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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Convince Someone To Give Up an Old System?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the times-they-are-a-changing dept.

Google 379

First time accepted submitter Vanderhoth writes "I'm currently serving as a new member of a board for a not for profit organization. The board currently has a few other members, and a couple of vacant positions. One of the issues I've noticed since joining the board is the method in which they conduct business is very out of date. The member that maintains our web presences (Bob) has developed a system over the last ten years to allow us to store documents, such as agendas and minutes on a website server.

Some of the big issues are:

1.) The system is very disorganized, there are documents from the late 90's that aren't relevant, but have to be sifted through to find more current stuff.
2.) Often documents are not where they should be and are difficult to find.
3.) No one except Bob really knows how the system works.
4.) No one really wants to use the system because of the monster it's become.

My concern is if Bob decided to leave the organization no one would be able to maintain the existing system and we would be scrambling to put something new in place. I feel, for what we want to do, Google Docs would be an excellent platform for collaborating and sharing documents. The other board members, except Bob, have agreed with me, but are worried that bringing the issues with the existing system may cause offense and ultimately cause Bob to leave. Other than being overly vested in a system he developed, Bob is an important part of our board and a very valuable member.

We're already having a difficult time finding members to serve on the board so it's very important that we don't lose any existing board members. I'm hoping that I can convince the Bob to start supporting some Google docs objects on the site and try to wean him off his existing system to something a bit more manageable and collaborative that can be passed on to new members and maintained easily.

I don't want this to turn into old dogs and new tricks. I'm not that far behind Bob in years and can appreciate the difficulty of being told it's time to give in to something more modern. I'm wondering how the situation could be approached tactfully so maybe Bob will see how much easier a new system could be for everyone, including him."

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379 comments

BARACK OBAMA BASED GOD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914167)

get up stand up strut ur funky stuff

Re:BARACK OBAMA BASED GOD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914429)

You first, fish tits.

Smart Guy (4, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914197)

Sounds like Bob has found a way to ensure his continued employment and everyone around is too spineless to play that game of chicken with him.

Re:Smart Guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914231)

Sounds like Bob has found a way to ensure his continued employment and everyone around is too spineless to play that game of chicken with him.

"member of a board for a not for profit organization."

Re:Smart Guy (4, Informative)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914307)

Sounds like Bob has found a way to ensure his continued employment and everyone around is too spineless to play that game of chicken with him.

"member of a board for a not for profit organization."

"Not for Profit" does not always mean "unpaid volunteer", and that includes the board.

Re:Smart Guy (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914361)

"Not for Profit" does not always mean "unpaid volunteer", and that includes the board.

And even when it does, you can still have the gatekeeper syndrome. People do this sort of thing for many reasons not just money.

Re:Smart Guy (2, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914591)

With this in mind. Personally, I would build a better system, pull all documents in some way, and dump them into it.

I would then introduce it, show how much easier it is, and then let them chose.

Re:Smart Guy (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914243)

Well, maybe it's time the organization brought in The Bobs to find out exactly what everyone's role is, and trim the fat a little.

Who says the problem is the old system? (1)

waterbear (190559) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914589)

You think it's not possible to make a c***-heap out of stored data in a new system?

-wb-

Re:Smart Guy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914373)

It sounds like the poster and Bob are fellow board members on a non-profit organization. Same result though. If political ego stroking is what the submitter's asking for then I would suggest putting Bob in charge of replacement. Just give him 2 or 3 options to choose from. If you have to resort to the ego, you should be able to get away with giving him the same kind of decision making power as a child.

Re:Smart Guy (4, Funny)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914575)

Always execute the indispensable person. The owner(s) are fools if the that person makes them the wagged tail. It will pay more in the long run to flush them.

You do it this way. You give Bob an agenda and you send him off the most distant and obscure places to 'evaluate software' preferably somewhere he can play on the company dime using the very generous per diem you will give him. Make sure he does not have time to spend in house while you rip the system apart by hiring a team of energetic 20 somethings you'll discard with pockets full of cash at the end of the project. If Bob has a multiple moral indiscretions or is arrested that is just cake. Once you've had your Bobectomy you set up that system with a broader hierarchy where no one person will ever have such control again and take reasonable precautions to ensure it is well documented and also as secure as needed for the data contained in it.

Well it worked at one place I was 'abused' at 20 something. ;) Pockets full of cash baby. :)

Re:Smart Guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914677)

May be all Bob needs to do is add a date column to the list of files and that was all the critic is about?

Re:Smart Guy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914733)

Forgot something: disorganized documents wont be ruled out by a new stylish document management system, because it is usually the users task to save them at the right location.

What about Bob? (3, Insightful)

Meshach (578918) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914203)

Apologies to Bill Murary!

Kidding aside, have you tried bringing it up with Bob?

Re:What about Bob? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914439)

Apologies to Smiling Bob and Silent Bob.

Re:What about Bob? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914441)

where's the joke? How can you put kidding aside when you fail to kid?

Tell him (5, Informative)

s1d3track3D (1504503) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914205)

Why don't you just tell him what you explained above

Re:Tell him (3, Insightful)

Sfing_ter (99478) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914555)

Exactly, it is quite possible he has wanted to update, wanted to relenquish administration, but has not wanted to go through the process or speak up about making the change.

Non profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914219)

Using google documents might be an answer, but a proper document management system is better. And there are free versions.
You do not state what type of non profit, but anything in the health area placed on google docs (or any could outside of a country) would be a problem.
You may find Bob would be open to small incremental improvements that end up in a big change. Often people like Bob want help, but just don't know how to ask.

Re:Non profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914279)

Using Google Docs would leave you vulnerable to a Republican witch hunt which is something most non-profits have to watch out for so better to keep sensitive documents on your internal network.

Re:Non profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914455)

As opposed to the Democratic witch hunt that got Kim Dotcom and Megaupload?

Re:Non profit (4, Insightful)

Macgrrl (762836) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914651)

Not knowing what system Bob currently has in place, Google Docs may (or may not) be an improvement.

However, there is no such thing as a document management system that can't be screwed up for it's effectiveness by poor data hygiene processes.

Any system needs to have a high level plan for how the data will be structured and organised. Meta data needs to be agreed upon and used. The information architecture needs to scale and be flexible to be restructured if something changes in how you want to access it (say in response to mandatory reporting requirements being changed).

The tool in most cases is the least important part. It's how intuitive the navigation is and how well everyone sticks to using the agreed (and published) naming conventions and saving files in the agreed locations. Even simple things like naming your files YYYYMMDD_Agenda.doc can help make things easier to find and simpler to sort.

