Confessions of a data migration dummy
“Janet” he said “the data has to have a home to go to”.
And at that moment I finally got it. Before that I had been going to meetings, reading documents and simply not understanding what people were talking about. Asking questions just created more confusion. My role at the time was change support for a Data Centre during and after a major migration exercise, so I really needed to understand this, what would happen and who and what would be affected so I could communicate this to others and help everyone get ready.
What the Team Leader did was what we often have to do in IT projects – use a metaphor or analogy to get a point across. For me, the main barrier to understanding migration was the limitation of my own mental models. So when the team leader talked about the data finding a home, this bought forward an image of many different houses and their contents moving to a large apartment block. So from thinking about this I understood how migration happened, why clean data was important, and why care and attention that had to be given to timing and managing business continuity risk.
Catering for different mental models is nothing new in IT projects. Whatever our speciality we all need to understand who and what we are dealing with and pay attention to the language we use. From time to time, I notice the tendency to feign understanding and not ask questions for fear of looking ignorant. I prefer tolerate the eye rolling reaction to an admission of ignorance simply because the explanation is important to me and the people I work with. I wonder sometimes what George Orwell would make of the language of IT.
I think that he would like the precision and clarity of some technology terms but would be quite dismissive of words or expressions that mean nothing. When communicating IT concepts or complex project management processes, we all need to be good communicators who think about the audience. This is especially so for cloud deployments which come with new concepts and language that take time to grasp.
A good rule of thumb is this. If you don’t understand it yourself, you won’t be able to explain it to others. And if stakeholders don’t understand you – in time they will disengage – which is a major risk for projects who need engaged stakeholders to be successful.
Nothing is lost by asking the question – but a lot can be gained from making the effort to understand something new.
Written by – Janet Crews
Senior Consultant – Information Professionals
Janet is a storied, qualified, change management professional, with many years of both commercial and government based experience.
You can connect with or find out more about Janet on linkedin: au.linkedin.com/pub/janet-crews/6/900/907