your-call-is-important

Working in IT reveals certain truths about human nature.

One of those truths is that no matter how brief you make your communications to the rest of the company very few people will bother to read the text in full.

For example, here at the company I work for we have a small problem with too many people having a particular software package installed. We either need to buy more licenses to cover the extra installations or have people uninstall the program if they don’t really need it. Being that the former costs money we can’t really afford to spend right now, we’d prefer to go with the second option if at all possible. So the software guy constructs a short email to the employees that basically says all of this and asks folks that if they have this package installed, and aren’t actively using it, that they please uninstall it.

Since he sent it out this morning he’s gotten a number of responses from folks justifying their having the software. The email doesn’t ask folks to justify anything, just that if you’re not actively using it then please uninstall it. We did say that if not enough people uninstall then we’d have to go through and ask for a business justification, but that time hasn’t come yet. First we’re just looking for folks to voluntarily uninstall it if they don’t need it. Yet the justifications keep rolling in. You could chalk it up to paranoia that IT will yank a program you rely on to do your job if you don’t tell us immediately why you need it, but we’ve never done anything like that to our users so I’m not sure where that paranoia would come from.

I suppose it could be a side effect of email overload. I know many folks here get a lot more emails during the day then I do and it’s probably difficult to keep up with it all, but you’d think they’d put a little more focus on anything coming from the IT department due to the potential for it to be about something that could disrupt their day if they don’t plan for it. I know I’ve sent out bulletins about this or that in the past only to have people come up later and ask about it in a way that makes it clear they never even glanced at the bulletin.

Which is kind of funny when you consider that I always get nervous about writing up said bulletins. I hate having to do it because I’m terrible at speaking “Business-ese” so I put way more thought into it than I probably should because, as I said, very few people will bother to read it. My boss actually said that to me once: Don’t worry too much about it ’cause no one is going to read it. Which begs the question of why bother doing it. To which the answer is it’s a simple cover-your-ass thing to do.

So what we have is an exercise in communication which we have to do in spite of the fact that the few folks who do bother to look at it will only skim it at best and then either not do what needs to be done or do more than needs to be done depending on what phase the moon is in or recent sunspot activity or whatever the hell it is that drives such things. It’s the sort of thing that makes you pause and wonder if you’re not trapped in a sit-com and just don’t realize it.

5 comments

  1. People are overwhelmed by information. The ideal email has the entire message in the subject line in five words.

    Barring that, you almost want to send out a comic instead of an email. A humorous Venn diagram or flow chart. Or something like this:

    Do you use MS Project? = OK, you’re cool.

    Do you NOT use MS Project? = Hey, we’re short of licenses – would you help us out by uninstalling it? Thanks.

    I’m serious about radical brevity in email messages; people won’t read long ones even if it is in their interest to do so. But if they know that you always send out messages that get right to the point, they’ll make a point of reading them.

  2. Thought I would mention that your suggestion of a Venn Diagram resulted in us spending 10 minutes trying and failing to come up with one and then software guy making a Step Ladder chart which probably would’ve made things worse with the general user population.

    But we may try the super-brief suggestion in the future.

  3. I work for Microsoft, and although I’m not a licensing specialist I do have to deal with use rights and license requirements daily.

    Just to let you know, depending on which licensing program you’re under (Select, Open, Enterprise Agreement) there are different rules. I’m not sure about Open, but the rules on Select are that if you install software, you must cut a PO for it within 30 days. Telling people to uninstall does not obviate the need to purchase the software.

    An Enterprise Agreement works differently in that you must do a true up at least once a year. On an EA, there are different classes of licenses, and Project falls under “additional products.” The rules for additional products are that any licenses used during the year above your baseline, regardless if you then uninstall, must be trued up.

    I don’t know what company you work for (and I’m not going to look), but your software guy may be instructing people in a way that would expose you to an audit. It only takes one disgruntled employee to call the BSA after all.

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