My two cents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914227)

I don't know if this is feasible, but why not do both? Start using Google documents while using the old system at the same time. That way, when everyone is comfortable with switching, just stop using the old system. (I haven't used Google documents before, and I am not part of any organization. This advice is more of a guess at a solution.)

Another suggestion would be this software. [wikipedia.org]

Bob's Kingdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914233)

Shhhhh! You have discovered the secret of how old dinosaurs keep their jobs until retirement age.

If you are fortunate, you will wait for Bob to leave, watch the house crash down, and swoop in with *your* organizational system that will keep things running until you retire. Make yourself indispensable.

Asking Bob to step aside or to train his replacement is suicide from an employment perspective. Fight the battles that you can win.

First time submitter... (0, Offtopic)

humanrev (2606607) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914235)

... should learn to write smaller summaries.

Re:First time submitter... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914315)

I'm not convinced that was a summary.

Re:First time submitter... (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914355)

Usually there's a "click the read more link below to learn about Vanderhoth's amazing investment opportunities!" link. Bad samzenpus!

Bob... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914241)

Bob is his last name, right? Because this sounds a lot like Microsoft Bob...

Careful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914253)

Be careful of the cloud for your important documents.

Just the latest, scary thing involving the cloud and our government.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/governments-attack-cloud-computing

Easy fix: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914255)

Lock Bob in the boot of a car. Come back in an hour and ask if he wants to migrate to Google docs. If he's recalcitrant, come back in another hour with a gun. Ask again. Sooner or later he'll come around.

Careful (4, Insightful)

TheGreatDonkey (779189) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914269)

Bob probably is well aware of the chaotic disorganization of his system as well, where I suspect he devised something that worked well in small form, but simply is not scaling out beyond its original intent. If you approach it with educating him on understanding Google Docs, and what value it provides, he should start to learn for itself its advantages and how it actually makes it EASIER to manage the docs. He may well fully embrace the idea then on his own (the easier way to get want you want is he wants it as well). Be careful though... he may also finally have found the person he has been looking for all these years to take over the job and do whatever the hell they want with it, in which case he says congrats to you and its yours forever to maintain (until the next solid contributor comes along in 20 years).

-A Jaded Board Member

do it subversively (0)

lophophore (4087) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914283)

Do this subversively, and get Bob to realize the benefit. Make him the biggest champion for the change!

How? Use the collaborative features of Google Docs, like allowing multiple people to simultaneously edit a spreadsheet. I expect his web-based system cannot do that, and after he uses it for a while, he may actually start to like it.

Re:do it subversively (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914403)

No wonder people hate Slashtards...
 
"Step in as a n00b and screw with someone that you work with and hope they accept the results that they didn't want in the first place."
 
What could go wrong?

Bob's (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914289)

First off, I have dealt with Bob types in the past. A good (subjective) computer person can figure out anything Bob did, maybe not right off, but would. Any horse can be rode, and any man can be throw'd.

Layout an objective plan and how easy it'll will be and how much money it will save them in the long run. Also note that in the future there wouldn't be a Bob problem or the cost of correcting one.

Hope that helps,

Mark V.

Security Evaluation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914291)

I am sure Bob hasn't created the most secure web application, and that usually a reason for an upgrade. If the software is 10 year old, I am sure the tools he used to create it are not very secure anymore. Consider to prove that using the application is a liability since it doesn't conform to security standard.

old systems (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914293)

If the company is big enough to have a CFO explain to them the risk of if something was to happen to "Bob". He could get hit by a bus, have a heart attack or his wife could kill him for spending so much time at work patching the old system. The use of a standard modern system would help medigate that risk.

Heck given how messed up the current system is "Bob" could be stealing from the company. Do they get audited ?

God complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914295)

Give him hardware incentive. "We are going to this online system, so you will need this shiny fancy new tablet to help read the documents. Don't worry, it's yours to keep."

Bait with a toy and then switch. As long as he doesn't have to do the work and is patiently taught how to use the new system it should go as well as can be expected. If he resists, then it's a power struggle.

There is a lot that can be done with printouts, OCR, and software to fix the mess if he won't open the system up.

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914327)

Enjoy the US government also having access to your documents by putting them up on Google Docs. You might as well just preemptively email them all to the FBI to save yourself the surprise.

Hey Bob........ (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914331)

Hey Bob,

We appreciate your hard work, ability to produce and maintain this system for eons. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how we could make this more robust? scalable? fault tolerant?

If he says no......then you got a pig to wrestle. If he says.....holy crap, I have been wanting to do something for the last 5 years but no one thought if was important.......then he tells you how he wants to migrate it to google docs and wrote this neat app he can do it on his iphone........in 10 seconds............ but someone told him it was not allowed or against policy or they would get rid of him the minute he did that.............

Let the ID dept do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914351)

If you're on the board are you really the people to be maintaining this? Doesn't the company have staff who regularly do it?

Google Docs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914371)

I personally would not use google docs for any kind of mildly professional, there have been way too many security and privacy concerns. I know lots of people do, and I am always on the paranoid side.

It sounds like his "developed system" is just some directories on a webserver. How about rather than being concerned about the directory structure, you try to provide some simple tools to make things easier to find (search, index, etc.). Where the files are stored are somewhat irrelevant if you provide a few interfaces that are easier to use.

Bringing him along without killing his ego (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914383)

Bob has probably spent countless hours sweating and toiling on this in relative obscurity. The key to pulling this off in my opinion is to recognize his work and talk about the features you'd like to get added to the website. Constructing the right feature requests will help him come on board with an alternative solution.

Bob's value (5, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914389)

From your description, Bob may have a vested interest in the old system. Security, self worth, whatever. Bob may feel that his value is tied with the old system. So going after the old system is going to feel like going after Bob, to him.

So don't fight that battle. Turn it around and make it so that Bob has an interest in the new system. Ok, that's obviously easier said than done. But there are several ways it can be done. Here are two approaches:

1) Let Bob be the hero. Talk to him privately about how he's managed miracles with what he's been given. Then ask him what he would do different if he could start over. Ask him what it would take. Offer to back him in his proposals. In short, put him in charge in a way that makes him indispensable and proud to do a good job.

2) Let him be the mentor. Similar to letting him be the hero, but with the twist of having someone else do the grunt work under Bob's wise and benevolent guidance.

