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In a Hundred Years...

Years ago, I worked for a company that managed technology, mainly servers and desktops, for government agencies. I was part of the team responsible for a database application used to track maintenance schedules, service calls and parts inventory.

When we'd face a challenge and, in particular, a less than exciting solution, someone would say, "In a hundred years, we'll all be dead and it won't matter." I don't remember who said it first but it became a kind of mantra. (A similar joke was that "IT" actually stood for "It's Temporary," ironic in that many of the systems had been there longer than we had.)

At first, you could be excused for thinking this sounds pessimistic and maybe even a bit unprofessional. I assure you it wasn't. We wanted to be sure we didn't spend time or energy that wouldn't improve the quality of our deliverable or make a difference to the customer.

I took two career lessons from that experience: First, it's important to know when it's not about us (or me). We support the customer or our larger organization. Hopefully, we contribute to their mission the best we can. Second, don't make a simple problem into a complicated one. Spend your resources where you can have the most impact.

Determine the factors important in determining your team's, or a solution's, effectiveness and apply them consistently. Some of these value metrics might be:

  • Alignment - Does it work for the people and process as intended?
  • Durability - Will it last (and will it continue to be used) without excessive involvement from the support team?
  • Scalability - When the organization (or the number of customers) grows, will the solution handle it?
  • Integration - Does this fit with existing applications and technology?

You could have others. We don't always know the future needs, of course, but we should anticipate based on the strategy and known risks. Be clear in defining a problem and craftsmanlike in delivering a solution. It might matter for longer than you think.