You’re buying a service now! You don’t get to set the pace of change.

There’s a huge power shift taking place in corporate IT.

Previously Jane in Manufacturing would use the tools that were deployed to her by Frank in the IT department at a pace defined by Frank or Frank’s boss, Mary.

Vendors would provide updates to Frank annually and Frank would decide whether to deploy the updates or not. If Frank didn’t like the update, or didn’t have enough time to deploy the update because Mary had him busy on other things, Frank would skip an update and wait for the next one.

Before Frank could deploy anything, though, he would have to prove to Mary and the business management that the planned change wouldn’t impact the business too much. He’d do this by putting the updates into a number of test environments. There would be a ‘sand-pit’ testing area where he’d get to see what the update looked like. He’d then move on to the ‘pre-production’ environment where he’d show that the update didn’t impact other system. He is likely to use a ‘pilot’ before eventually deploying the updates to the rest of the business. In each phase various people would be involved to make sure that the planned change did what was expected of it.

If Jane wanted something that was in the new update she just had to wait. Likewise, when Frank decided that an update was being deployed Jane didn’t have much choice whether to accept it or not, she normally didn’t even have a choice about when the update was happening.

In recent years the IT market has adopted as-a-Service as the way of delivering capability to the people like Jane.

Previously Frank in IT decided when updates were going to occur, now the person who decides on whether an update gets deployed isn’t Jane, it’s someone in the provider of the Service. The rate of update is intrinsic in the Service being used.

The pace is no longer being set by Frank, the pace is being set by the Service Provider. Frank, and Mary, just need to keep up. Frank is still involved in this as-a-Service world because he is still providing support for the tools to the business but he’s no longer in control of the rate of change.

To compound Frank’s problems, the Service Provider is no longer updating the Service on an annual basis, they are updating the Service every day with significant changes coming, at least, every quarter. The Service Providers need to keep up with their competition and that means rapid change. Some of the time Jane is delighted by the new capabilities, at other times she’s dismayed that something has changed or been removed.

The previous testing process has lost most of its relevance because it’s the Service Provider doing that testing, but there are still areas where the Service integrates with other Services that Frank would like to test but there simply isn’t the time to keep up with the pace of change.

There are times when Jane comes in to work and needs to do something quickly, only to discover that everything looks different and she’s no idea how to do what she needs to do. She phones Frank, but he has no idea either and it’s going to take him a little time to talk to the Service Provider and work it out for her. The work that Mary had planned for Frank will have to wait because operating the business is always more important than the IT department’s priorities. Jane asks if she can talk to the Service Provider directly, but the contract with the Service Provider only allows a set of named people to contact them.

Not only is Frank in IT having to get used to the pace of change, so is Jane in Manufacturing and so are all of her people. With a higher rate of change the impact of each change is lower, which is a good thing, but the overall volume of change is much higher.

The issue for Jane isn’t just about getting today’s job done though, the other challenge is keeping ahead of the competition. The services that she uses are evolving rapidly and she can’t afford to be behind her competitors who are using the same services. The competition gets the new capabilities on the same day that she does and her ability to exploit them has become a competitive differentiator.

Many services mitigate some of these issues by giving service users a time when they can choose whether to adopt the update. In these schemes, though, the update eventually becomes mandatory and you no longer have a choice. Other schemes include pioneer approaches that allow businesses to give some people insights into the next set of changes prior to the majority of the service users. This approach would allow Frank to use the next iteration of the tools before Jane gets them so that he could be ready, this doesn’t help Jane keep ahead of the completion though.

Rather than treating change as a constant risk it’s time to step aside from the old ways of doing things and adopt new ones that support change as a mechanism for growth.

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional”

John C. Maxwell

Concept of the Day: Inattentional Blindness – Is seeing believing?

What you see and what I see may be completely different, which might be caused by Inattentional Blindness.

Picture this: a teen-ager, cruising down a familiar highway, keeping a conscientious eye on the speedometer, the rear view mirror, the oncoming traffic. Too late, he notices a deer standing in the road. He slams on the brakes but can’t avoid striking the animal.

Later, the teen insists to his skeptical parents that his eyes were on the road–he was paying attention to his driving. He just never saw the deer.

Why are the boy’s parents skeptical? Because intuitively, people believe that as long as our eyes are open, we are seeing. Even as we recognize that the brain does a lot of processing behind the scenes, we expect that at least salient objects–a large animal in our path, for example–will capture our attention.

Sights unseen – American Psychology Association

It seems obvious that the teenager should see the deer, but he didn’t, and it’s not because he wasn’t giving the road the attention he should have. They were looking but they didn’t see.

This isn’t a teenage issue though, we all do it. We all miss what is in plain sight.

The article linked above will give you more details on the theories about why this is, but it’s sufficient for this post to highlight that there is a discrepancy between what is there and what we see, and that the discrepancy has something to do with what we expect to see. The poor teenager probably didn’t see the deer because he wasn’t expecting to see a deer, his limited driving experience hadn’t equipped him with that expectation.

