Monday, May 17, 2010

Daring to recommend

It's getting so a person dare not recommend anything anymore. Let's consider a scenario:

  • Person A recommends product/approach X
  • Person B adopts that product/approach for a project
  • Project fails and person B slags person A off publicly for the bum steer
One of my new Twitter followers described how he was taking flak at his place of work for having recommended Ning, now that Ning has decided to start charging for its services.

How did that become his fault?

Based on the functionality of the space at the time, and the requirements within his place of work, no doubt it was a good fit. And while the space was free, I presume it served their purposes well, or they wouldn't have felt the wrench so keenly when Ning decided to start levying a charge.

The person in question is quite a young man and this experience could well have damaged his confidence so much that next time he will be reluctant to recommend anything before researching it exhaustively to see whether it will remain stable for the (un)foreseeable future, by which time the need may well have passed. So his recommendations will be slower in coming forward until he is caught up in a cycle of analysis-paralysis... and the organisation will turn to someone else to make recommendations that are more timely (perhaps starting the whole cycle again).

I sincerely hope that this approach does not start to extend to the likes of Jane Hart and her invaluable e-learning pick of the day. Any time I am faced with a challenge and need a new tool to meet it, I pay a visit to her site to see what she recommends. Sometimes the tools do the job for me, sometimes they don't. I am not about to start holding Jane liable every time it doesn't work out.

I sincerely trust that, when I feature something on this site, you're not expecting it to set the world alight for you, okay? I can do without that kind of pressure. ;o)


Harold Jarche said...

One recommendation should not be the basis for a decision and one person cannot know everything. There are pros & cons for using SaaS like Ning and there are several articles on understanding when and why it is important to own your own data (including my own).

Working life in perpetual Beta also means that a good decision yesterday may not be such a good decision today. The situation sounds like a culture problem. This person works in an environment where failure is not tolerated, and he might consider leaving that organization before he makes another "mistake".

Mark Berthelemy said...

Any time you recommend something you need to look at:

- does the functionality meet your requirements?
- does the user interface work for your organisation?
- is the tool sustainably supported for the duration of the project?

This last one is missed way too often. If you're recommending a free tool in particular, you need to understand the business plan that underpins whether that tool is going to be around tomorrow.

The difference with Ning is that it looked as if it had a business plan based on advertising. So, in this case, you can't really blame your contact's recommendation at all.

The upsycho said...

@Harold I agree completely. It is indeed a culture thing - the same culture which has driven us to a point where a doctor often dare not treat someone at the site of an accident or emergency for fear of being sued should anything go wrong. Sadly, the culture seems not to be limited to this employer... or even to workplace organisations.
@Mark It is because of the last paragraph of your comment that I felt strongly enough about this subject to write about it.

V Yonkers said...

I think Ning caught a lot of people unawares. I never thought of Ning as a Beta product, nor did they ever indicate that they were going to charge in the future.

Blaming the recommendation is like blaming someone for recommending a stock that tanks because of the stock issuer's poor business practices. If the decision for the choice of product was so important, then there should have been some cost/benefit analysis on the point of the management. As Harold points out, if the decision is so important you should base it on more than one recommendation and plan for changes that might bring risk to the company if the tool, its format or pricing changes.

It was an eye opener for me that just because a tool might be effective, the company that owns and operates it might not be. Ning changed the rules for free software (usually they phase out free tools or they warn users when it is in Beta that future versions might cost something to use).

Views from Malmesbury said...

I've no idea what Ning is but the situation is all too familiar these days. I agree with the 'culture' comments. Accepting responsibility for our own actions has given way to looking around for someone else to blame. Listening to others is only part of decision making, the final decision is down to us and us alone - we are the only ones who can decide if something is right for us. If it turns out wrong then accept it, learn from it and move on. Blaming others is just not nice...or so it used to be thought!