Thought for the day: A sticky solution

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.A while back one of my clients decided to equip...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.A while back one of my clients decided to equip staff to work at home. A laptop or desktop PC was provided, along with a printer, modem (or broadband connection) and, unusually, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) back-up in case the mains failed.

After copious research and a procurement exercise the client opted for a UPS supplier whose equipment could also be linked to the PC it was guarding to give users "important information" on their electricity supply.

As part of the deal I had to produce a questionnaire for a due diligence report which would be sent out to users of the system. This turned out to be a bit like the old organisational and methods studies because effectiveness was lower with some staff than others. The questionnaire surveyed users on the set up and effectiveness of the system they were using. I was alarmed to find that the UPS back-up was giving some people real headaches.

Strange, I thought, as users would hardly notice a UPS. Maybe it was the software? So on a visit to one of the users I inquired about the UPS problem.

"Well it seemed like good kit in that it comes with full management software, but I thought it would tell me things like the mains voltage," said the user. "Not so, all it does with 17Mbytes of software is inform me that the mains has been cut off!

"Since it's designed to sit next to my PC, this is hardly relevant given the amount of noise a PC normally makes. When the power is down you'll hear the difference before the UPS management software has time to respond," he added.

It seemed the management software that came with this particular UPS was causing users undue stress. With all the admin data coming from the UPS management software whenever there was a power glitch the poor user was under the impression the machine was about to explode. So was this UPS management system unnecessary?

When I looked back at the procurement process I found the supplier had indeed gone to town on the management software and opted for a system designed for the largest of installations.

The solution for the user I talked to was relatively simple: some heavy sticky tape to push down the reset button on the UPS.

What's your view? Have you ever been sold IT equipment or software that's totally overkill for your needs?>> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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