Configuring a Router Should Not be More Difficult than Using a Fridge

‘Configuring a router should not be more difficult than using a fridge.’ That’s my philosophy in technology.

 

No…not just technology, actually that’s exactly the same belief I expressed during my interview with Deloitte China over 12 years ago as HR consultant. That’s the exactly same belief I hold during my various studies. That’s exactly the same belief that supported my career change from business to IT before. That’s exactly the same belief guide my career development in IT.

 

If things are too complicated, then it implies that something goes wrong and there are space we can improve.

 

My first Master degree was in Human Resource Management and Business. At that time, joining big 4 was almost every business student’s dream in China. During the interview, I explained some HR theories and practice implication in simple terms, instead of big words. Unfortunately the interviewer was not a fan of my belief and preferred complicated concepts to establish knowledge barrier so that client would purchase our service.

 

There was a reason behind me using simple terms to articulate HR concepts at that time. I was a new graduate from Bachelor of International Business when I started Master in HR. HR was extremely abstract and hard to feel connected for a 22-year old, without any management experience and from a different academic background. Even worse, I studied HR in U.K. , under completely different employment law and employee relations from China. What could I possibly do to achieve a pleasant academic result?

 

The trick I took was to make complicated things easy. I projected HR theories into daily life and understand abstract concepts with metaphors and life scenarios. I also practiced to elaborate HR concepts to non-HR friends in my simplified way. It worked for me at that time and was repetitively proven working in my later studies. I related my project management study with World of Warcraft gaming experience. I related my Education study with my previous HR study. I also brought in my skills from marketing experience to engineering work.

 

When a thing turns too complicated, instead of investing more effort, I would prefer to look for alternative to simplify it.

 

I used to work as university admissions officer, dealing student inquires and enrollment. We were extremely busy in issuing offer and processing credit application around semester beginning. It was required to issue offer and credit assessment result in paper. Mail can take long time to reach students; therefore, tons of student inquiries were about application result. My colleagues and myself spent significant amount of time to check application status in database and rely those inquiries.

 

Same as many others, I don’t like work overtime, especially when no overtime pay! To simplify the work, I learned the database tool in use and just got enough knowledge to add a button to pull information from relevant fields of the student profile and generate email. Admissions officer only need to review the email content and click the send button in outlook. We still sent students the paper version afterwards. Since students received the application result much quicker, the number of inquiries significantly dropped.

 

 

When I changed my career to IT, I decided to make people’s life easier. But when I started working in technology, I noticed two issues: 1) IT professional’s life is not easy 2) the client’s life is not always easy – technology can be too complicated to use.

 

Configuring network connectivity, deploying server and etc. are way too complicated than it should be. Configuration and programing are prone to human errors. Also configuration and programming can be repetitive and manual work, not always require creativity.

 

Things become so complicated and evolve so fast that non-IT organisations don’t understand and outsource to service integrators. Even IT organisations can hardly achieve a complete skill matrix.

 

It is not rare that big dollars are wasted due to misalign with client’s environment/requirement, profit from information asymmetry, deployed but not in use and etc.

 

‘Configuring a router should not be more difficult than using a fridge.’ If researchers bear this in mind when developing algorithms and protocols; If developers and product managers bear this in mind when developing new products; if SAs and engineers bear this in mind when designing and deploying technology for client to use…we make each other’s life easier, instead of establishing barrier.

 

I red a Linked-in post today ‘Is agile ad-hoc?’. Such misunderstanding and more precisely mis-application are not rare. Agile may be used as an excuse of ad-hoc; modulised design as an excuse of siloed design; enterprise architecture is beautifully presented without user acceptance and solid ROI.

 

Before blaming user incompetence, shall we make the implementation of those powerful tools more user-friendly? What have we done to enhance and promote usability?

 

I am striving to make your life easier, please can you also help mine?

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