My team recently moved away from a (frankly old and creaking) ManageEngine ServiceDesk solution to JIRA for our Helpdesk. This has been met mostly with dismay by the majority of my team, so much so that I am one of the only people in the office still excited about the upgrade. As always, there were teething issues during the initial upgrade, but a few months on everything is more or less stable and we have lots of ideas for how to evolve the product. So why do the rest of the team still bemoan the product so much?
This sentiment is not limited to this one situation. In fact, it’s a major problem in the tech world in general. Many’s the time I’ll make upgrade somebody’s computer only for them to complain that it’s no longer what they’re used to. This is a gripe that I really cannot understand. Sure, you get used to working a certain way with a certain piece of software, but if everybody had this mentality technology would never move forward in any real sense. Sometimes, the way you’re used to working is provably poor, you’ve just become so used to wrestling with it a certain way that relaxing seems uncomfortable and strange.
In the case of this example, though, it was more than a simple interface change; the entire way we work had to be reimagined. While we had become used to using ServiceDesk as a glorified email handler which generated jobs to assign to agents, JIRA’s role in our organisation was always more of a platform than a simple helpdesk. This meant that right off the bat every single action in a technician’s workflow required many more steps. No longer were we just sending emails to customers, suddenly we were interacting with automated status changes, jobs which could be dynamically and manually updated on the fly to contain useful information, and a host of addons which gave us additional functionality. As soon as it was introduced, my curiosity led me to do some research on JIRA and why our Innovations Officer had brought it in. It quickly became apparent that this was not a replacement or an upgrade: it was a paradigm shift.
The problem with the way we were used to working really was not our software but more our culture as a team. We had become mostly compartmentalised, with the frontline being entirely separated from the systems team. Jobs would be thrown back and forth across the ServiceDesk in an attempt to close them. JIRA was not a solution to this problem, of course, but more of a symptom of a culture shift. There was an inherent need and desire to bring all parts of the team closer together in order to get us working more efficiently both with one another and with our customers.
Unfortunately, JIRA became something of a punching bag due to its initial bugginess and it’s “not what I’m used to” faults. Rather than embrace the potential of the software, its additional features were (and often still are) seen as unnecessary complications to what should be a simple product. As we continue to develop not only the features of the platform, but also the way we use it to organise projects, I am hoping to see that attitude melt away. In the meantime, I’m trying to bring all of ServiceDesk’s functionality on board in order to tide everybody over until we can get around to embracing the new.
This whole experience has highlighted something for me: leading by example is of paramount importance. Not only do management need to be enthusiastically using the platform from the get-go in order to get the rest of us excited about it, it is also important that IT practitioners do not shy away from new technology lest they pass this apathy on to the users. After all, if the people working in IT can’t even get excited about it, why should anybody else?
While I am a huge lover of FLOSS and the GPL, I am open to embracing proprietary platforms for work as long as the culture of the team evolves with them.