Sep 262011
Scocial Networks

Many companies are trying to jump on the Social Networking bandwagon in the belief that they can harness the power of social networking. There are several reasons touted for doing so such as empowering their employees, generating innovative ways of working and improving communications among a diverse workforce. Companies are investing big money in implementing social networking solutions in the belief that we, the workers, will all subscribe and collaborate to improve our productivity and therefore improve the company.

The key thing about a social network is the people in your network are there because you want them to be. On Facebook you invite people into your network or require someone accept you.  On twitter you Follow people you find interesting and ignore the rest. You can’t just connect strangers and expect them to collaborate in same ways a social network does.

Most people consciously (and correctly) separate their Social life from their working life. This doesn’t mean we can’t have real friends at work or that we can’t talk about work when we’re out with them. It’s the way we interact, and the fact we feel at ease while doing so. Anyone who’s ever been on an Office night out or a Team Building event will attest that, as fun as such events can be, they fall a bit short a truly “social” event.

You get the guy who tries to impress the boss at the bar by talking the talk, vis-à-vis value stream objectives within the delivery space from the product development perspective in a consumer driven schema across the global enterprise. (Yawn!).

You get the guy who wants to be talent spotted and immediately, annoyingly and loudly tries to take charge whenever the opportunity arises to take a leading role making sure that anyone in authority notices him.

You get the includer who goes around making sure everyone joins in (whether they want to be or not) forcing you to comment just to make them leave you alone only to leap on every syllable as if it’s the most profound thing they’ve ever heard, thus making the shyer victims recoil even further in embarrassment.

Then there’s the old guy who seen it all before and dismisses everything with a “been there, done that” or starts every sentence with “In my day” and constantly goes on about how things should be done and/or how the management are doing it all wrong. These guy’s are often accompanied by the enthusiasts who are usually novices who hang on every word and if they could, would follow the old guy around with a notebook. These are our future captains of industry and the reason we keep going around in circles.

You can probably think of quite a few other “types” to add to this list. The point is, that the way we interact with these types is totally different from the way we interact with our friends. In fact, other than the brief interactions demanded by social etiquette we probably wouldn’t socialise at all outside of work. We also know that during these events we too are being observed and typed and we subconsciously, or even consciously, adapt our behaviours accordingly. A company provided forum or social networking platform is exactly the same.

So why would anyone actually subscribe to a company social network (assuming it’s not compulsory, but let’s not even go there)?

Initially curiosity will get the better of most people, especially those who already use social networks anyway. The company involved will perceive this as a successful launch and announce it as such to the world. “Look at us, we’re a futuristic company with hip technologies!”

However once they start gathering metrics and measuring everything as all companies do, they will come to realise how many of these subscribers actually continue to contribute in the longer term. I suspect very few will for the reasons discussed above and then the reality will hit that they’ve spent shed loads of money on a party nobody wants to go to apart from a few “types” of employee . Meanwhile all the other users are just watching and making fun of the “ types” with their friends on Facebook.

The companies will then subtlety and quietly cut their losses and retreat from the social network arena and go back to doing what they do best. Telling us what to do and then making sure we get on with it.

Jul 212011

IT Service Delivery is the customer facing side of our IT department. After the Helpline, we are the people the customer phone when they’ve suffered poor service and we end up having to take the flak when things go wrong. As IT regularly does go wrong in a large organisation like ours, at any one time there’s always at least one dissatisfied customer looking for an opportunity to vent in the expectation that we will drag the people concerned out of the IT office, line them up against the wall and shoot them on their behalf.

The secret is to put on your game face, engage each one professionally and courteously and not get disheartened. Indeed some encounters can be quite pleasurable, but on the whole they aren’t. I was finding that after about seven years in this role I was getting less and less tolerant and it was sometimes hard to maintain the necessary decorum.

Like most companies these days we undertake performance reviews. At my last review I mentioned I fancied a change and I’d quite like to move away from the IT Service Delivery role. So I would welcome some development opportunities (training) which would provide me with additional skills, with which I could seek opportunities elsewhere within the IT department.

“They’re always looking for developers”, says my boss. “If I had the skills I’d be interested”, says I. A few weeks and zero training later and I’m now sat on the top floor in “Development Team C”, tasked with developing an electronic forms solution (something we have never done before) to interface with a multi-million pound project set to go-live at the end of the year. In at the deep end is a bit of an understatement.

Not long after my last performance review my boss moved onto a new role and it seems to me my new masters couldn’t wait to get rid of me and used the review as the catalyst for off-loading me. Am I feeling like an integral and valued member of the IT department? What do you think!

Anyway, here I am surrounded by programmers who’ve been doing this for years. They have their own language which mainly consists of acronyms. If I was to type a typical conversation up here I’d do so with Caps Lock turned on.

As well as learning to speak Geek, I’m reading up on PL/SQL, ASP.NET, Atern principles and DSDM methodologies while at the same time trying to write Functional Definitions (whatever they are) for the electronic forms and trying get to grips with the development tools I’ll be using to actually create them, while also struggling to understand all the various processes and procedures employed in my new role. Do I know what I’m doing? Do I heck as like!

Any significant change which takes us out of our comfort zone presents a challenge and can be quite stressful. I’m trying to rise to the challenge without suffering the stress. After all, I’ve been with the company for thirty-five years so I’ve seen a few changes in my time and managed to survive them all.

On the subject of stress, the guy who off-loaded me so readily had a heart attack last week, but being the trooper he is he still turned in for work the following day (only to be sent home again). Undeterred he turned up again the next day and this time stayed long enough to collapse and is now sat in a hospital bed sending people e-mails from his company supplied BlackBerry. If you’re willing to kill yourself for the firm, the firm will make all the right noises, but ultimately, will let you. Am I going to kill myself? Am I bo**ocks!

My new boss has just put an appointment in my diary for a performance review. this could be fun 😉

May 062011

We’ll the early summer sunshine finally broke yesterday and we got our first proper rain for several weeks. A huge sigh of relief from everyone as we now have something different to say to our colleagues in the mornings and a ready excuse for being miserable as we arrive for work. When the sun is shining you feel obliged to look cheerful and greet your co-workers with a smile and a “turned out nice again”. No such pressure when it’s raining, you can arrive grumpy and start the day as you mean to continue. A feeling of doom and gloom [More…]

May 032011
Back in harness

Back in harness today. It doesn’t take long for the daily routine to reclaim your soul and file away the events of the holiday in the memories file, but before I close the file drawer I’ll share some of my thoughts and observations on my week in Northumbria. When we describe something we generally do so by comparing it to something else we already know well. So where The Lake District is very green, hilly and sparsely populated and the locals speak with a funny accent (mainly Polish). Northumbria is very green, hilly and sparsely populated and the locals speak [More…]