We lost our electricity from wind storms in Michigan over the weekend. With little or no warning, other than the howling of the wind, your lights can go out in an instant. If you’re like me, you begin the process of speculating where the flashlights are and hoping they have batteries in them. But most of all, you wonder when the lights will come back on. It’s not trivial either, because you will make very different plans if your electricity will be out for days versus hours. But how will you find out? You certainly can’t go outside and determine exactly where the break in the system occurred. You may not even be able to get through to the utility company, since they are typically inundated with calls during a widespread outage. You start to worry about no heat, frozen pipes, spoiled food, and no water (if you have well water with an electric pump like I do).
Two things made this most recent outage a little easier. First, there were pictures in the news and on the web that showed line workers in bucket trucks working to remove downed tree limbs, restore lines and reconnect the grid. Second, our utility has an automated service that you can call and punch in your home phone number. They resolve that to an address, and then tell you when they currently predict your service restoration to be complete.
That got me thinking about the need to communicate to all stakeholders on IT projects and how critical it is to get them ‘out of the dark.’ They can’t see the configurations you’re changing or the code you’re writing. And even if they can, they can’t relate that back to exactly when a certain module or aspect of functionality will be available for their use.
Whether they are in sales and marketing, chomping at the bit to sell the new software you’re building; in finance and accounting, waiting for an electronic interface that will save them hours of manual data entry; or in plant operations, hoping for better insights into how they can reduce or eliminate costly production defects, they are relying on you to tell them when that day will come.
So next time you think that status reports are a waste of time or that the system “will be ready when it’s ready” or that demo servers are a pain to build and maintain when you have real work to do, remember what it’s like to be the one in the dark. Be a little more open to sharing what you know with someone who doesn’t…