3) Black box it. Ask Bob to come up with a new system, but don't get into the details. That requires a lot of trust, which may be what Bob is after anyways.

You get the idea. Play to what Bob wants and make it work for you.

Re:Bob's value (4, Insightful)

Psider (2734563) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914567)

All good ideas. I think a lot of people are actually open to change as long as they feel their skill and experience is being valued. Suggest that it would be good to simplify and modernise the process and find out what ideas Bob has and the challenges he sees in implementing any changes.

Also be clear on what you want to achieve, without dictating the route to go. Suggestions are fine, but don't make is sound like you've already decided - people generally take pride in what they do and want to have input into how changes proceed. And buy-in breeds better morale. :)

Two problems I've encountered are top down dictators who ignore people's skills and experience; and unclear goals which make it extremely hard to move forward (e.g. "make is snazzy" is not clear enough. "Allow collaboration and make it easier to locate relevant information" is better.)

Re:Bob's value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914595)

The problem with that approach is that if you put the guy who messed everything up in the first place in charge of the new mess, he'll repeat history.

Re:Bob's value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914737)

"Don't tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."

George S. Patton

Re:Bob's value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914765)

#3 is a huge nono for me. You're putting the design and construction of the new system in the hands of someone whose already made a mess of it once, which is fine, but then you're also cutting out your own review and input on the new system! You're sacrificing the issue at hand for the sake of expediency. You might as well just not touch the damn thing at all in that case. Just say and do nothing.

From a POA President (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914405)

Bob is a volunteer and volunteers get to chose how they do things or they walk. Sounds like you already know that.

Having been burned by Google three times already as they choose to no longer support services I and others have come to depend on, I hesitate to recommend them.

So I'd agree that talking to him about increased organization and getting ready for the day some time in the future when he no longer wants to or is able makes sense. So how to keep his interest? As someone else said, if he sees the need and is the champion then you have achieved several objectives. As someone who in corporate life had to choose the apps set for the company, beware those with a techie loyalty and an agenda. You want formats and hosting you can depend on to be readable 10 years from now.

Index into the old system (1)

jarich (733129) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914417)

Can you link to docs in the old system? If so, create Google docs that are organized links into the old system. You want to see the minutes from all the meetings over the last year? Here's that page of links. Budgets? Here it is.

Over time you'll make the Google Docs the de factor standard. Once everyone is accustomed to using Google docs, you can start creating new docs in any system. Including Google docs.

This will gradually wean people off the old system without any single, massive switch. And hopefully it'll be a nice, gradual process.

btw, if the old system doesn't support links into documents, you can ask Bob to add it.

Let's look at it with a logical perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914425)

Bob will not always be around, for the sake of the organization whitepapering and document sorting must be done.

Get him involved, sort the documents by year and archive anything over 3 years old. Do it on HIS system. Then copy anything within 3 years / whatever arbitrary number out of his system into a different more organized system and alpha test it. If it works, get bob on board, teach him the ropes.

A lot of times it's the matter of how you do things, don't make him think that he's being replaced, make him part of the solution and things can get better.

- as a sidenote, if he is completely unwilling to do this reinvent the wheel logically yourself and keep it on the backburner until he retires. Whitepaper _everything_ in your process.

Solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914427)

If you're go getter enough to complain be enough to either fix the shortcomings in the old system or get busy on a new one. The most valued employees are those that identify and solve problems without a committee having to discuss them. Ask me how I know.

Re:Solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914509)

If you're go getter enough to complain be enough to either fix the shortcomings in the old system or get busy on a new one. The most valued employees are those that identify and solve problems without a committee having to discuss them. Ask me how I know.

I don't. But then again as AC, anyone could post anything using AC as a sock puppet. I may be the parent, I may not. Either way, I think I'll have learned by now not to post comments ending with "ask me how I know" as AC.

Three possible ways (2)

phamlen (304054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914433)

Just a few quick possibilities:

1) You could try the 'duplicate, don't replace' strategy. For instance, minutes of the board meetings go in Google Docs (so they can be searched more easily) and then are copied over to Bob's system once approved. If you do it right, eventually Google docs will start to become the primary source system - simply because it's easier to use - but Bob will still be maintaining his system. The downside to this is that you'll have a lot of documents in two places but eventually you can drop the one that isn't working.

2) You try to give Bob some kind of new, very cool project for him to work on - that is, give him a way cooler, more interesting bone and maybe he'll drop the one he's got. How's your donor database? Do you need some kind of app built for mobile or something? Once he's up and handling that (and gotten some real street cred for a good project), you might be able to obsolete the document management thing.

3) Work on a Business Continuity Plan: an early step in all BCP's is to make sure that you can (a) recover the documents if disaster hits and (b) that no one person is a single point of failure. Use the recent 'Sandy' events to emphasize that this is not a slur against Bob but the organization has to be able to survive even if the current 'datacenter' (even if it's just a machine under a desk) is flooded/destroyed. Google Docs is far cheaper from a recovery point of view.

4) Emphasize the shared document approach to Google Docs - if you have remote meetings, it's much easier to use Google docs to share/edit and remotely collaborate. Again, merging with approach #1 (use Google Docs until it's finalized, then it goes into the Bob system) might work well.

Good luck.

The Army taught me... (1)

michael_rendier (2601249) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914435)

What I would do personally is make your own system on the D/L, call it 'making a backup'...or some such...work at home...out of the office...there are entire pages of content management systems out there you can run right on your desktop or to a server...call it 'administrative upgrade'...if you're that worried about your system now, believe me, in the world of data management...it's best to CYOA.

Change it, but be nice to Bob. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914437)

Questionable wisdom of using a cloud to store docs aside, you should just switch, explain to Bob why you're switching, and remain calm and politely attentive if he complains. He might blow off steam for a couple days, but ultimately, he'll have to accept it or move on. That's out of your hands. If a couple weeks go by, and he still can't handle it, and he's making it impossible to get shit done, then you might have to deal with that by letting him go, but give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

The system is not the problem (5, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914451)

This is a political problem, not a systems problem.

After over a decade in systems administration, I just a job where for six years I was an IT manager. There, I learned that the skills involved in managing projects and people are a vastly underrated skill among systems specialists. The belief is often that the right system - new hardware; new software - will somehow solve an organization problem that's inherently political in nature. By that I mean, a people problem. And I think you've got a people problem here. Which doesn't mean your documentation system isn't out of date, doesn't need a refresh, etc. It means that a core member of your team is out of step with the needs of the organization, as defined by a majority board vote.

