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Ask Slashdot: How would you convince someone to give up an old system?

Vanderhoth (1582661) writes | about a year and a half ago

Google 5

Vanderhoth (1582661) 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 One of the issues I’ve noticed since joining the board is the method in which they conduct business is very out of date.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:

  • 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.
  • Often documents are not where they should be and are difficult to find.
  • No one except Bob really knows how the system works, and
  • 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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5 comments

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Virtualize! (1)

beartek (728179) | about a year and a half ago | (#41907443)

Have Bob make a virtual machine out of the webserver. Google docs are a slippery slope - if you are a nonprofit use tech soup and gety a real Office suite!

Re:Virtualize! (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year and a half ago | (#41907937)

Thanks for the tech soup and gety suggestions. I'll look into those.

I'm not sure how virtualization will help solve the issue. The problem isn't with the web server, it's the homegrown solution Bob has implemented to track our documents, such as agendas, meeting minutes and action items, all of which could be done using Google Docs. On top of that we have events throughout the year and could use Google docs to create registration forms that are linked to spreadsheets. When the forms are filled out they automatically update their associated spreadsheets with the input from the form

The form can then be posted on the website or embedded in an e-mail for people to register. The spreadsheet can then be shared by all the board members as opposed to requiring Bob create a spreadsheet from his existing system and e-mailing it to the board, which takes half a day the day before the event, what happens if Bob's sick that day? Maybe I'm worrying too much after all the board has been doing this for ten years before I joined. The other members don't like it, but obviously not enough to do anything about it.

Hire someone (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#41908993)

Your choices are:

1. Hire someone to do the job (because Bob's time is too valuable to continue spending it that way) and then let them run with the technologies they select, free of interference from the board (including Bob). The message to Bob is: you've done a great job but we've grown to need more than what we can reasonably ask of you in this particular area. It's time to hire someone to make your part time courtesy their full time job.

2. Let Bob do his thing. He volunteered to do the work; it's his show.

Asking Bob to do it differently (if he's proved unreceptive to that request) is no longer an option. Stop dreaming that it is.

Re:Hire someone (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year and a half ago | (#41909283)

Thanks, I had considered that this topic may have been brought up with Bob in the past.

A couple of the other board members and I were out for an impromptu meeting and one of them voiced their displeasure with the site when trying to find action items from our last official meeting. I asked why we weren't using something like Google docs or drop box. At which point the history of the website was explained to me. No one told me if the topic was ever brought up with Bob, just that I needed to be sensitive about it.

I was looking for methods to approach the topic from Slashdot because I've been in a position before where I had been developing and maintaining a project for quite a long time only to be told that I needed to drop it for a COTS application. I can see now that it was the proper thing, but have always wondered if there wasn't a more tactful way my supervisor could have approached it to lighten the blow. Obviously not a big deal in my situation because I wasn't going to quit over it, but I'd really hate to be the one that cheesed off one of our best volunteers and caused him to leave. All I know for sure is everyone on the board except Bob feels the website too much of a hassle to deal with.

I'd like to ask Bob what his thoughts are, maybe everyone just assumes he would be upset so they won't talk to him, when really he would love to have an out.

Re:Hire someone (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#41912481)

Bob probably thinks the web site is a hassle to deal with too. Not from your perspective, but from his.

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