Those who know me may be surprised to learn that although I’ve worked in IT for years, I started my career as a very NON-IT person.

When I studied at the university, computers were not very common. Although I had some friends who were very much into Ataris and programming and gaming (not mentioning any names @Jan Willekens @Juri Hornemand @Alex Crouzen), I thought computers were stupid and childish and that human interaction was far more important than looking at a silly screen.

So I went my own way, studied Child Studies, and struggled to put my thesis into this weird program called “Microsoft Word.” Oh my….I feel so old now!

What happened next? I got a job. The perfect job.

My thesis was called “The impact of (youth) unemployment on the self-esteem of youngsters” and then I found a job at the ‘arbeidsbureau,’ the Dutch government organization that helps people to find a job. So….mission accomplished….I finished University AND I got a job!

And that’s when things went wrong….or right.

At the arbeidsbureau, we newbies got a course on the computer system of the organization. In a few days, I learned about inserting information about unemployed people by clicking on the right buttons, opening the right screen, and saving the data.  I liked it, but… it was complex.

I managed to ‘play dumb,’ do the drill, and work with the system. But, I noticed that a lot of older colleagues had big challenges trying to use the system. As a result, our “team score” (the number of unemployed people that we found a job for) was very low. Not because we didn’t find them jobs, but because the system was so user-unfriendly that no one really understood how to ‘book’ an unemployed person as ‘found a job-case closed’.

And (again) I was triggered. It was crazy that hardworking people like my colleagues got a bad score because IT failed.

And (me being me), I started to think about changing the system. If you can’t beat them, join them. So, I decided to start working for an IT company to try to improve the horrible state IT was in (remember I was young and naive), but that was my motivation.  Slowly but surely I started to like IT. I started to think about IT.  I started to learn IT (thank you Open Universiteit).

Now…years later looking back I notice a few things:

– IT can be a real pain in the *ss if it’s not aligned with your work and work processes.

– IT is not the holy grail that fixes everything.

– IT is there to support people and help them do a better job at their work, but sometimes it looks like it’s the other way around.

So… how do you tackle ‘nasty’ IT issues?

There is no one solution to solve every challenge, but a few things help:

– First, make sure you know what your problem is. Once you know the problem you want or need to solve, you can move on to the next step: figuring out how to fix it.

– Just because you can do something DOESN’T mean you have to. I know IT companies that have built great solutions for everything. You can do the most fantastic stuff using their software, totally compliant, integrated, easy, etc. etc. etc. But….back to the first question. Does it solve your problem? Sometimes it’s easier to leave IT out. Sometimes it’s better to find a simple solution. Sometimes a full-blown out-of-the-box IT solution really is necessary.

– Talk, talk, talk, and show. One of the reasons that SCRUM is popular is that you have to talk and show.  If you’re the “customer,” talk to your IT department about your challenges, wishes, and goals. If you’re in IT, talk to your (internal) customers, ask the right questions to find out what they really need, and then show them what you’re doing, even if it looks crooked, even if it is not finished. Explain to them why you think it is the solution to their wishes or challenges. The best workshops I’ve had were those where we could explain and show what the solution would look like and what the impact would be… and (internal) clients, please do show up if there is a sprint demo planned.

Long story short: IT is fascinating, humans and organizations are fascinating, and in collaboration, great outcomes are possible.

Just think of IT as your friend and stop hating it (like I did).

What was your greatest IT clash?

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