You have three choices:

A) attempt to persuade this board member that his system needs a revamp, set a series of goals to achieve that he'll buy into, and give him the project to manage. Specify benchmarks and a timeline to achieve these goals and have the board review the project on a regular basis. Then the board must fulfill its obligation to the organization by grading project success on an honest but fair basis. If he honestly works toward these goals, then the issue will resolve itself in time. Otherwise, the board must consider the possibility of transitioning him off a leadership role in that project.

B) Fire him. Do it now. Accept the fallout and hire someone else to clean up the mess.

C) Do nothing.

---

Option A: keeps someone in place who has shown himself to be an important team member who has strayed from the needs of the organization, but who recognizes this and shifts course as a result. This is the preferred course.

Option B: cuts your losses now and takes the hit quickly, while the problem is fresh. This is a harsh course, but at least is a response to the problem at hand.

Option C: 'do nothing' is a total loser. A problem recognized and yet not pursued to resolution festers until systems collapse, often at the worst time while leaving the organization unprepared for the consequences.

But the first thing you've got to realize is that Google Docs is not your solution. Google Docs may be a fine system, and a worthy systems choice. But your problem is not 'the system'. Your problem is that one person in a leadership role in the organization has strayed from board consensus, and as a result has assumed command responsibilities he does not legitimately hold. That's what you and the board must address.
 

Re:The system is not the problem (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914569)

Your problem is that one person in a leadership role in the organization has strayed from board consensus, and as a result has assumed command responsibilities he does not legitimately hold. That's what you and the board must address.

Just re-read the summary, it appears that Bob hasn't necessarily "strayed from board consensus", it's sounds more like this is an item that has been neglected, and the members aren't quite sure how Bob will react to change. Bob may respond with defensive anger, or with thankful cheer that someone is offering to help with his overgrown monster. To me the problem is how to broach the subject with the least chance of causing offense to a valued member of the board who's loss would be felt.

Re:The system is not the problem (1)

pikine (771084) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914577)

I think option C would not be a bad choice. The system has worked and will continue to work until Bob leaves for any reason. The original poster already has an alternative. If he wants to, he can start using Google Docs today and benefit from the convenience of its search features immediately. He'll need to make some effort to sync with Bob's document system without Bob's help. This way, he and Bob can coexist. He will use Google Docs as a back up so that, if Bob's system collapses, the failover to Google Docs would be relatively simple.

This approach is "do nothing politically, but be prepared technically."

Option A has the problem that you invent more politics to solve a political problem. It will only get messier and worse. Option B is simply cruel. It just spells the lack of appreciation to Bob's hard work over the years, and the original poster would not have that option anyway, being just a new member.

Step by step (ooh baby) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914459)

With all due respect sir, knowing that you already know this, I comment that there is no way around trying to pull him away from his overly vested and nurtured little baby without offending his pride and ego. My suggestion, simply an opinion, is perhaps you can start a step at a time and simply share a single not-so-important document using Google Docs (I suppose it could even be something comical and entertaining) amongst the board members (especially Bob) to ease them (him) into the Google Docs environment without laying upon them the heavy burden of "intent of migration". It's one thing for Bob to be "told" (asked, implored, whatever the case) to move to a completely different structure of document control more or less blind folded, while it's another thing for Bob to first-hand experience the benefits of the newer technology and come to realization that improvement may be at hand. Again, just a thought. Good luck!

Don't squabble with Bob (4, Insightful)

TopSpin (753) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914461)

new member

Bob has it all over you. You can make a brilliant case and Bob will quietly pigeonhole enough support to get his way. In the meantime you'll squander whatever little political capital you have squabbling with Bob. Don't squabble with Bob.

convince Bob

Bzzt. Wrong. Bob is not the guy you need to convince. You need to convince everyone else. Here are some ideas on how to do that.

First, demonstrate the weaknesses. Place legitimate demands on Bob's system that you know it can't handle (revision control, secure remote access, ACL, etc.) Make him squirm and come up with excuses. Don't offer an alternative because that just leads to squabbling. Don't squabble with Bob. Just make the system and Bob's advocacy of it look bad.

Do something "new" in your prefered alternative system. It has to be something that does not require or even suggest that it belongs in Bob's baby, because otherwise you're back to squabbling. Don't squabble with Bob. This is where you show how inadequate Bob's system is. This has been how middle managers sneak solutions into institutions for decades; go around IT. If the system is really as bad as you say it is then this is already happening anyhow. Look carefully for those cases. You may be able to adopt them.

Wait. Eventually some happy user of your alternative system, armed with knowledge and frustration with the inadequacies of Bob's system you carefully surfaced, will begin to argue for your solution. "XYZ can do it, why shouldn't we use that instead?"

Wait. Eventually Bob's system will crumble a bit because Bob doesn't scale (medical problems, boredom, incompetence, whatever) and you're there ready to go with a proven solution, advocates and everything.

Re:Don't squabble with Bob (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914623)

Agree with this post. Bob is the guy who introduced the current inadequate and shambolic system, and (fails to) maintain it. Why would you want him on your side? Also the OP noted that the group can't afford to lose any more members. Have they considered that if they get rid of Bob and get a better system, they might retain and attract more members? Who wants to get involved in a shambles in their spare time after working hard all day?

Re:Don't squabble with Bob (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914671)

He could just keep the system as it is, but slap a search interface onto it and have it index its files and their content -- to make them easier to find.
http://serverfault.com/questions/40356/open-source-alternative-to-google-appliance-for-intranet-search [serverfault.com]
http://university-web-developers.1112205.n2.nabble.com/Moving-away-from-a-Google-Search-Appliance-GSA-advice-td6509523.html [nabble.com]
https://developers.google.com/search-appliance/documentation/68/secure_search/secure_search_crwlsrv [google.com]
http://docfetcher.sourceforge.net/en/index.html [sourceforge.net]

I assume that Google Drive will get that capability soon, but right now, it doesn't have it.

Google Docs Ain't Magic (4, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914463)

1.) The system is very disorganized, there are documents from the late 90's that aren't relevant, but have to be sifted through to find more current stuff.

Google Docs won't fix that.

2.) Often documents are not where they should be and are difficult to find.

Google Docs won't fix that.

3.) No one except Bob really knows how the system works.

Google Docs will fix this.

4.) No one really wants to use the system because of the monster it's become.

Google Docs may not fix this. See #1 and #2.

