Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Unreasonable Requests and CRM Systems

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Special note:  This column is guest authored by J. Denton, as I certainly have no experience with any of this.

Most of us have had the phone call that goes something like this, “I want that field added; I want it as a drop down, and I want the font to be 12 point Comic Sans Serif!  I DON’T WANT TO HEAR WHY THAT’S A BAD IDEA AND IF YOU WANT TO KEEP WORKING HERE YOU WILL GET THIS DONE.”  Sound familiar?  Short of committing a felony or quitting, what’s a sysadmin to do?

Here’s a three step program that I’ve used with some success.  Be aware that in certain situations, regardless of what you do, there will not be a happy ending.  Sometimes, even when a soldier fights bravely for what is right, she dies and the battle is lost.  That’s just the way of the universe.  All you can do is your best.  With those cheerful thoughts in mind, let’s move on to the Three R’s.

1.  Reframe.  “Don, I understand how important capturing that information is and also that it is business critical that it be in a convenient format for our users.  Since our CRM system doesn’t let us control the font, let me show you how we can not only put the report output in Comic Sans Serif, but we can automatically generate clown images to show the funnel’s growth.  What other enhancements can we provide to help make this great?”

By reframing their request in a more reasonable way, you may be able to blunt the most impossible aspects of the demand.  Be prepared to give choices.  If humanly possible, don’t just say no.

2.  Restrain.  “Susan, here are some comments from our CIO.  He seems to feel that using the “F” word on the homepage might cause offense in some overly sensitive people.  It’s his decision that we not go that route.  Instead, maybe we could just talk about ‘Serious consequences for missing the sales goal’.  What do you think, since we can’t go with our first choice?”

Having a third party at a higher level restrain the bad idea is very effective.  Again, we need to be ready to offer a good suggestion and to do so in a way that lets the original requestor save face. 

3.  Remove.  If reframing and restraint didn’t work, you have two choices.  One, hold your nose and do what is asked of you.  Two, quit—remove yourself from the situation. 

Before you decide to pull the ejection handle, you have to ask yourself, “Is this where I want to make my stand?  Is it worth it?”  Obviously, if ethics or legality is involved, it probably is worth it.  If it is just being asked to do something you think unwise, I’d ponder long and hard, if throwing away a career is really a good idea.

I’m very interested in hearing other peoples experiences and suggestions regarding this topic.  Feel free to comment!

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