Archive for September, 2008

How to communicate with the “business” side

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

As IT people, we look at the world logically; we know that if A follows B and B follows C then A must also follow C. We know that if the user wants to view the balance on an account, they better have the account number before viewing it. However, business people don’t seem to have that same view. We assume they aren’t interested, or that they’re illogical when they say “why do I have to enter the account number to view the account balance?”

The problem I find is usually one of language. For example, in the question above I figured out the business person wasn’t being ignorant of the need for an account number. They simply wanted to *scan* it, not *enter* it. To us IT people, there’s absolutely no difference how the number gets into the system, but to them that difference seemed so great they had to point it out that they never wanted to *enter* it again.

Yes, there are obstinate and stupid people out there, but not everyone with those questions is either. And the moment we respond to a question like the one above with a groan or a “duh!” comment, we do become condescending and anti-business. The best way to deal with these questions is to keep the dialog from degenerating. Rephrase the question, restate your problem with their assertion, and get them to confirm it again. Something such as “well, we need the account number before we can show the account balance, so where do you want us to get the account number from?”

Keep the discussion friendly, don’t get patronizing or condescending. Try hard to discover the real root of their issue. It’s critical to treat them like peers, and not talk down to them. Remember that they must bring some value to someone in the business, so try to respect that. And yes, sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes it’s just never, ever going to sink in. Try bringing in other people to moderate the discussion, or to bring alternate suggestions.

“Think of the Children” legislation

Monday, September 8th, 2008

And why am I not surprised when the public buys the “think of the children” pitch hook, line and sinker; when previous measures passed on this logic have done little to anything to address the problems they’ve supposed to have fixed while at the same time introducing new issues?

If only people would seriously think of the children when they consider legislation that would sacrifice liberties: what kind of society do you want to leave to you’re children after you’re gone? Already I hear parents reminiscing about a time when they could play pickup baseball or hang out by the lake until well after sunset without a care in the world. Even though the activities may be different (e.g. playing Madden 2008 instead of touch football on the street), why can’t children today get to enjoy the broad freedom to play that their parents enjoyed? And more directly on this topic, a generation who grew up with a rite of passage of driving around with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends at 16 years (and younger in certain areas) is increasingly pushing to raise the driving age to 18. The hazards of our society haven’t changed that dramatically in the past 40 years; on average in the U.S. violent crime rates are signifcantly lower than they were in the early 1970s, a time considered to be the “good old days” by many Baby Boomer parents. Child abduction and pedophila have existed for much longer than the past few decades, and I’m curious to see whether there’s really been an increase in incidence of these problems or just an increase of coverage of them.

While some measures like educating children about not getting into a car with strangers and our present Amber Alert system are good, imposing a surveillance society does little to improve actual safety from the ostensible hazards that prompt such measures and at the same time creates new hazards of abuse by government and corporations.

It amazes me that so many a generation that grew up in a time where the defeat of Nazism and fascism were fresh in our collective minds (their parents experienced World War II firsthand) and our freedoms were cherished as our distinguishing feature from totalitarian Communism can turn its back on the values they were raised with and build an increasingly restrictive society for their children. The same holds true of our fiscal values; a generation raised on thrift is now building an unimaginable amount of public and private debt to leave to their heirs.

While not every Baby Boomer is guilty of this type of convenient thinking, apparently there are enough who do to cause these measures to take effect. When someone says to you “think of the children,” you really should think of the next generation. I’ll accept a 1-in-1000 chance that my children would be abused by a teacher, priest or any other adult over a much higher chance of being abused by a know-it-all government any day of the week.