Besides the passive aggressiveness in this post, you might have bigger communication issues on your board than just the document collection system. If you want a more concrete suggestion: convert Bob's entire system into Google Docs, fix it up so it provides the same member benefits as Bob's system (no, one big "oldshit" folder won't cut it) and then give him a demo. And really dig into #1 and #2 - that's a problem with any document collection system ever built.

Re:Google Docs Ain't Magic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914607)

3.) No one except Bob really knows how the system works.

Google Docs will fix this.

In the way that no one but Google will know how the system works.

Don't put a square peg in a round hole. (3, Interesting)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914465)

Google docs for board meetings? *facepalm*.

I work for an school district that employs a web based product that manages board meetings. It handles agendas, attachments, motions and voting, as well as keeping a measure of the minutes. I would suggest examining the options available and getting some demos. Once you've seen something that grabs your interest, involve Bob. Tell him you just found this think that you think would make everyone's job easier. But don't involve Bob alone, introduce it as "something you saw" to the whole board. This will make it so you aren't pointing out how horrible Bob's system is, you're pointing out how wonderful the new system is. Perhaps Bob is buried and doesn't know a way out, or perhaps he's clutching onto this thing as his personal feeling of self-worth(which would be sad).

1) Identify a new possible(needs to be MUCH better then the current) solution
2) Bring it to the attention of the board as a whole
3) Let the whole board carry the conversation, and let Bob make his defense if he really wants to. If he's shut out of the decision making process, he'll probably want to leave. If he makes an obviously stupid defense in the face of overwhelming benefit, then thats on him, and he'll see it at some point (even if he never admits it).

Typical (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914467)

This is a common scenario. Basically not one organisation should depend on a single person. To deal with such a scenario, I would suggest you approach Bob and ask him "what if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?". His response will reveal his personality. Either he depends on the power he has accumulated, or he will understand the problem. In the former case you are in a big deal of trouble, in the latter case you might brainstorm together and find a practical solution.

Little bit of a knee jerk reaction (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914471)

Google docs will be the exact same mess in 10 years that your current system is now ...if it lasts that long. Just have Bob tidy shit up and fix the band-aids come back in another 10 years

Return on investment (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914473)

Show them how the new system will save them money

Money talks and bull shit walks

Google doc's isn't the 'new' system you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914491)

Bob's system has advantages over Google's system. Google monitors EVERYTHING. You shouldn't be voluntarily moving to it just because it has more features. Get Bob to work on something new or do it yourself. There are lots of good alternatives. I setup a wiki for my company and we use it for EVERYTHING. It's a great system. However it may not have all the features your looking for. However there are other free platforms out there that are easy to setup. You also won't end up reliant on Google. We don't know if Google Docs will be around in 10 years. Google Docs has MANY MANY disadvantages over other systems.

Ever read Dale Carnegie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914497)

For stuff like this, maybe Dale Carnegie's advice could help. From this site, http://www.westegg.com/unmaintained/carnegie/win-friends.html it might be beneficial to read the actual book for the items listed in part three, 'Win people to your way of thinking'. In my experience, Carnegie did a pretty damn good explaining how to deal with combative or stubborn people.

Or, if you've ever watched Madea's Witness Protection, consider the scene where Madea convinced a mean teenage girl that her entire family died after meeting unfortunate ends. When the girl went into hysterics, Madea calmly asked her (loosely paraphrasing), "Well why aren't you happy? I thought you wanted them all dead." Finding the latter funnier than simply trying your hand at behavior modification that Carnegie speaks of--I'd prefer creating a short animation and/or story depicting a worst-case scenario that details what would likely happen if the shiz hit the fan. I could see bonus points for using Bob as the main character in a scene mimicking the hypnotist scene in Office Space, simply adding a twist where the effect becomes irreversible and permanent. (Not sure if he'd find it funny if you made him visualize his own death.)

Re:Ever read Dale Carnegie? (1)

pntkl (2187764) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914547)

Too bad we can't claim (that I know of) our posts accidentally submitted without first authenticating. If I wrote such a feature, I might compare requestor's IP and browser headers against the submission in question, then only change Anonymous Coward to Absent Minded Professor. ;) Speaking of things I would do, when it comes to Bob, you could always forget changing his mind and then hire me to have that fun... eheh

Find little ways to work it in. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914503)

Make Google docs your workspace first. Use Google docs to get files to Bob. This does 2 things. It gets him using it without replacing what he has. The other is it kind of builds the new site going forward.

If you get a chrome book, it makes it all the more seamless. Then google docs will be your work space.

Get Bob on Board (1)

James-NSC (1414763) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914513)

Your comment indicates that existing board members have informed you that your idea may not be welcomed by Bob. Listen to them. He has been personally invested in this for quite some time and may not welcome the new guy rocking the proverbial boat, I'd suggest the best way to pursue this would be to have the move to Google be Bob's idea. Have Bob show you his work, appreciate how much time and effort he's put into it and when you get to functionality that it doesn't do or doesn't do well steer the conversation towards filling those gaps. Ask Bob how he would do it on his site or ask him for his ideas. It's very likely that Bob isn't any happier with his solution than anyone else is, but he's personally invested in it. It's that investment you need to recognize in order for your migration suggestion to be successful - for everyone. If you can get Bob to be part of the solution, he may well invest just as much time in that as he did this.

learn how a board works (5, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914519)

Learn how to be a proper board member.

In short: submit an agenda item to discuss resolving issues to the document management system. Either ask Bob if he'd like to present a plan of his own to resolve the problems along with your own, or let the board discuss the problems and request plans of action from you, Bob, and anyone else. At the next meeting, the plans are presented and one is selected by the board.

Everything is above board, he's given a completely legitimate/fair shot at fixing the problems, and if the board fairly discusses and votes against him, he at least should feel he was treated fairly, and it won't impact his desire to help the organization.

IF and ONLY IF he's treated fairly and he goes off in a huff about the whole thing, then so be it. He's toxic.

If you go sneaking around trying to build support for switching to google docs (which you've kind of already done - you need to buy a copy of Robert's Rules of Order and read up about polling, and why you don't do it), then ambush Bob at a meeting and throw up a motion to switch to Google Docs - he's rightfully going to be angry and defensive, and it will definitely impact his contributions or cause him to leave.

When you've been there long enough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914527)

You'll know enough to make the right approach.

"I'm currently serving as a new member of a board for a not for profit organization. The board currently has a few other members, and a couple of vacant positions."

Nothing personal, but it sounds like these are a bunch of like minded people who volunteer their time and services for the pleasure of doing it. If you want to shit on Bob's parade, you might be at odds with more than him.

