Software helplessness

One of the guiding principles of how I work in business is to try to create IT systems that function well enough to the point that the clients staff are able to get on with more important tasks, such as work!

There are many things we can control, most of them with a reasonable level of autonomy that enables us to course correct behind the scenes if needed.

It’s all with a mind to reduce the amount of time staff have to deal with niggling IT problems.

Unfortunately there are always going to be issues that are beyond control, so lets look at two of them;

First of all fancy schmancy cloud-based software – and yes, I’m looking at you Office 365!

Once upon a time we had to install software from disks, now CD, DVD, even USB stick supplied software has gone the same way as the Dinosaur.

And I’m mostly ok with that. I’ve no objection to companies wanting to try to reduce their overheads (it’s cheaper to download software than press CDs, just not as cool!) or even keep a stealthy check on just how many times that copy has been installed.

But what frustrates is when that software does not work properly, and more critically in going wrong it interrupts my clients work!

There is a strange duality to technology fault fixing, time taken to apply work-arounds vs time takes to cut losses and fresh install. We used to calculate this to be about three hours for a commercial Windows install (we were using a custom network install it has to be said) if the job looks to go over go for fresh.

To complete a fresh install you can use a small bit of software that guts a PC of all files relating to Office 365, there is then a small list of stuff that can be manually removed.

But on doing this, rebooting, and reinstalling – maybe an hours work total, the problem simply springs back into life.


To the other end of the spectrum, and some bespoke management software bits of which simply refuse to work, the supplier is adamant that “hardly anyone has this problem” and “you must have set up the PC wrong”

Picture if you will the software vendor and the technical support as two majestic Stags engaged in an epic headbutting duel for the ages.

Except as part of the process you are able to replicate the same fault on a brand new, out of the box, system – add one to the list of “hardly anyone”

Experience has taught me that there are some epic headbutting duels you’ll simply never win, but you’ll still know where the fault is, and it’s unlikely to be accepted in that way, unless suddenly everything gets the same problem at the same time.

Unfortunately you still have the user, who suffers that irritating popup, or lack of expected functionality and, if you’re a decent type, you’ll not want to waste your clients time (and money!) in hours of to and fro trying chance upon a fix.

So the hardest thing of all, you have to admit you can’t fix the problem – certainly in the case of Office issues have come and gone – and how can that be? Well the software is updating periodically in the background.

2+2=365 in that situation.

Since writing this Chris has experienced additional software helplessness and is currently hiding in a darkened corner sharpening his antlers in anticipation of his next battle.