Regardless of where you pursue your high-tech career, there are a number
of pitfalls that can make your work more difficult and your career
less secure. One of the most common of these pitfalls happens to be
unreliable technology systems and the effect they have on your clients.
Computer users have long memories, especially when it comes to technology
that fails regularly and with sometimes damaging results. Even worse,
they will remember, and often refuse to use, systems in the future,
based on these bad first impressions.
Lack of trust
While it may seem a bit irrational for clients to write off your technological
projects, I have seen it happen more than once. In one case, back in
the early days of networking, a large corporation worked very hard
to develop a network linking all sorts of remote buildings and locations.
Unfortunately, the networking system was less than robust. The network
would often crash and in the then current environment of Windows 3.1,
each users’ PC would hang completely, losing all the work not
saved up to that point. You can imagine the individual user’s
These networking issues were solved fairly quickly, but the users
had had such a bad experience, countless of them would refuse to
network servers. They would store all their files locally even though
the IT department had explained the benefits of data backups and
the ease of sharing their files with their co-workers. The damage
been done. A few months of unreliability and the users would never
again trust the network system. The IT department could try and force
the users to utilize the network systems, but it was a constant uphill
battle the entire time I worked at that company.
As this example shows, it can be very important to have systems well
tested long before they are released to the general public. You can
never make a second “first impression” in life or in high-tech
work. If your systems are flaky or deliver far less than the needs
of your users, you may have a hard time ever winning users back to
your side. Once you lose the trust of your users in one area, your
overall reputation can be damaged.
Whenever you are developing a system, insure that you have all of the
major bugs worked out before you show it to the first end user, though
you may be pressured into an early release by your direct management
or higher-up executives. This is fairly common in all companies, which
requires you to convey to the “powers that be” that the
success of the entire project, and many projects to come, depends on
delivering a fully functional product that the users will adopt and
use. Delivering an unreliable product, even one that performs some
functions extremely well, can lead to many larger problems down the
When you are testing your new systems, cultivate a collection of people
who understand both the needs of the system and your needs as a technology
worker. These tech-friendly people can assist you working the bugs
out of a system, but they also have enough understanding of the technology
that they understand the process. You shouldn’t have to worry
about these people lacking trust in your systems when they are finally
implemented. They understand that there will be flaws as the system
With the help of your “user advisors” you can develop your
system in a safe environment and avoid beta-testing your systems on
the general populous. This will help to prevent any nasty surprises
from arising that could damage the trust of your users.
Computer users can have extremely long memories. This is true whether
you are developing software systems inside a corporate environment,
as a freelance consultant or even as a software manufacturer for
the world at large. Test your systems well, with the input of knowledgeable
users before releasing it. This may sound like commonsense advice,
but I am sure you all have examples of systems that were rushed out
the door, only to be discarded by users as untrustworthy, unreliable
or just plain bad. Protect the success of your company, the trust
your users and your own high-tech career by insuring that the systems
and software you develop are truly ready for the outside world.
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