January 30, 2004
** Listen to this
column on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
As we begin another year I am starting a project with all
of my current clients. I am making a big effort to address some of the
smaller high-tech problems that have lingered over the years. Sometimes,
in the heat of fighting the big battles, we just don’t have the
energy to address the smaller problem, which can often be much more difficult
to resolve. Now is the time, though, to finally solve all those nagging
issues and make everything work like it should.
Over the years, and usually mutual agreement, my clients and I have ignored
some of the smaller problems in their high-tech lives. Modems that didn’t
work quite right, monitors that were a little crooked or dim, software
that crashed a little too frequently and a host of other issues. It was
simply easier, and cheaper, for the client to live with the problem.
There are unseen costs involved with such an attitude, though. It is often
the small problems that produce the largest amount of frustration. We
don’t think about it, but every time the software crashes, the stress
level rises. Multiply this by thousands of occurrences and you can imagine
why some people are turning gray, at least metaphorically. Constant frustration
can bubble under the surface for a long time, and then come bursting out
at the worst possible moments. In many cases, solving the little problems
can go a long way towards defusing the larger issues.
Where to start?
The first step in the process is to simply try and remember each and every
problem that has been ignored. This can take a bit of time, as you often
have to re-experience the problem to remind yourself that it exists. Place
a small notepad next to each computer so that it is easy to jot down problems
as they occur. Explain to your client what you are trying to achieve.
They need to understand the reason for revisiting these issues. After
a week or so, get together with the client and review the list. You might
be surprised what you find there.
I can guarantee you that several of the items will have quick and simple
solutions. Perhaps new drivers have been released for a network card,
or a Windows Update has solved a conflict. Since the problems weren’t
being recorded, there was no list to review on a regular basis to see
if a solution had been found. These problems could have been solved weeks
or months before, if only someone had remembered the problem existed.
Don’t let your small problems linger through inattention. If you
don’t have a solution now, make sure you have some way of reviewing
the problem a week or so into the future, and at regular intervals after
Your goal, by the end of this year, is not to have every problem, big
and small, solved. While that would be nice, it is obviously impracticable.
Instead, you want to develop a system that allows you to track all problems,
no matter what their size and follow-up on any that remain. In big corporate
IT departments, this “follow-up” would go by the name Customer
Relationship Management or CRM. Whether you are a corporate IT worker,
or a one-man shop you need to be constantly engaged in CRM. It is through
this constant follow-up that you build a better relationship with your
clients. Instead of letting items fall through the cracks, there is an
active engagement, every day, every week, every month.
You might think this new focus on these problems will simply mean more
work for you. While it may initially, over time you will find that solving
these small problems opens up sections of time that allow you to solve
larger problems and develop new and interesting projects. Instead of wallowing
in the morass of driver conflicts, power supply failures and the like,
you can be developing a new web service, a new product or even a new company.
It is a simple fact that you can improve your high-tech career by focusing
on the small things. Clearing you head, and your to-do list can do wonders
for your peace of mind and your pocketbook.