Reluctance to minor change

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Human beings are creatures of habit. This is a fact, plain and simple. Once you understand and accept this, you can begin to understand some of the seemingly peculiar things people do when it comes to technology.

I’ll give you a real world example. Several years, ago, my company (which as you know, provides 3rd party IT support for clients) took on a new client. This was an average sized office, with about a dozen workstations and staff. Everyone was using Outlook 2010 for their hosted e-mail, a pretty standard setup. One staff member, however, used Thunderbird, Mozilla’s free e-mail client. We were perplexed by this, since she had Outlook 2010 installed and it seemed to function properly, so why was she using Thunderbird ? When we asked, we got an interesting response. The office and all the staff had migrated from Office 2007 to Office 2010 (using a previous 3rd party IT support provider). After the migration, the way she viewed her e-mails changed. As you know, Outlook has the ability to show a “preview pane” for e-mails, so you don’t actually have to double click an e-mail and open it up, you simply click it and it displays the e-mail’s content in the preview pane. For her, in Outlook 2007, the preview pane was setup to show underneath the e-mail list (so split horizontally, beneath the list). When they migrated to Outlook 2010, it was set (probably by default) to show the preview pane to the right of the e-mail list (so split vertically, to the right of the list). She didn’t like this and didn’t know that it could be changed with a simple setting, so she decided to use Thunderbird instead.

This is just one simple example of how resistant we can be to minor changes. When we’re used to something, we don’t like changing it and adapting to something new. In the real world of IT, and in my personal experience, this is true 99% of the time.

Take Windows 8 for example. What’s the most contentious thing in it ? The Start screen (aka Metro interface).  Why ? The Start screen is basically no different than the old Start menu. You have your programs listed, and you can click on them to open them. Yes, logging off is shown in a different place than it was before, and the power options (shut down, restart, etc.) are also in a different spot. But in all seriousness, it’s pretty much the same thing, just a different method of displaying it. Yet, this is the number 1 complaint from users who have switched or won’t switch to Windows 8. We’ve been so used to the traditional Start menu (since the days of Windows 95!) that we just don’t want to accept a significant change to it.

We as IT professionals need to recognize this and make sure we do what we can to alleviate our client’s / user’s concerns. When we migrate clients over to Windows 8, we make sure that we explain and show to them how the Start screen works, and where everything is located (where “All Programs” went, or where the power options are). In all honestly, this takes only a few minutes to explain and show, but it makes clients so much more comfortable with the change.

Remember, we humans are generally reluctant to accept change. When you realize this and accept it, you will have a much easier time successfully working with clients and users to implement changes that will affect them.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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