» Archive for February, 2008

The Personal Cost of Knowledge Sharing Failures

Friday, February 29th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Memo to Lenovo: You owe me six hours from Saturday.  That includes time I spent on the phone with your technical support staff and time spent in following their instructions.

I like Lenovo, both the company and its products.  The tech support people are generally friendly, cooperative, English-speaking, and concerned about resolving my problem.  But they either don’t have all the information they need or are leaving out key parts of the puzzle.

It started with a crash.  The ThinkVantage System Update had been running overnight but didn’t quite make it.  When I restarted the machine, the Access Connections tool that manages Wi-Fi connections wouldn’t connect to the WLAN.

I first spoke with Sainabou in tech support, who told me I should reimage the machine although I could also reinstall four files and that should resolve the problem.  I asked her about using Windows “restore points” to go back to an earlier system configuration (my attempts to use restore points had all failed) but she didn’t comment on that.

When I asked her to remain on the phone with me while I followed her instructions, she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she had already “spent too much time on this call” and needed to end it.  However, she offered to transfer me to Lenovo Experts Live, who, for a fee, would stay on the phone with me.

She also assured me that the instructions she had given me were all that I would need.

After ascertaining that Sainabou’s overly simple instructions lacked certain key steps, I called again.  The person who answered told me he couldn’t help but offered Lenovo Experts Live, again, for a fee.  I asked for a supervisor and was transferred to James Rosell, who did stay on the phone and clarify the procedures, staying on while I uninstalled and reinstalled files.

After about 90 minutes, he asked if he could call back in a short while and left to take another call.  Things were going well at that point so I had no objections.

But he didn’t call back, and since things had gone south at that point I called him.  He then provided additional instructions.

After more unsuccessful attempts at repair I decided to switch to my spare hard drive and start fresh.

But I ran into a bit of difficulty in the setup and now spoke with Warren in tech support.  He solved the problem very quickly and I mentioned to him the restore points issue from hours ago.  He told me that the restore points feature will frequently work only if the machine is booted up in safe mode.  Why Sainabou or James didn’t mention this critical information is beyond me.

Since I still had the other drive, I reinstalled it and went into safe mode and then ran restore points.  Problem solved.

Now, could I have my six hours back please?  And to Lenovo and others, please find better ways of providing your tech support staff with all of the information they need to provide all the answers, not just some of them.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Working From Home vs. Working From the Office: Trading one set of interruptions for another

Friday, February 22nd, 2008 by Cody Burke

We have been looking at the responses to our New Workplace Challenges survey (if you haven’t taken it yet, it’s at http://www.basex.com/btwiosurv1), and some interesting observations have bubbled to the top that we would like to share with you all.

When asked to describe the difference in terms of interruption and information overload between working at a corporate office and a home office, a few common themes became apparent.

A sample of responses from the pro-home office camp:

-  Home office is always much quieter, and more productive.
-  When I worked in a corporate office I was continually being pulled into meetings, most of which were unproductive.

A sample of responses from the pro-corporate office camp:

- I find interruptions at home more difficult to deal with.  They are more personal in nature and, therefore, more important to me.
- At home it was interruptions from kids, spouse, the dog needed to go out, the doorbell, the home phone, work phone, Sametime messages, email.
- At home there is a combined information overload of work and home which made it seem more unmanageable.

This response sums up nicely the complexity of blending work and home lives:

- The home “schedule” is really a melding of at least three different schedules: work, personal, and family.  Therefore, the interactions are quite different (and more emotionally charged) than they would be with co-workers.

Quite a few responses indicated that working from home allowed them to “hide”, and actually get some work done by distancing themselves from co-workers and distractions.

Whether hiding at home from office distractions or trying to keep work separate from domestic concerns, the consensus in the responses was that distractions are present in both places, and it’s up to the individual to set limits and put systems in place for themselves.

A final thought from this respondent:

- The mobile phone does not distinguish between home & office.  I reserve the right not to see e-mail at home… the right to be off-line is my main defense.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Myth of the Paperless Office

Friday, February 15th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Pundits have been proclaiming the imminent arrival of the paperless office since the 1970s.  So far, they’ve been wrong.  If anything, we print more today than we did back then.

Yet some still believe in this; those who engage in looking for the paperless office may be engaging in a Sisyphean task.

The New York Times ran a story on February 10 by Hannah Fairfield entitled “Pushing Paper Out the Door.”  It speaks of paper-reducing technologies in homes and offices, citing families who scan their bills and opt for on-line statements.  To Fairfield I say “not so fast.”

Indeed Fairfield quotes Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive: “Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is. Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow.  When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”

To respond directly to Kahle, last week.

My friend and fellow analyst Amy Wohl famously commented, around 1978, that she thought that the paperless office was “about as useful as the paperless toilet.”

But the article had a bigger problem.  While it provided an excellent look on the move to digitization, it completely ignored the elephant in the room, namely a compatibility conundrum that has been with us since the first computer was turned on over 60 years ago.

Books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed hundreds of years ago are accessible without any special equipment.  For that matter, the Rosetta Stone (dating from 196 B.C.E.), was also readable upon its discovery in 1799.

Contrast this with millions of files on 8″ or even 5 1/4″ floppy diskettes, various obsolete tape cartridges, and NASA’s earliest photographs of the earth – all mostly inaccessible with today’s technology.

One might presume that the technology revolution of the late twentieth century had increased our ability to preserve our history and cultural artifacts.  In actuality, we have failed.

Moving all of our papers to digital form without a plan to ensure accessibility not only 5 years from now but 50 years and 100 years and beyond is not making information MORE accessible but risking that it will become LESS accessible.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.