Recently, I was tasked with rolling out a service desk system at a global software company. Traditional change management approaches (the good practice that I learned at varsity) would dictate that I need to start with some awareness of the change, spend a few weeks educating folks as to the benefits, staging the rollout, and all sorts of additional best practice. The only catch here, was that the CEO wanted the entire system rolled out (replacing the previous one) within two weeks flat. Globally.

By Snowden (Own creation, own work) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m all for effective change management, but as sense-making tools like the Cynefin framework show us, sometimes when we are plunged into chaos we need to make decisions to stabilise things quickly. In this case, the platform that was in use was plagued with issues and was more frustrating than helpful to the teams. Now, lets relate back to the title of this article. Many companies “marry” their technology. They’ve bought the wedding ring, been on dates for years, but once the cross that line, they perhaps find the fit is not that ideal. It’s the bias of throwing more money at a problem, for the simple fact that you’ve spent so much money on it already. In this instance, the system had been in place for years, and was not living up to expectation. It was time for a divorce.

Bin the Bias!

Had we gone the approach of change management, I suspect we would still be waiting to implement something new. Thankfully, the CEO understood the value of switching over and not throwing good money after bad. In parallel to the system that was currently in place, we started setting up a new service desk application with the simplest of workflows we possibly could. The fact of taking the simplest workflow required means that we avoid addition complexity later, and allows us to operate in a greatly streamlined manner.

Dedicate a Team

A small team was formed within the company, taking stakeholders from the top executive, down to the callcentre agents (very important!), in order to ascertain the minimum requirements and build a solution that worked across the board. It’s also vitally important to note that this team was dedicated, which effectively allowed for the new system to be built over three days. The following two days involved testing the new system, and after that first week we had our first proof of concept!

Start Using It!

The next week kicked in with the teams using the new service desk tool for capturing new faults and queries. The previous system remained solely for the issues that were open before the new system started being used. Certainly, this could have been seen as dangerous, and many Project Managers would be horrified, but the system in place before was already causing more harm than good, so why not just change over. Any hiccups (or hiccoughs?) could be ironed out in the new system, and not involve a waste of time in transfer over later.

Issues

Sure enough, we came across issues. The main one was migration of data. The data from the two systems were incompatible with each other, and we took a call to leave the historic information behind. Sure, this means that we would have to retain one license for the old system at a cost, but the cost of developing an integration between the systems to transfer historic data across would have been far more. Again, why throw money at a problem that will simply go away later. We could still export to spreadsheets, and it was incredibly unlikely that anyone would need to go back to historic cases, so why move them over. It’s important to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them.

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How can we go about this?

The point of having a dedicated team for this is a difficult one for many organisations. Teams are there to run with issues, often in the leanest way possible. A consultant managing the process can often be a great middle ground for having dedication, while still maintaining your staff momentum on other issues. Going forward, keep things simple. Diving into complex and complicated solutions often causes more harm than good, and often results in a very messy breakup down the line. At the rate technology advances, it pays to keep your eye out for improving your operations on a regular basis.

If you don’t have the teams to dedicated to this, consultancies like ours specialise in a unique approach for you, while also focusing on teaching you to run with the solution yourself afterwards, avoiding ongoing consultation costs beyond your needs. Don’t wait for a messy breakup.

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