• Don’t be a ‘tool’ (people process technology)

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    ABET DELA CRUZ

    I’M a Tool. Truly I am. I like using apps, programs and devices that makes my life seem just a bit better. Things that can automate tasks both at home and at work. With all the technology so easily and readily available, it’s so easy to fall prey to their promise of a beautiful, efficient and in my practice – secure (computing) life. Sadly, sometimes just way too much. We all do and why not? Who doesn’t dream of a worry-free day where technology makes things easy for us. I used to argue a lot with my project manager – as a “tool” I always insist on trying “bleeding-edge” software the does this, that does that, that automates this and that. She would comment that “no” we need a process first, we can just do all of those in Excel. Excel? Spreadsheets? That would be so tedious and manual! We are an IT company! Surely, wouldn’t it be easier if we start everything off with the tools already?

    Fast forward to today. After decades of travel outside the country which were always work-related, some old friends finally convinced me to save up for a trip to Singapore and watch the Guns and Roses concert. Perched in a very strategic position – front of the stage (hey we saved up for this!). Save for our old legs that were buckling down because of standing for over eight hours straight and an obviously drunk old English guy who kept yelling “Tequila! Bakuteh! Mabuhay”’ all night long, everything was fine and dandy. Man! Axel Rose despite being a wee bit overweight still has the cardio power to run non-stop all throughout the show and yes, his voice is still the same, and Slash? Well, Slash is ‘Slash’. He has not aged at all being the guitar god that he is. If I didn’t know better it’s actually a ‘Slash show’. Well, I certainly think so.

    The organizers touted the concert to be both entertaining (which it was) and groundbreaking in terms of technology (It’s Singapore, Baby!). All the food and beverage purchases were to be cashless. Patrons were issued RF ID bracelets which were ‘topped up’ with cash either online or before entering the venue. Awesome! No need to bring out your wallet and the hassle of scrambling for the right mix of bills and change from a foreign country. This we readily did and were able to get beer and burgers at the concession stands inside our area with ease and without a hitch. They used mobile phones running an app that scans the RF ID tags and deduct the amount purchased from the load. Everything was picture perfect! Truly a memorable day to behold. Beer, burgers, friends and Guns and Roses. What more can a 50-year-old guy ask for? Awesomeness. For us at least.

    Two days after, Facebook, twitter, blogs and other news sources were abuzz about the concert but not just about the awesomeness of the band. Apparently, the other sections of the concert experienced a meltdown. Lost credits for the RF ID Tags, food and drinks running out. Chaos! The organizers were forced to refund the unspent credits despite its early pronouncement that these were non-refundable. So! That’s why even after the concert we saw the longest queue for food and drinks in the other sections. “We should have hired more people, we should have made better estimates” was the reply of the exasperated folks of the show. The technology didn’t fail. Indifference to user behavior and the lack of process did.

    People, process and technology. Three words we so often hear but really fail to heed. For tech heads like yours truly, it’s just three words that organizations which sell products and services use to market their wares. Same words that my project manager would utter each time we had those “debates” and now the same words that the Guns and Roses concert organizers should not have not taken lightly.

    We can buy the latest and greatest software that can do data mining, process enormous amount of data and produce interactive and beautiful maps and reports. We can have all new generation firewalls, intrusion detection systems, multi-factor authentication, virtual private networks, encryption and a security incident and events manager to secure our networks and our data. But without properly and diligently analyzing people’s behavior, understanding their needs, the environment and their culture as well as creating the right and applicable processes in tune with all of these, technology will always fail. Not because it doesn’t work but because the proper rules and conditions were not met. My project manager has been right all along. It doesn’t matter what state-of-the-art tool or equipment you use to implement a project, it can be crude, manual or low-tech but as long as you have all of the right people and process ingredients, putting in the right technology to implement, execute, or automate these with ease and efficiency will come almost naturally.

    Whether in concerts, systems or any other project that has a technology component and with emphasis on major ones where taking a hit in performance, delays and rollbacks could amount to unrecoverable damages financially and reputation wise, it just couldn’t happen.

    People, process and technology. There is a reason why these three words are organized as such. People first, process second and technology for all its wondrous glory is last.

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