If it was such a good idea, why hasn't anyone thought of it yet?

Quit being pushy, nobody likes the new guy.

Self-Organization (1)

gimmeataco (2769727) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914531)

One thing I thought was missing from the post was, "Why can't you learn/reorganize the system yourself (or have someone else non-Bob do it)?" It's the best of both worlds, keep Bob while having a functional system? I've worked for a large NPO and change is very scary (not to mention the fact, electronic transmittal of confidential documents via the internet (ie. use of Google Docs) is commonly forbidden).

Strong boss (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914537)

BTW, something about "we can do better by storing important data in Google Docs" just doesn't seem right. I'd stick with Bob's system, whatever it is.

What you need is a strong boss. At my work, there have been secretaries and personal assistants that cling on to their old systems. That's the privilege that comes with being one of the first few in a company. Sometimes, those old systems get outmoded. One old system involved storing most numerical data in old Lotus 1-2-3r5 DOS files, even after Excel for Windows was around. A strong boss had to say, "We are using Excel now, and so you will be using Excel as well." When we went from standalone PCs and floppy disks to a networking and a central file servers, a strong boss had to say, "We are no longer storing files on the individual PCs or floppy disks. We are storing them on the file server. This means that you will be storing them on a central file server as well."

What this means is that you need to find a strong boss and convince him/her of the superiority of having a new system. The best way to do that is to have the new system ready, maybe not as production code or close to it. That boss will stick up for you.

You could also get someone to get Bob to reorganize his own system. Documents are easy to get mixed up, especially as years pass on and the number of employees grows. In my current situation, there can be some folders that are mostly production data, some that are supporting data, and some that are specific to one employee, and there can be confusion at times. The situation is this way, despite some confusion sometimes, because most of the time, everybody gets to the data they need...NOW. Retraining people in new systems takes away from that NOW directive that is important in business. If you're going to retrain everybody, then maybe you should do better than Google Docs. Think like a database guy, in terms of schemas and where data is now and where it's supposed to go. No whiz-bang solution is going to help you if your data organization is bad in the first place.

Not Google Docs, Bob (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914541)

Chances are if your answer is "Google Docs" then you're asking the wrong question. The existing system the board is using might not be great, but it has had a longer life span than most Google products, so keep that in mind. Cloud solutions, like Google Docs, come and go, you should really have something portable and lasting. Something you can backup and maintain yourself.

I believe your first step should be to approach Bob and mention your concerns about the current system and ask him if you can work with him to improve upon it. He is senior, so let him lead with you providing suggestions. Hopefully Bob will be open to some new ideas and you two can come up with a new solution together. Maybe you can find a way to reorganize his existing system and make it more manageable. Maybe you can win him over by demoing something new. Whatever happens, make sure he signs off on it.

However, if Bob isn't willing to change the current system, then learn his. Eventually Bob will probably move on and leave the system in your hands. Make sure you take the time now to learn how it works, how things are organized. You mentioned no one really know how it works. So make sure you sit down with Bob and get him to explain it to you. Let him know that if he gets hit by a bus you want to be able to pick up where he left off.

The point is, it's a small non-profit, work with the existing members, not against them.

Quit (2)

tftp (111690) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914549)

I'm wondering how the situation could be approached tactfully so maybe Bob will see how much easier a new system could be for everyone, including him."

If the situation is as bad as you describe then there is a person (Bob) who holds the entire company hostage, and nobody is willing to defy Bob's will - not even the CEO or whoever there is.

If the CEO is not willing to cross Bob then why should you? Is there a reason why you'd sacrifice yourself for the common good? Your fellow board members aren't willing to deal with Bob, they want to sit it out while you and Bob are fighting. Do you want that role? What is the upside for you?

The company in such a shape is already in trouble. It cannot govern itself; instead of being governed by rational decisions that are based on facts the company is governed by personal opinions of strongmen who refuse to consider alternatives no matter what. This is not a healthy company to work for. Bob can flip his lid at any time, for any reason. If he, being omnipotent, wants you gone then you will be gone. If that describes the company well enough then I would quit - there is no future for the company, and there is no future for you as a part of it. The only alternative is to seize control of the company. I don't think this is what you are thinking toward because in that case Bob and his problems would be discarded as a bad dream, and you wouldn't need to ask Slashdot how to deal with a generally simple management problem (a rogue employee, a.k.a. a loose cannon.)

Start asking leading questions of Bob (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914559)

Seems you have summed up a very typical problem. Not just with computer guys, but with all sorts of professions. So the question really is how can you lead Bob to make changes in how he does things so everybody can find what they need, without making him feel threatened or defensive about how things are now. Apparently you don't think the direct approach is a good because you fear that Bob might be offended and leave, dropping the whole thing in your lap. So how about some indirect approaches?

Start asking Bob about how you can find things you need. Ask him to help you locate some documents that might be fairly obscure. Then ask him how he knew where it was so you won't have to bother him all the time asking for help. Say things like, "Man, I wish I understood how this is organized as well as you, I hate having to bother you." You might find out that there really IS a system that can explain what Bob is doing, or Bob, being the helpful sort, may actually figure out that he needs to organize things a bit to help everybody out and start doing it on his own. He may even ask for suggestions or even help, at which point your problem gets solved and Bob stays.

Other indirect approaches are similar. Ask questions, Ask for help, Ask why things are where they are. You can even ask if he's ever seen this tool or that, would that make your life easier? Just try to never hint that there is a problem until Bob starts talking about it as a problem, then offer to help with what ever solution Bob thinks is best.

If indirect doesn't help, then you need to decide if it is worth the risk of loosing Bob by coming out and just saying there is a problem. If it's worth it, confront him about it directly. If it's not, then forget about it and just live with the issue.

I've known people like that... (1)

achbed (97139) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914583)

...and it's a sticky situation. The easiest thing to do might be to initiate a cost/benefit analysis of the current system vs another one, entirely based around the idea of cost (running the servers, maintenance costs if any, storage upgrades). Time spent on the system should only be included in the analysis if anyone is being paid. Make sure to include Bob (or even better, ask if he'd volunteer as the "systems expert"), and have him help choose alternatives for the comparison. If you do have an existing solution in mind, suggest it in VERY broad terms ("maybe compare it to some online services - Google Docs is one that I keep hearing about"). Make sure that there's a numbers person involved as well (accounting or something similar) to run the figures, so there's a reality check on it. Then, DROP IT. Get yourself out of the way, and let the process take its course. Once the final report is in, the rest of the board can make the determination which way to go. If they stick with Bob and his methods after an audit, then you really have a simple choice - work with it, or leave.

