Never wish life were easier, wish you were better. Jim Rohn
This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a family gathering. We were gathering for an 80th birthday celebration for my brother-in-law Alex’s father. In anticipation of the party, Alex crafted some homemade beer. A little backstory 20 years ago, Alex, a chemical engineer by training, took up the hobby of brewing beer. While his wife Ruth complained about the mess and the smell, he was quite good. His understanding of the chemical process and reactions combined with his engineering discipline allowed him to produce some very tasty brews. His best and still my favorite was his Russian Imperial Stout. As life wore on and got busy (think careers, kids, etc), the beer making fell by the wayside. As our kids have grown older and less dependent (with our time, not necessarily our money), I have been encouraging Alex to take up the hobby again.
Fast forward to this Christmas. Alex’s family bought him a beer making machine as a present to encourage him back into the hobby. It is essentially a Keurig machine for beer making. The only thing I could think of was “so easy even a caveman can do it”. When I heard he was making his beer for the party, I told him I had high expectations for his new homebrew; when I found out about the machine, I told him this was a no win situation. With the old way I would have cut him some slack due to being rusty. With the new machine I was expecting perfection, anything less would be a disappointment. And it was.
This made me think about the IT services business where I spend so much time. Managing the support desk has always been the one of the most difficult tasks. The bright shiny object out there now is AI (Artificial Intelligence). There is a lot of talk about how AI could make supporting IT so much easier. And it may. I am not a Luddite, but like the beer machine, if it only produces a mediocre result then what is the point? People are always searching for the easy way out. As my good friend Clint Laviano says, he would rather make a hard right than an easy wrong. Running a support desk is about setting and meeting expectations, managing priorities and tasks, and aligning resources. There just is no easy way: this is where we create our value, and it is hard work. If someone could create a machine to do it as well, then we need a new line of work. That may happen one day and that is why we all should be expanding our capabilities – but that is a topic for another day.
Back to the beer machine, Alex has great process, the right tools, knowledge, and discipline to make a consistently great product the old fashion way. The machine was a step back for Alex and for the rest of us who cherished his homemade brew.