Are we still talking?

Work Study

ISSN: 0043-8022

Article publication date: 1 April 2000



Heap, J. (2000), "Are we still talking?", Work Study, Vol. 49 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Are we still talking?

Are we still talking?

Back at the ranch we have just completed (wrong verb, but I will explain in a moment) a major software change on our PCs. It does not really matter what it was since I think the problems we face are not necessarily Micros***'s, but more a symptom of the industry and its current level of maturity.

We all know that the PC software suppliers make their money by keeping us on the upgrade trail. (We also know that they see this coming to an end and are experimenting with software rental to ensure an ongoing revenue stream.) For various reasons (like trying to clear up the remaining bugs in the version we are currently using), we listen to the messages (improved performance, more reliability, friendlier interface, better integration, etc.) and we upgrade.

However, we are doing this in a situation whereby we are constantly upgrading hardware, operating software and application software - there is hardly ever a stable environment. This is exacerbated by the fact that all this takes place in a networked environment where the network hardware and software also changes at intervals.

When something goes wrong during one of these changeovers, it is often amazingly difficult to diagnose the fault - it can lie in any of the components, or more likely in the interaction between them. In our case, it took several days to diagnose a performance problem which "theoretically" should not have happened, but did.

The point of all this is to highlight the dangers of the trend towards voice and data convergence. While all the problem solving was going on (yes, the problem is now solved - I think - and the verb "to complete" can be used) we had major problems with network traffic performance and with some of our servers - not the fault of the network or the server hardware or software, as it turned out. We had to use our voice network (telephone) to communicate. The voice network and the voice server (PABX) stayed "up" and working all the time - as it always does!

We expect the telephone to work, but we are not that surprised when a computer fails. How did we get to this stage? Who seduced us into this round of ever-upgrading but never having a stable, reliable, useful system?

In the rest of our working lives, we think of ourselves as being demanding clients, tough customers and sharp negotiators. When it comes to buying software (in particular) we seem to roll over and die. A few bugs? Do not worry - we will take it! We have to wait for the working upgrade? That is OK - send it along when its ready!

Can we not do something about this together!

John Heap

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