Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cloudy Future

A user emailed me this morning to let me know a payment submission worked. She had tried most of the day before to submit this payment request to a cloud service and couldn't get it to go through. First question she asked me when she called for help the day before: "Did you make any firewall changes?"

Now that's a fair question, I hadn't, but it made me realize something when I thought about my response. "Try it again tomorrow. Let me know if it works or not." She tried it the next day and, presto! It worked. The service she had to work with is notorious for unscheduled downtime with no forewarning so I had suspected this was another one of those cases.

I predict that we IT types will be telling our users more and more to "try it again tomorrow". Especially in public sector. Many of our services are without contracts or SLA's. They are provided by a higher level of Gov't that is the actual holder of the contract or SLA. The service providers themselves are not beholden to the lower levels of local government so we get what we get.

In the cloudy future IT will need to get better at helping users understand that neither IT nor the user has much control over cloud services. IT will, however, still get the blame when things don't work. Users don't (and to some extent shouldn't have to) distinguish between what is internal and what is external. Users will need to be educated and have their expectations set for how the technology is going to work for them as they use it in their tasks.

Most importantly, IT needs to learn some PR skills. "Try it again tomorrow" isn't a good answer. Our customers are used to us working magic and when we're made impotent by offsite services the customer's expectations don't change. The successful IT shops will be those that find creative ways to help users understand that services won't always be there and sometimes its out of everyone's control.

I like this idea: an intranet up and down chart for services. When something doesn't work, users can go to that chart to find if the service they rely on is up or down and who's responsibility it is. Sure would decrease many of the cranky calls to the helpdesk!


  1. Brilliant.

    Truth be told, we need to understand that even our internal services are more and more going to have outward-facing, "cloudy" components for users. Maybe that will even be the primary interface being used by those you are working for.

    A reset of how things work is needed and an emphasis on good, fast infrastructure as well. We could really use some fiber in New Ulm.

  2. That's a good point Bob. Not only will "try it again tomorrow" apply inside but outside as well. I've got users who have unreliable ISP's and one day things work fine, the next not so fine. I cannot control those connections and a support call to the provider more often then not gets a response along the lines of "Everything looks fine on our end".

    Good infrastructure will help. I really believe that digital literacy needs to generally improve so that workers aren't left behind and IT isn't seen as a roadblock.

    I don't want to be in the position of always saying "I'd REALLY like to help you, but...try it again tomorrow."