Other People's Problems
by Douglas E. Welch
August 20, 1999
© 1999, Douglas E. Welch
In any career there comes a time when you see the true purpose
of your work. It may happen slowly or quickly but every technology
worker soon realizes that their job is not writing programs, repairing
computers or training computer users. Their job has become an
endless cycle of correcting other people's mistakes. These mistakes
might be poorly designed or written programs, faulty computer
hardware or unstable online systems but it is always the computer
technologist's job to make them work regardless of how flawed
the systems are to begin with. As you can imagine, this can get
frustrating at times and I believe it is this factor alone that
makes many technology workers surly.
Let there be bugs
It has become common practice for software manufacturers to deliver
software that contains a variety of known and unknown flaws. It
always seems that these flaws crop up at the worse times and with
the worst people. I have often been called into a high-level person's
office to explain why this or that doesn't work as documented.
Regardless of where the error lies it is the technology worker
that is told to "make it work, or else!" As unfair as this sounds
it is the current state of affairs in any technology job.
In some ways this makes technology workers a lightening rod for
user discontent. It is much easier to abuse your local support
person than try and get a complaint to the company that manufactured
the product. Technology workers are regularly blamed for missed
deadlines, over-time and over-budget projects and a host of other
There are a few ways you can protect yourself from poorly built
hardware and software. You must be ruthless about digging up information
about flaws as quickly as you can. There are various web sites
and discussions groups that can help you discover these flaws
often within days of software being released to the public. You
also need to document any solutions or work-arounds to flaws you
encounter yourself. Sharing this knowledge around the technology
staff can help reduce the number of calls from users and generate
a quick response when the problem does arise.
In reality, though, the only true solution to flawed technology
is an aggressive policy against any manufacturer that releases
it. Technology workers need to band together, through professional
groups and associations, to fight against these companies and
help insure some peace of mind for themselves. It is only by collectively
fighting big technology businesses that we can hope to have any
effect. These companies need to understand that if they deliver
flawed technology we will refuse to recommend it or implement
it in our companies. It is only by effecting their bottom line
that we will effect change in these companies.
Too long we have allowed these companies to deliver shoddy products.
The travesty of shipping "Beta" or "Pre-release" software to end
users is only the latest and most egregious effort by these manufacturers
to deny any responsibility for their products. We only dig ourselves
a deeper hole each day we allow this to continue. How can we ever
hope to successfully implement technology when we are being thwarted
by the very companies who are supposed to be helping us?
I believe that flawed technology is one of the biggest problems
facing the business world today. We regularly hear how computer
technology is only marginally effecting worker productivity and
the bottom line. I believe that this is a direct result of the
flawed software and hardware being foisted on companies and individuals.
Too much time and money is spent trying to get these systems to
work correctly instead of using them to accomplish actual tasks.
The next time you are faced with a flawed product take the time
to express your displeasure. Encourage others to do the same.
We all need to stand up for ourselves and send a message to technology
manufacturers. Technology workers should be helping users accomplish
work with their computers, not constantly making up for other
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out other interesting information at WelchWrite.com!