That’s a really interesting thought for all of us who need to communicate – which is all of us. What are people expecting to see in what we are communicating and will they see the things they aren’t expecting to see.

Likewise, for those of us being communicated to – which is all of us – what is it that we are missing because we didn’t expect it to be there.

I don’t have any answers (again) all I wanted to do was highlight a situation that we may not be aware of.

There are numerous examples of Inattentional Blindness on YouTube, this is the most famous:

This first one was such an internet sensation that now everyone knows what they are expecting to see (did you see it?) Knowing this the creators of the original fashioned a sequel:

This sequel has also been quite popular, so perhaps you were even expecting to see the differences in this one.

Daniel Simmons TEDx talk on the subject is also worth watching as is his article in the Smithsonian Magazine where he highlights a criminal case where this phenomena may have created a miscarriage of justice.

On this day in 2005 – my blog birthday

11 years ago today I wrote a couple of posts on a typepad blog site which began the journey that has become this blog site.

Today is this blog’s birthday.

The first post was titled Welcome which did exactly that. In those early days the blog was called Oak Grove which is related to the origins of my surname.

The second post was titled Aspirations which outlined a number of personal observations. It’s quite a ramble, I hope my writing has improved since then.

On the 8th April I wrote a post titled The always-on social impacts which set a theme that has reappeared in various forms across the 11 years. Since that time we have become ever more connected and now travel everywhere with a smartphone and access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. every waking hour. I suspect that this is a theme we will come back to again.

The British, the Queue and the Tut

Institutions of a nation

The British relationship with the queue is renowned around the world but few realise how deep-seated and sophisticated that relationship is.

I was reminded of this earlier as I queued at the ticket check before boarding a train at London’s Euston Station.

This particular train is primarily occupied by people with seat reservations.

(The British train fares and ticketing system is also a uniquely British institution, but not one I’m going to attempt to get into today. There simply isn’t the room in one post.)

A seat reservation means precisely that; it means that you have a seat that is reserved for you. The worst that can happen is that someone sits in your seat and you have to ask them to move. In most instances the person will apologise and find themselves somewhere else to sit. I suppose it could get really nasty and you have to ask the guard to help you, but I’ve never witnessed such behavior. At the end of the day, you have a seat reservation and are guaranteed a seat.

Euston Station has one of the most unnerving places for British people, it has an open concourse. People join the open space in front of a set of screens. These screens tell us the status of the trains available for boarding, the trains being prepared for boarding and the trains that are to follow in the schedule. This is a place where, in our minds, anarchy rules. There is no queuing, just people standing around waiting for a screen to tell them where to go.

Then it happens, the screens change and a platform is announced for a train. People are so uncomfortable by the anarchy of the open concourse that they run, yes run, so that they can participate in the far more familiar surroundings of a queue.

Moving from the open concourse people queue up on the ramp to the platform ready to show their tickets. There’s a well structure etiquette to this situation, an order that we find comforting. Stood between two metal railings inching forward so that the ladies and men in bright red can inspect our pieces of paper we are happy. There’s no pushing or shoving, no one is trying to get ahead of anyone else, we have formed an orderly queue and we know what we are doing. All is well with Britain.

Then a betrayal happens and not a minor misdemeanor, this is a full-scale breach of all that is British. This is the type of scandal to make every British person question where our country is heading.

“Use both sides!” were the words that ignited consternation among the masses.

We all turned and looked in disbelief as they opened a second line.

They opened a second line!


Those in the first line were trapped between the metal barriers left with no option but to stay in the first line as others further back in the queue had the audacity to move onto the second line and get through ahead of the first line. How dare they!

A man behind me issues the most typical of British retorts: “That’s just typical!”

Others use the full force of tutting. Tutting is the ultimate British complaint, no words can convey what a well-placed tut communicates.

A woman further back is so outraged she climbs over the barrier and joins the betrayal in the second line.

The fact that most of us have reserved seats makes no difference to the way that we feel about this situation. The opening of a second line makes no difference to the final outcome to the vast majority of people in the queue, they’ll sit in exactly the same seat whenever they get through the ticket check, we are still outraged.

At the front of the queue we hand over our tickets for inspection and say “thank you” as they give them back to us; no one complains. We are British, after all, and a tut is enough to register our outrage at every conceivable scandal.

Once through the barrier we scurry along the platform to our designated carriage and sit down in our reserved seats.

This is the second week that I have caught this train and the second week when this scandal has happened, I’m seriously considering writing a letter, but I won’t, I’m writing this instead. British people rarely complain to someone who could do something about our issue, we prefer to mutter and grumble, that’s why we love social media so much.

I’m using the same train again next week and if the same thing happens again…

(The heading picture is from a couple of weeks ago when the concourse was completely full of people due to train delays caused by adverse weather conditions, in these situations special queueing rules apply.)