into it right away. It’s simply not in their nature to jump on board with the latest and greatest. I find that they are a better ally when I allow them to lag behind. At the same time, I let them know that the consequence of lagging is that they will no longer be supported by our support organization. It’s the same thing Microsoft does when it ends the lifecycle of a product. IT governance needs to be able to retire outdated systems as part of an overall health strategy. By explaining this approach and giving them a deadline to get into compliance, I am putting the ball back in their court. They understand that I need to free up my resources to go and get success stories from the innovators and early adopters in an organization and they appreciate that they don’t have to go first.

Jim was saying that he invites his lone dissenter to be a member of the SharePoint governance committee. While I certainly agree in theory with the idea that differing interests and opinions need to be represented in any committee, I am simply saying that I think his time and energy as a consultant and advocate could have been more profitable if he’d been working with departments who wanted the change and embraced the new tool set. Many times on committees a consensus has to be reached. You might as well call it a unanimous vote because my experience on committees is that once you give a squeaky wheel the power to stop technology change, they become a wrench in the works. I don’t invite anyone who doesn’t adhere to a set of core governing IT principles. If that squeaky wheel wants to keep a legacy system for 20 years, I don’t want them on my governance committee.

In addition, I believe that oiling the wheel sets a bad change management precedent for our clients. Technology change is never going to stop. I believe it is our responsibility to teach people how to self sooth during these times of transition and to let them know that if they are not on a path to get into compliance with our IT Standards, then we are not going to respond to their temper tantrums. They can learn to support themselves if they don’t want to comply.

Centralizing governance is not for the faint of heart. I believe that Jim’s approach with this particular client continued to reinforce the bad behavior she had learned through the years. By continuing to tell this story in the organization, it sets a precedent that all users will be handheld through any uncomfortable situation. The problem with IT being considered a services organization is that people confuse that with it being a customer service organization. It’s not. It is a governing body. My challenge for large companies is to move away from the labor-intensive and cost inefficiency of hand holding. It goes along with my favorite quote from this therapy session. Jim said something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing), “If you don’t trust the people you’ve hired to do a job then that’s an HR problem; not a SharePoint security issue.” At the end of the day, Jim’s example is referencing a person who was creating her own problems and then insisting that IT fix them. She was used to being ignored and dismissed. Jim took it upon himself to make her an ally. I applaud him for that. I really do. I just disagree with the approach as an overall governance principle. If you haven’t hired people who are willing to update business processes and technology to keep the company more profitable, then that’s not my IT problem.

I do think that it is important for IT to understand the business and I do agree that I have seen the needs of a lot of business units ignored when developing technology strategy. I’m not suggesting we continue to ignore the business and roll out irrelevant solutions. I am saying that it is our responsibility to make our users less dependent on IT when they are whining and crying about a software upgrade. Instead, let’s design intuitive solutions that meet real business needs. Let’s oil the wheels of our enemies by making self-service and user-centered development a part of our governance plan. The first step to user adoption in my opinion is to stop making change an option. And governance is a tool we can use to fix that very real problem. A squeaky wheel is the result of bad governance. You don’t fix that by throwing customer service at it.

Tiffany is a SharePoint subject-matter expert working on enterprise records management projects. She blogs while running on a human-sized hamster wheel that squeaks constantly.

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Missed the other posts in this series?

SharePoint Saturday Houston Throwdown: Whither the Squeaky Wheel?
Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Enemies Closer, by Jim Adcock
The Great Debate: Your Turn!


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