I went to a meeting with the municipal where a local service provider presented a telco-side UC solution. There was much to like, of course. To present their case, they had a video from a make-belief architecture company. The script went something like this:
- Someone about to go to a meeting with a client looks through the project drawings, believes that the drawing is made by an architect who is currently on another phone call. So he calls up someone else, they discuss the content and whether it is possible to change the roof angle, add the carpenter to the call even though he is out in the field, the carpenter believes it is doable, but will cost more.
After a bit, the estimate comes back from the carpenter, and the project now costs 12% more, though everyone in the project group goes for it. The boss, of course, is on vacation, and has this strange feeling that he is behind on the project and pulls a spontanous video meeting to get updated about the progress and why it is now 12% above budget. He feels at ease after the meeting.
While this gave a wonderful display of how teleconferencing has been made so much easier, I could not shake the feeling of something being terribly wrong in this picture. It was just the wrong script. I shivered as I started to count all the wrongs:
- The drawing should have been marked, so you don't have to ask who drew it - you just look it up.
- The team is presented as a project team. It should be obvious to everyone on the team who does what, not to mention who made the drawing in this specific project. Why do you put someone to meet a client, if he doesn't know everything about the project already?
- The request for alteration to the plan was taken from thin air without first talking to the client, and for no obvious reason. Obviously, alterations are better discussed with the client. Keep them in the loop!
- Everyone keep interrupting eachother for no obvious reason. After all, none of the information required were critical to the continuation of the project - except perhaps the financing bit.
- For every meeting in the project, short and accurate notes were made. Yet, the boss decided to call in for a video conference instead of reading the notes. So why, exactly, were notes taken, if not for someone to read?
Alterations like these are routine for an architectural firm, there are already processes in place for such. Indeed, I have been in such meetings (as a client), and they are very structured.
The video presented the alteration as an extraordinary event, where people had to drop everything in their hands to deal with this one thing. Or in other words, technology helped them interrupt current work in progress for something that should have been dealt with by the proper processes and proper documentation that the firm did not have in place.
I am not against UC, but it is not a replacement for proper work practices and documentation requirements.