Monday, September 04, 2006

Techno-bureaucracy

Today, the technology most office workers use is purchased with the intent of making us more efficient and focused on productivity. At least, that's the message pushed by my industry and the theory behind the purchases of most organizations.

As someone economically literate, I often wonder if that's really true. For instance, take my phone. Please...take my phone. It replaced an obselete system that must have been, gosh...well over 18 months old.

Our system has VOIP as well as whole bunch of other convergency-industry acronyms. In addition to the requisite 12 buttons for dialing (e.g. 1-9, *,0, #) there are roughly three times as many buttons on it not directly related to dialing. They include several "multi-function softkeys" whose meaning changes in each usage context, a multi-row screen and yet more buttons to manipulate (well...sometimes, depending on context) the menu choices on the screen. I have the simple version of the phone. You should see that one that the "key-switch systems operator" uses. Roughly translated, "key-switch systems operator" is convergence industry-speak for "receptionist."

The user's manual that comes with the simple version of my phone is a thick booklet. It's a book full of text that reads something like this ...then push the appropriate [assigned function] key. Note that the actual sequence and key-group assignments will vary depending upon your configuration... Huh? Using an obselete phone, when I want to redial a number, I hit "redial."

On the "make me more efficient in my corner office" phone, re-dialing now works something like the following 12-step program:

1. Briefly scan the phone for the re-dial button. Scan it again. Okay, this time slow down and read each button.

Walk out of my office. Recognize the support staff has gone home and can no longer help me.

2. Stare at the phone for a full minute, scanning across its numerous buttons on the phone with interesting-sounding labels such as "Feature." "Feature" is a rather promising-sounding button that I really ought to check out some day but, I must attempt to stay focused to quickly find the button labelled something like "re-dial."

3. Briefly wonder if the person I wanted to quickly call back has already left his desk to go to the budget meeting with the wrong estimate I just gave him.

4. Play with the smart-menu system for a while and read the display area above each "soft key" hoping to find something like "re-dial."

5. Briefly debate whether I should interrupt yet another late-working executive or technical manager next to me or, to save them time, initiate a formal service order call to the help desk and burn the time of several successive technicians who also don't routinely use most of the phone's fancy features either.

6. Being the smart technology executive that I am, recognize that there's a better, faster, more efficient way. I just might happen to have this person's phone number in my Outlook Contacts list. All I have to do is...whoa...I'm timed out as required by the new security policy applied to my desktop computer...or domain account.

7. Wiggle the mouse and hit the shift-key while attempting to recall the latest seemingly random hardened domain password.

8. Try again...this time, checking the status of the [Caps Lock] key and type MUCH more slowly and much more carefully...Shame on me for trying to rush this!

9. Okay, again. But, this time...double-check the domain name and take extreme care with my typing while wondering if I have mentally transposed a couple of the characters in the one of more than a dozen hardened passwords I'm expected to remember and not write down or store in a file!

10. Wait a while...recognizing that I probably got locked out for a while by the security system for failed attempts. Try again.

11. Bingo! I can tell by the changing screen it's going to let me in to my computer. Great! I can be an efficient technology executive again. Okay. We're back on track.

12. Say "no" to some pop-up screen offering to be the default application for something or other.

13. Click the "Remind me to register later" option on a pop-up window for something or other, as that somehow sounds less distracting than "Register now."

14. Note that this is becoming a bit more than the estimated 12-step program for re-dialing. It appears there may be many more steps. Do not fret. This is generally accepeted. Cost and time overunns are not unusual in my industry for complex technical projects we expect to do in a hurry, such as "redial." We just chalk it up to something we call a "minor technical glitch."

15. Briefly read a pop-up warning me that some program or other is convinced that it is not running the lastest version. Click the "cancel" button because I'm a man on a mission and I need to stay focused on...um...oh yeah...starting Microsoft Outlook.

16. Briefly wonder why Outlook is not already running just like I left it before my last phone call, then shrug and click the "yellow clock icon" to launch Outlook again and wait for it to do its thing with a managed Exchange server located (literally) in a bunker on the East Coast.

While waiting on Outlook to do whatever it does with the Exchange server, breathe a little sigh of relief that I still remember why I was logging in to my computer...it was to check Outlook for something.

17. Sit and stare at the Microsoft Exchange Server's password request, recalling I recently changed it to comply with yet another security policy requiring different hardened passwords that do not match the domain passwords for systems not under our domain. Say a few choice words.

18. Rack my brains. Vaguely recall that, precisely as requested, I compliantly changed my hardened password just before the long weekend. For those of you that don't understand the implications of doing this on "systems not under our domain" ...suffice it to say that there's going to be a minor problem and delay with connecting to Exchange. Local Domain="Alaska" Exchange Server="Florida" and has a different security administrator. That's a technical glitch.

19. A smart and efficent technology executive like me is not deterred. I WILL efficiently acheive my mission and each goal, despite minor problems like this. As a technologist, I can "troop on" because I understand concepts, such as "asymetric redundancy" which, roughly translated, means "I have a handy little device on my hip that will stay synchronized with the Exchange server. " Well, at least, it will stay synchronized until the next Microsoft security patch is installed.

20. Thankfully, it's not yet Patch Tuesday (which always occurs exactly 1 day prior to the well-attended "Liquid Lunch Wednesday" at a nearby bar and grill.)

21. Reach for the belt holster and pull out my PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). Get past marvelling at the tiny little 'qwerty' keyboard. Tap the tiny little button with the green marking that powers up the color backlit touch-sensitive display.

22. Rather than view the familiar desktop littered with program icons and search for the contacts icon, stare in confusion at the full-screen animation providing me with a warm welcome and offering to walk me through the user-setup routine. Huh? Setup routine? What happened to my setup?

23. Quietly say a few choice words. Stay calm and keep a laser-like focus on the mission at hand...if I can just remember what it was.

24. Painfully note that there is no is "Cancel" option on the user set-up screen. Note with dread that pressing the house symbol has no effect.

25. Being the practical, realistic technology executive that I am, quickly recognize that the device's warm offer to walk me through the set-up process is an offer I will not be allowed to refuse. On the bright side, it assures me that user set-up process should only take a few minutes. It lied.

26. Stare at the PDA's screen and try to recall why I was desparate to get the PDA working in the first place. Recognizing that a.) it's very late, b.) I'm tired, punchy, feeling frustrated and should just drive home and get a good night's sleep.

I'm much better at efficiently by-passing my industry's productivity tools when I'm fresh.

4 Comments:

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extreme specialization is a natural outcome of complexity. You of all people should know that! -JS

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Oberon said...

........i see that you can see......good for you.

 
At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Redial" button on your phone is a black button to the left of the scrolling/volume key.

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger Green Salad said...

Thanks. Here's what happens when I push it:

1. I get an oscillating dial-tone for two seconds.

2. During those 2 seconds, the following message pops up on the phone's screen:

Redial[*/#] /SPEED[] -1
S&R Pick >>>>>

2. After 2 seconds of the phone waiting, I get a fast busy.

 

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