Not for the first time, the universe has let me down. Growing up we were treated to grand visions of a technology driven future in which efficiency and connectivity would allow us greater freedom and a more peaceful, harmonious society. I became fascinated with computers and got into the IT industry primarily based on that vision… that somehow technology would make our lives better.
And in general I believe it does, at a personal level. Tools like email, social media, mobile phones, PCs (yes, yes – Macs too) and the myriad of personal applications that run on them that allow us to connect and interact more easily I would argue are a benefit when taken as a whole. Lord knows I’d be bored silly without Skype, Facebook, Photoshop and the like… Where technology falls over is in the office. In theory these same time saving organizational and communication tools should make the tech savvy office run better. Too often though the technology (and its adoption and implementation) bring with it complications and headaches that make you question the value of the technology at all.
Now before I go too far down a ranting rathole, it should be pointed out that I enjoy a pretty comfortable work arrangement largely due to technology, enabling me to work from home or from the road as needed. I’ve not set foot in our Singapore office once in the last week and a half, and don’t feel like I’ve really missed anything as a result of my absence. I’ve been connected by blackberry and laptop pretty much nonstop.
It’s not the validity of the technology in and of itself that I question. What I question is whether the technology is being used to its best benefit. Take for instance an ongoing dialogue I’ve been engaged in over the past few weeks. I’ve condensed it here (and as usual changed the names to protect the inept) to give you a sample of what I’m talking about.
Iggy: I need you all (in-region sales reps) to please update your Product I forecasts and send them back in time for the executive review call tomorrow.
Me: OK, any particular format that needs to be in?
Iggy: Nope. Just send in what you have and we’ll review it on the prep call tonight. (Tonight for Iggy means first thing in the morning for me. Less than 12 hours, overnight, to update a forecast for a region that covers 6 time zones… suuuuuuuure)
Me: Sweet. I’ll get right on that.
(FLASH FORWARD 12 HOURS)
Iggy: Thanks for preparing the forecast Mark, this looks pretty good. We just need to you please update the forecast file that Mopsy sent us previously to ensure that all those opportunities are updated as well.
Me: This is the first I’ve heard that Mopsy created a separate file and shared it with you. I’ve been using Salesforce for the past three months to keep track of this forecast. Everything we are currently working on should be available in Salesforce.com. Anything not in there probably isn’t a current opp.
Iggy: Well that’s fine, just make sure you get the information from Salesforce and put it into Mopsy’s Excel sheet and update that and send it back over.
Piggy: Also, if you don’t mind, could you update this other forecast that I have pulled together as well. I looked in Salesforce and saw some opportunities with Company A that I think we could win with Company B, so I’m going to count those towards my Company B forecast as well since you know I don’t get paid on what we sell with Company A.
Me: OK, Iggy, how about this – I’ll take a look at the Mopsy file and if there is anything in there that we’ve overlooked in Salesforce we’ll add the opportunities to the forecast. I’ll get this done within one day of receiving the Mopsy file, and then you can just go pull the current forecast report from Salesforce and we’ll be all up to date. And Piggy, I would really prefer if you didn’t just assume that projects we are bidding with Company A can be moved over to Company B. I’m pretty sure Company B isn’t even working on some of these opportunities, so their chances of winning the bid is slim, I would think.
Iggy: But how will I know what the status is on the deals from the Mopsy file that aren’t current forecast opportunities if you don’t put them in Salesforce?
Piggy: OK, that’s fine, I’ll just send you my forecast file and you can update it as you see fit.
Me: OK, so now I need to update two Excel sheets and Salesforce.com with the same information for the benefit of two different people who work on the same team?
Iggy and Piggy: Yes please.
Flopsy: By the way, I need an update on these deals in the forecast file as well so I can begin planning virtual service and support for the eventual implementations. Can you send me back this Excel sheet I’ve created with your comments and status update on each opportunity? I took information from both the Mopsy file and Piggy’s file to create my own list.
Me: Are you shitting me? How many different forecasts for this product line do we have floating around?
Iggy: Well two, I think, since you went and created your own version instead of just updating Mopsy’s file.
Piggy: Yeah, two I think. Mine is just a derivative of your new forecast. So it’s not really anything separate. I mean it’s a separate file, but it’s the same forecast. That’s what you were asking, right?
Flopsy: Three I guess. But since mine combines everyone else’s forecasts I think we should just use it. (By now I’ve received the Flopsy forecast file. The term “dog’s dinner” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It is in a completely different format, the columns don’t add up properly and he’s added in some random new columns for details not captured anywhere else. Except in Salesforce. Which he apparently doesn’t know how to use.)
Iggy: But Flopsy, your forecast doesn’t have all the deals from the Mopsy file.
Me: Iggy, several of the “opportunities” in the Mopsy file are pure fiction. They don’t exist. Not only is there no opportunity there, but there never was.
Iggy: Oh, I see. Well can you update the file, and I suppose you should Salesforce.com also, to reflect that status?
Me: You mean the status of “bullshit”? That status? You want me to create an opportunity in Salesforce that just says “This opportunity never really existed, but here is what someone once fantasized and then lied about?” I’m not sure I see the point.
Iggy: Yes, please do that. Also, if you don’t mind could you be sure to put the reason we lost those deals in Salesforce? We need it for tracking purposes.
Me: Tracking? Lost? You mean I need to create a back story of how we lost something that never existed … for tracking purposes? Shall I also create a tracking report of how many deals we lost to the Easter Bunny this year?
Ziggy: Speaking of tracking, I’ve got a list here of all the Product I opportunities from the last six months and the next six months. Can you update the status on each of these including the old opportunities so we can understand why we won or lost each of them?
Me: Ziggy, where did you get this list? You should be able to pull the information you need directly from Salesforce.com, but this doesn’t look like a SFDC format.
Ziggy: Oh, I thought we agreed to use Flopsy’s file and just update that as needed. I didn’t know you were using Salesforce also. Doesn’t that seem a bit redundant?
Me: I’m dreaming this, aren’t I? We are now up to four forecast files for the same product in the same region? Is this a comedy routine? Am I on TV? Is Alan Funt about to hop out from behind that potted plant over there? Who’s on first?
And so it goes. The twin demons of technology standing firmly in the way of getting any real work done: Access and Ineptitude. Four people all on the same team all working on the same opportunities, but each from their own spreadsheet. Rather than using the collaborative technology we are paying for, most of the team is off creating their own crappy versions of what Salesforce can create for them instantly (Ineptitude). But when they find their data lacking or out of date instead of using the technology at hand to update it themselves, they use technology to shove the work to someone else (Access – specifically, Access to Me).
Is it any wonder I feel so disillusioned? The technology that was supposed to save us all is instead being used to slowly drive ordinary office grunts like me utterly mad.
Now if you will pardon me, I have fourteen Excel sheets, three PowerPoint presentations, and one collaborative sales tool which all need to be updated…