Tag Archives: mis

To err is human, to totally mess things up needs a computer

Here’s a fun article about a guy who accidentally deleted everything from all his company’s servers, including all his off-site back-ups too – in effect, deleting his entire company. As you can imagine, the forums weren’t especially helpful.

Man accidentally ‘deletes his entire company’ with one line of bad code
“Well, you should have been thinking about how to protect your customers’ data before nuking them,” wrote one person calling himself Massimo. “I won’t even begin enumerating how many errors are simultaneously required in order to be able to completely erase all your servers and all your backups in a single strike. This is not bad luck: it’s astonishingly bad design reinforced by complete carelessness.”

A timely article, as there’s a project underway here to look at the feasibility of replacing one MIS with another and how we’d manage the data migration that that would entail.

It’s not just a matter of moving bytes around though. The horrible mess-up above notwithstanding, that’s the easy part. When implementing a new MIS there’s as much people stuff to resolve as techy stuff.

Here’s an interesting essay from the University of Michigan, from a dim and distant past when universities and other large organisations were wanting to move away from mainframes to more networked environments.

Implementing an MIS
The implementation of a management information system can be a traumatic experience. At a minimum, changes in procedures will impact the ways in which plans are made, programs are developed, and performance is evaluated within the organization. New patterns of communications will emerge, and new – presumably better – information will be available to assist in carrying out decision-making and administrative responsibilities. Efforts to improve the MIS may also uncover the need for organizational changes which may be even more unsettling than the procedural changes necessary to implement the system. The introduction of a MIS may represent substantial change in the established way of doing business, which can be viewed with considerable alarm (and generate significant resistance) by those within the organization.

Different technologies, but the same concerns.

I found the principles proposed at the end of the article very interesting, and hope that a similar approach will be undertaken here.

It is important not to oversell the potential of the new system. Aaron Wildavsky offers a number of “rules” that are applicable to the implementation of any new management system. The rule of skepticism suggests that organizational officials should exercise a good deal of skepticism when presented with the initial concept of an improved management system. The rule of delay cautions officials to give the system adequate time to develop and to be prepared to face periodic setbacks in its implementation. As Wildavsky observes: “if it works at all, it won’t work soon.” The rule of anticipated anguish is essentially a restatement of Murphy’s Law – “most of the things that can go wrong, will.” Wildavsky suggests that management must be prepared to invest personnel, time, and money to overcome breakdowns in the system as they occur. And the rule of discounting suggests that anticipated benefits to be derived from the new management information system should significantly outweigh the estimated costs of mounting the system. Much of the cost must be incurred before the benefits are achieved. Therefore, the tendency is to inflate future benefits – to oversell the system – to compensate for the increased commitment of present resources.

And let’s not forget that Hofstadter’s law applies here too, as well.

So why use SharePoint?

Some more SharePoint links to help clarify my thinking on any upcoming implementation project that might be starting at work.

First of all, rather than concentrating on what it can do, let’s look instead at what our expectations of SharePoint might be. What kind of users are we?​

Different SharePoint users and definitions
The vastness of SharePoint creates areas of specialization. The result is that a person’s view of SharePoint is greatly affected by how that person uses the product. It’s important to keep this in mind when talking with people about SharePoint. If you ask ten people to define SharePoint, you’re likely to get ten different answers.​

That article goes on to list half a dozen roles people might fall into, from anonymous visitors and casual users to power users and administrators. Perhaps any implementation needs to acknowledge these differences and recognise that some staff would be more comfortable in one role than another? Would we give them the choice?

For any introduction of new software/platform/process to be successful, we need to know why we’re doing it. Are we wanting to make better use of SharePoint just because we have the licences? Is this an answer in search of a problem? Or is there a real business need?

I think we’ve got two. I’d like a better staff intranet (I’m so desperate to get my hands on that) and IT colleagues here would like a better file store setup. But as these next links show, simply introducing SharePoint in itself won’t solve all our problems.

Design a Brilliant SharePoint Intranet
Some Microsoft SharePoint intranets are nothing short of marvelous — rich with features that support the business and engage employees, anchored by predictable navigation, supported by a smart search, and with page layouts that make employees want to scan all the content. But it was not always this way.​

Leveraging your office intranet for employee connection & collaboration
But in spite of this, many companies’ intranets are still being used the same way they were 10-15 years ago, even though they are capable of being so much more than a document storage system. Here are some features of intranets you can review to check whether your office intranet is being used at its full potential and better leverage it if it’s not.​

Should SharePoint replace file servers?
Many in the SharePoint market claim that SharePoint can and should replace your file servers. Is this a best practice? Should you plan to move all of your files that currently exist into SharePoint? There are pros and cons to this debate, each of which we’ll outline below. However, if you don’t want to read this entire section, then you should know that our simple answer is no.

Onwards.