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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Solutions or problems?

When you need help from your IT shop, do you bring them solutions or problems?

If you are bringing them solutions, then you're wasting a valuable resource.  If you've already defined the problem, decided on a technical solution, and you're just asking the IT shop to execute your solution, then you are wasting an opportunity to  analyze the problem in the first place.

This happens all of the time, of course.  It is exactly this sort of situation that creates absurdities where an organization has invested tens of thousands of dollars automating a process, and then discovering much later that the process served no useful purpose.  Or an organization builds out new technical infrastructure to support a self-imposed solution when a much cheaper alternative was readily available.

At ICPSR (and at previous jobs) I always enjoy those occasions when somebody stops by my office, and then begin the conversation with:  "I have a problem I need to solve.  Let me tell you about it."  Often it leads to a long conversation about the problem, and then we find that the "problem" is actually something else entirely.  And then we solve that problem.  Together.

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