Uh oh, I’m a Technology Steward — Part 2: Four Technology Stewardship Implementation Practices

December 20, 2011 | LND | Methods & Tools |


Rating: 4.2 out of 5

By Nancy White

nancy_whiteIn our first part on accidental technology stewardship we focused on the technology acquisition and design issues. In today’s post we’ll look at what I think is the really fun stuff: how we build useful practices USING technology together.

Notice and spread useful practices

Have you ever sat beside someone using a word processing program and are surprised at how they use it? The little tricks and shortcuts they use? Pay attention to these little practices; they are like gold. Good tech stewardship pays attention to how people are using technology and spreads these practices. For example a team may start using a blog to capture project update instead of a more traditional sharing of news, and use the comments to tick off tasks. Another team uses Skype chat as an open window to team members across the globe rather than just real-time voice conversation. Tools may be deployed for one use case, but can be used in diverse ways. The second reason to notice and spread practices is people are very happy to see their practices are useful to others — and to be given a bit of positive notice for their work.

The practice of spreading these tips can be both formal and informal. You might have a tips blog, or if you use short messaging systems such as Twitter and Yammer, you could share the tips with a hashtag so people can see the tips “in the flow of the moment” and then you can aggregate and sort them later for a more formal capture of the practices.

Debrief and improve

In my first blog post about technology stewardship I mentioned “start where people are” and “start simple.” These approaches give us the ability to experiment, iterate and improve. This applies to both tools and their use practices. A few weeks after deploying a new tool or practice ask people about their experiences and watch how they work. Use the results to fix problems and include useful ideas. For example, if you are planning to roll out a new tool across your organization, recruit a few cooperative “early adopters” to do some early testing, and then at full roll out, ask these early testers to gather feedback from their colleagues. Early adopters often have good observation skills and ways to “talk about technology” that can help you gather feedback.

Work with facilitators

Just like the sharpened ability to observe and talk about technology from the early adopters, you can benefit from working with people who are facilitators paying attention to workplace practices. These people may have formal or informal roles or may be managers or team leaders, but they know what is going on and often can influence others. Be nice though. Busy people don’t need more work. Instead make an offer. Help brief them on new tools and practices, ask what needs they have that you might help address their needs and problems. If you can, avoid surveys and such — most of us get weary of these — and instead ask them in person or via a quick phone call. If you provide value, they will be ready to help you.

Good Enough

This last tip is for you. There are always more things you can do: more improvements, new tools, deepened practices. But don’t torture yourself. Not everyone will adopt new tools and practices fast and easily. You may not get the full potential out of everything. As a tech steward, particularly if this is a volunteer job, it can feel like the work is never done. That’s true, so go easy on yourself. Identify what is “good enough for now”, try to stay in touch with real needs and uses of your colleagues and keep moving forward. Like that old saying, it’s the journey, not the destination. So be kind to yourself and the job will stay fun!

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