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Subject:Re: MIS Is Not the Enemy From:"Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 30 May 1995 12:07:00 -0600
Their biggest problem was getting the user community involved in making
decisions which would affect them; their second biggest problem was
dealing with the hell that users raised after decisions had already been
made, sometimes at the cost of hundreds of thousands of company dollars.
I've heard this before, but in those instances I investigated the reality was a
little different. The user base was filled with "You're going to do what you
want to us anyway, so why should I disrupt my schedule to provide input which
will be ignored" attitude, which was why they had trouble getting involvement
from the users. The historical data I found indicated that the MIS depts in
question had listened politely to the users, then done what was most convenient
for them (the MIS depts) and tried to explain to the users how this was also to
their (the users) benefit.
I had an interesting example of that played out in front of me here just
recently. One of the IS staffers here met with an engineer in an effort to
bridge the gulf between the groups. (I'll give her credit for making an attempt,
anyway.) She said she knew they hadn't been serving them well, and asked him to
explain what he needed in order to improve the situation. He was ready with a
list of things that the engineering staff had been needing in the computer area
(support for various products, access to some new technology, etc.) for a long
time. It got to be amusing listening to the constant "I can't[won't] help you do
that" answer to every single item on the list, without exception. Yet that same
staffer still complains that the reason Engineering thinks they aren't getting
good service is that they can't make up their mind what they want and won't help
MIS sell anything to the upper management!
Having been in the possition of making a stink after decisions have been made, I
can point out that very often the decisions are made without complete or correct
info. In one case a decision was made based on a survey of existing hardware and
software. When the decision was announced, we wondered why it was such a weird
one. When we saw the "survey" data, it was apparent. The "data" was concocted to
support the "political" decision which had already been made, and it had no
relation to reality. Partly it's the fault of the front-line troops who fudged
the data, but mainly it's the fault of a manger who wouldn't countenance any
deviation from his own particular preferences. He "knew", for example, that
"everyone in the company used 1-2-3 except for a few troublemakers" and they
obliged by not contacting any department which had a substantial number of
copies of the software he wanted excluded (even though Excel outpolled 1-2-3 by
about 1.5:1 in a real survey we took in an effort to refute the previous one).
Yes, George, MIS depts are more often than not staffed with good conscientious
folks. But that isn't enough. Sometimes management gets in the way. Sometimes
it's their own preconceptions. Good intentions doesn't mean good procedures.
Rather than bashing MIS, we tech comm types ought to be partnering with
the computing folks. We're a microcosm of typical end users, the ideal
evaluators and testers of the technology that MIS wants to deliver.
Instead of bashing, let's cooperate. That way, everyone's better off, and
IT solutions are true solutions, not another set of problems.
Yes, but remember that working together requires effort from both sides. In my
experience, MIS shops tend to equate "work with me" to "do it my way." There are
exceptions, and if you have one, be thankful. And give 'em a kiss for me. We
need more like them.
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.