Huh??? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914593)

Are you crazy?

Why would you go to anything entirely controlled by an outside entity which could decide to change interfaces or deprecate your entire workflow for no particular reason?

You obviously have access to a server, and you have a lot of legacy files. Look into a document management system that has a search function built in, and call it a day. For bonus points, create a folder structure which you find relevant and suggest everyone abide by it.

Maybe Bob is more usefull than you claim.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914597)

So if you think Google docs is a good replacement, I can definitely tell you that Google Docs supposed to be easy enough for anybody to set up and use. Or maybe you need Bob to read the manual. So, set it up, start using it, and if you cannot argue for the benefits of Google Docs (or some other system) you can always argue for redundancy as being a good (even if it is in the cloud).

No offense, and nothing personal, but I know people like you... Mr. "great ideas", sometimes Mr. streams of "briliant ideas". The problem with Mr. "idea" is that most of them need Bob to change a light bulb, and definitely need Bob to find the readme.txt file. The other problem with Mr. "idea" is that once Bob changes the light bulb to the 30 year lifetime bulb, and Bob implements Google Docs, Bob becomes "useless", Mr. Idea gets all the credit, until of course the light bulbs need to be changed again.

Bob

It comes down to respect and need (1)

Higher Authority (245970) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914599)

I've found myself in similar predicaments. When it comes to governance, boards make decisions, not individuals. Directors must have enough respect for their fellow board members to be willing to hear differing opinions. Why should Bob hold so much power of the other directors? Is Bob really that bossy, or are the other directors really that insecure? Either way, the board should address this problem before anything else. If Bob is truly offended by a relevant suggestion, it is possible that unrealistic expectations were set when he joined the board. Or, perhaps he shouldn't be on the board in the first place.

Lastly, the points you make as to why the system should be abandoned could be indicators of other problems.

1. See point 4--if no one uses the system, no wonder there are out of date documents. Systems must be maintained.
2. Again, see point 4--if no one uses the system, no wonder it's disorganized. Systems must be maintained.
3. Why haven't the others taken an interest in learning how the system works?
4. Is this really accurate? Perhaps it's become a monster because no one uses it and Bob finds himself overwhelmed.

Perhaps all the members could use a lesson in cooperation. Has anyone spoken to Bob to see how he feels about the system? He may have designed it, but even he should be able to see its flaws. Perhaps Bob never got any input from anyone else who uses the system. Of course, that requires people to actually use the system in the first place. Perhaps Bob never got any input from the intended users before building the system. In my personal experience, I've learned not to invest a significant amount of time in a project unless it will help me, personally, or the folks it will benefit are actively involved in its creation. If it's not going to help me and no one else cares, why should I waste my time?

Three Easy Steps to Solve your Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41914603)

1) Fire Bob. He's obviously incompetent at managing his job here
2) Hire a few college students to sift through all the documents and recategorize them in google docs properly
3) Go about your lives

Backup system or vacation interruption avoidance (2)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914609)

"I've heard about a lot of stories recently about big companies getting hacked or their documents being held hostage by hackers that encrypt them. Do we have a backup for the documents on this server? If not, I'd like you to work on coming up with a backup system -- maybe something like Google Docs or something similar."

If that doesn't work, let him go on vacation for a couple days. Call him repeatedly asking for help locating documents during that vacation. You want to annoy him just a little bit. When he returns, apologize for disturbing him so much then suggest that you had trouble navigating the system. If the documents were organized a little better, or if there was less old cruft, you wouldn't have had to disturb his vacation so often. Offer to help him if he wants to spend a little time reorganizing or exploring alternate solutions that may have features to make his task of document maintenance and your task of document location easier.

Find a value the old guard values (3, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914619)

In my experience (speaking as someone old enough to remember watching the coverage of President Kennedy's assassination on television), the odds are not good, since the existing people are typically happy with the existing system -- otherwise, they would have changed it by now. However, one hope is to find a value of your organization -- and it'll be specific to each organization -- that would be improved by the change you desire.

Note that this is not your value, but a stated value of the "old guard" that could be improved by the new system -- and, usually, avoiding the mortality of the old guard itself is not an acceptable value. Extra credit if you can arrange a discussion of the old guard value in such a way that Bob can take credit for the improved performance of the new system.

Often, like so much in life, people with existing beliefs have to pass on before new ideas are accepted; ask yourself if you will be open to replacing your Google Docs system by something you don't know and have never heard of, in ten or twenty years' time.

Recognize that you will have to do all the work to install the new system, just as Bob did to install his own system years ago.

Change Bob's Focus (1)

Dadoo (899435) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914647)

3 suggestions from someone who has worked for many nonprofits.

1) If you have any staff members, make technology a staff responsibility. More than just passing the buck, this puts control of tech decisions in the hands of the folks who work with it most often.

2) Ask Bob to chair the Board's nominating committee. This committee is responsible for finding new Board members (which you seem to need) and for monitoring Board terms and committee assignments. Hopefully, this will lead Bob to recognize that Board turnover is a healthy thing and that leaving one responsibility with one person for too long is not good for the organization.

3) Elect Bob as President or Chairperson of the Board. With so many other important things to focus on, he may be more willing to let go of his tech fiefdom.

You need to answer "What's In It For Me?" (1)

Jason Pollock (45537) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914655)

Once you can answer the WIIFM question, then you are ready to talk to Bob. Bob will be asked to do work - to change the way he works, to learn a new system. In the short term, this will cause hassle, frustration, delay and extra work. Those are all negative things. Change _itself_ can be perceived as a negative thing.

To be worth it, it needs to either save Bob time, or remove one of his pain points. The board doesn't matter, no one else matters. Only Bob's pain points matter.

So, look at the existing system from Bob's point of view. What does he spend most of his time doing? How can you make that faster and less error prone? If you can do that, then you have the hook to pull in changes that benefit everyone else.

Re:You need to answer "What's In It For Me?" (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914689)

Once you can answer the WIIFM question, then you are ready to talk to Bob. Bob will be asked to do work - to change the way he works, to learn a new system. In the short term, this will cause hassle, frustration, delay and extra work. Those are all negative things. Change _itself_ can be perceived as a negative thing.

To be worth it, it needs to either save Bob time, or remove one of his pain points. The board doesn't matter, no one else matters. Only Bob's pain points matter.

