I look in the refrigerator. I see an apple, a carton of milk and a block of cheese. Except for these three items, the refrigerator is empty. The cupboard, as they say, is (almost) bare. My choices of what to eat are easy. The food is healthy. I quickly get a snack, and I can continue on with my day.
Then, I go to the grocery store, and I come home with bags and bags of food. They are all loaded in the refrigerator, and I am set for the rest of the week. Now I go to get a snack, and I find myself overwhelmed by the options. Do I have an apple, or a cup of pudding? Do I go for a slice of low-fat cheese, or maybe I’m in the mood for a piece of cheesecake? Bathed in the cool, dull light of the refrigerator, I gaze with my mouth agape wondering what to do and what to eat.
This is a food problem. This is a diet problem. This is a time problem. Actually, I think this is a technology problem.
Ideally, technology makes our lives easier. We can quickly, cheaply and effectively access information and people. Usually, we like software to be simple, easy to use. We want the interface to be uncluttered so we know exactly what to do and how to do it. This software, whatever the software is, works well and good, until we want to do more.
Add a button here, a field there. Make it work on my phone and on my computer. Also, I need to share things, I need to be able to easily make a Tweet, and I need all the information in The Cloud. Every added piece of functionality is also an added opportunity for frustration and confusion.
In additional to key functionality, remember that software rarely operates completely independently. Facebook connects to Twitter. Slack connects to Office 365. Outlook connects to Skype, which connects to Teams, which connects to SmartSheet and on and on.
Users have it tough. They are trained on how to use a certain piece of software to accomplish a certain function. Then we introduce a new software package, and then a package beyond that featuring new functionality that connects to a different software in a new way. Understandably, users get frustrated. Overloaded. They simply want an apple, and we are giving them a refrigerator full of food.
But maybe this is the way it is supposed to be. We will eat the apple, cheese and milk, and then we will run out of food. Our software platforms need to develop and grow. There needs to be new ways to do things. We need to think big, and imagine functionality that will serve us today and tomorrow. There always needs to be new food in that refrigerator.
For instance, for a long time I encouraged my colleagues to use Yammer as a way to collaborate with enhanced transparency and effectiveness. Then, Microsoft introduced Teams. So, I encouraged my colleagues to use Teams for their department collaboration, and Yammer for their organizational collaboration. Then I encouraged them to use OneDrive, Sharepoint, Sway, SmartSheet, Stream, Forms and Planner. Soon, I will be encouraging them to use Kaizala.
I understand the frustration. So many tools to do so many things. I understand the confusion. What exactly do we do where? How can we make sense of all this? How can we make this all work? Most of our users just want us to tell them which one piece of software to use for the exact need they have at that moment in time. I would like to know that too.
If we approach our technology that way, though, our technology will never grow. We will lose the desire and will to seek connections. How does one type of task connect to another type of task? How can one new functionality help to streamline and improve another functionally? What have we learned, and how can we change how we work so we are all more effective. So we can dream more. So we can accomplish more.
Next time you are chugging along, being very happy typing your document in Word, and your IT department encourages you try out a new piece of software, save your Word file. Close the software. Listen to the reasons the new software is being introduced and how it might help your work. How will it help your work today? How can it streamline your work tomorrow? How can this new functionality serve the mission and vision of your organization?
Stay hungry. Eat the apple. Enjoy the cheesecake. Use the software.