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Forgetting The Customer Means A Forgettable E-mail System Deployment

Recently, I had the opportunity to share a cup of upscale coffee with one of my chief technology officer acquaintances. My friend (who we'll call "Mr CTO") seemed a bit down, so I asked him what was on his mind. He uttered a single compound word: "GroupStupid." Confused, I asked him if he was making fun of a leading software package, or a group of people that acted stupid.

His reply? "Both."

Mr. CTO, who commands a crack team of IT folks at one of the local universities, said his group recently completed a software upgrade of Novell GroupWise. Afterwards, he was quite upset to find out that part of his customer base (out of a total group of more than 150 Ph.D.s) was looking to do him physical harm. I was now even more puzzled, but no longer confused. I began to see what my colleague was so upset about: He thought he'd done well, but all he received for thanks was the customers' wrath.

With some gentle questioning, Mr. CTO revealed that the unannounced upgrade was performed over a weekend, "to get the job done in peace and quiet, so we could finish on time for the customer." Unfortunately, that timing also assured that the intended customers were not around to assist the IT team or inform them of any problems during the install. Not long after Monday started, however, the problems were communicated, loud and clear.

Like in most university settings, some of Mr. CTO's customers still use Apple Macintoshes as their "PC of Choice." Mr. CTO and his staff, of course, use the latest and greatest WinTel systems, which apparently had no problem whatsoever with the GroupWise upgrade. Those "other" systems, however, had major problems, and Mr. CTO's team spent the better part of a week solving the woes caused by the "upgrade" process.

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