So, look at the existing system from Bob's point of view. What does he spend most of his time doing? How can you make that faster and less error prone? If you can do that, then you have the hook to pull in changes that benefit everyone else.

Agreed - I'd have asked Bob what he sees as the problem, and how he'd cure it. Get Bob's buy-in. Could be a case for De Bono's 'Six thinking hats' and get everyone (including Bob) saying what's good about the current system, then everyone (including Bob) saying what's bad. And finally everyone to say how to fix it.

As for offending Bob - offence is only ever taken, not given. If Bob's going to take offence, that's his call. And it'll happen sooner or later if it will happen. Better to face it now.

Just do it (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914679)

Make copies of everything into google docs or whatever new system you want, then "accidentally" erase his software. Bonus points if you can make it look like a hardware failure.

Lesson for the day (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914697)

Do not ever put any critical system, such as board records, in such a precarious situation as there being a single point of failure. Because it *will* eventually fail, and then you're screwed. By all means, use Google Docs, but as a *backup*. Encrypt everything you upload on there. This is for the security of the data, not to prevent the right people from accessing it - so you could safely write the decryption keys on post-its for the purpose. Your working directories should be local and duplicated, not running (hence relying on) Google Docs, which is every bit as vulnerable to outage as any online service. Now you have three copies - two mirrored live and a failover which is offsite. Standardise your data. Use whatever method you choose for this, but it should be robust and human-readable as well as software-searchable and fully indexed.

This does not end well. (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914749)

i want to see if I understand this clearly:

Bob's experience and competence in other areas are regarded as indispensable to a board that is struggling to fill at least two critical vacancies .

Bob built this system on his own time for an NPO that appears to have no IT staff or competence whatever and a board which seems almost too eager to embrace an alternative solution --- any solution --- proposed off-stage by its most junior member.

How you avoid the blow-up to come, I can't even begin to guess.

Add Google docs integration to the system (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914761)

Add a function that automatically uploads the docs to Google docs when they are uploaded to the old system, and a small button to view them using Google docs. People, including Bob, can then try out the new "G Docs" in the context of the old. Then two months later ask Bob how he thinjs G Docs might be more integrated into the UI.

This is what I do professionally (1)

Lokni (531043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914785)

I'm a trainer and implementer for a an accounting application customized for a particular industry. We are a global company with about 1500 active customer installations and a user base of about 25000 with our software managing labor and payroll for about 250,000 workers. Our accounting software is used by many publicly traded corporations, a few of which are on Nasdaq and other world exchanges. That is my background. What I do is go into a company that has bought our software and teach them how to use it. I also at the same time help them with process improvement, efficiency, and raw material reductions. I represent change at a company. Many of the people I work with fear me simply because they know everything is about to change. And Im the one that is going to be changing it. Some of the companies I have been working with have been doing things the same way for literally decades. One company I'm working with now setup their current system over 20 years ago. Needless to say I run into a lot of paper and human processes where people are waiting for pieces of paper to come to them or for pieces of information to be communicated to them by another person. Needless to say that there is a lot of paper and a lot of waiting involved. They have only 15 people in their front office and they go through at least a case of paper each week. The 30 people on my floor at my office by comparison go through less than 500 pages of copy paper per week. Different type of work yes, but the point remains that there is a lot of waste going on. So Im changing everything for these people. Im bringing them a whole new paradigm in how they work. A cliche yes, but an appropriate one. I am taking them out of the stone age and into the information age. Documents are scanned in at the very beginning of their process. That paper is then archived in a filing cabinet and will only be retrieved if needed by an auditor. When needed certain documents will only be reprinted at the very end of the process. Also, instead of having to wait for a person to deliver paperwork to be alerted that they have work to do, once a new order is created an email is sent to 3 different people indicating that they have work to do and what the order number is. They can now login to the system, find the order, and begin working independently of each other and concurrently. Information about the order, instead of being handwritten is now recorded in the system. If you need that information, instead of having to track down the file folder, it is now available in the system. Need a milestone date? Its in the system. Need to know if something shipped? Its in the system. Waiting for parts to come in? Instead of having to run report to see that they are past due, you now get an email alerting you that your parts have not been delivered on time and are past due. When they are delivered, you get an email. The receiving guy, instead of having to deliver parts receiving information to someone who then checks to see if the parts have been allocated to an order yet or should be warehoused, now gets a pop up window telling him which parts are allocated to orders and need to be delivered versus being put away. So HUGE changes in the way they do business. How do I get people to go along with the changes Im bringing them? By making the changes, and how I explain them, as relevant to the person as possible. On my first day I learn as much as I can about the customer Im working with. What their processes are, what their people do, how they work, what their issues with the way they work are. I then mimic their existing processes as much as possible so as to not change too much (there is always time for additional changes later on down the road). And then when I deliver the training, Im able to say "Here is how you are doing things now. Which has these issues: A, B, and C So here is what we are doing now. Because we do step 1 followed by step 2, that resolves problem A. Because problem A is resolved, problem B is resolved. That sets us up for steps 3, 4 and 5 which puts the required information into the system which then solves problem C. I break those steps down to the individuals who will perform them and show how Because A is fixed, Mary's job is easier. And because Mary put the information in the system, when it comes time for John's step, the information he needs is in the system. He doesnt have to go looking for paperwork. And this ends up speeding the whole process up for everybody. At the end of the day, everybody's job is easier and at the end of the day instead of everybody having to manually file a report as to the work that they did that day, a report can be ran that details the time they spent on each job, what tasks got completed, what orders got shipped, how much money was made etc. Oh, and those reports show up in the manager's inbox automatically, every day, at 5:15pm. Seriously, when I bring it home like that. Everbody tilts their heads and in unison goes "OHHHHHH, I SEEEE!!!" And that is when I tell them: "So now that you guys see what Im trying to do, to make your jobs and day to day lives easier... work with me on this. Yeah, its extra work now, but I promise you, this is going to work for you the way I say it will and everything is going to be easier." And all resistance to change is gone. And I know that this is the case because Ive done it with about 40 companies now over the last 3 years. Make the change relevant to their work life and explain to them how it is going to make their work life easier/better. If it is not an improvement why make the change in the first place? You just have to help them understand how it is going to improve their job before they will become willing participants in the change. Until then, they are only making the change because they have to. Your job is to make them want the change.

Ask Bob (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#41914809)

Maybe it started off with a simple system like you are proposing and then edge cases created the complexity. You really need to understand the current system or work with somebody who does before you can effectively replace it with something else.
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