In “Fighting the battle for common sense,” I told you about a non-technical manager who refused to let IT support get rid of a dot matrix printer. The negative consequences of that manager’s hard-headedness were many—his employees resented him, and they wasted countless hours reprinting weekly reports because the dot matrix printouts didn’t photocopy clearly.

So I asked how you deal with non-technical managers who refuse to embrace technology. I thought you’d enjoy hearing what your fellow support professionals had to say.

Double the work, double the waste
Nancy B, MCSE, wrote, “I have to confess that I am in the same boat, unable to get the powers that be to embrace the technology we do have or to bring what we have into this century before we hit the year 3000. Eight years ago, I noticed that our workers did not trust the computer system and were all doubling their own work by keeping up paper files as well as our database.

“I suggested, begged, cajoled, that we go paperless. It was my job to make sure the database worked and that it was backed up properly in case of some major or minor disaster. I kept up my end of the bargain, and the staff was ready, but the owners were adamant that paper files were essential and any worker who refused to use them would be reprimanded or fined. I am still trying but no longer believe the workers even realize they’re doing double work by keeping up paper files.

“To date, television has been my most powerful ally. If one of our owners sees something on television that looks good to him, we get it in the office the next day. I thank those ads during weekend football and golf programs for the upgrades we have now. Onward!”

Install the new printer anyway
Here’s what Wcmind had to say: “The easiest solution is to network the laser printer in and leave the dot matrix online. This way, the manager won’t have to sacrifice his beloved printer, and the other people in the department will be able to work productively with the new printer. Eventually, the manager will SEE the difference in quality and productivity and eventually silence the ancient printer to the junk pile.”

Put the justification in writing
Wayne M. wrote, “People are going to disagree. It’s that simple. If your boss or someone else disagrees to a verbal proposal, take the time to create a written justification for the change. Usually, a simple matrix with +/0/- values will do.

“Also, provide some text describing costs and benefits to the change and then let your boss make the decision (that’s his job). A written justification presents the needed information in a consolidated manner and lets other people review it at a convenient time. Verbal suggestions rarely convey this amount of information or come at a time when they can be fairly reviewed.”

RAVentura agreed with Wayne. “But will take it one more step and carbon-copy cost-benefit analysis to the techno-ignorant manager’s boss. If the proposal gets turned down, get the decision and reasoning in writing and revisit the issue every six months. Invest time by showing the ROI on the printer. It’s usually harder for managers to turn down a proposal if the numbers justify the investment.”
“I had to do this about two years ago for a lousy uninterruptible power supply (UPS). My ex-boss insisted that UPSs were ‘perks’ and when we made enough money, we would get them. There were only three people in the production area, so the investment wasn’t very big. Well, every time the air conditioning would kick in, the production PCs rebooted, and we lost our latest projects, etc. Every time the machines crashed, I reminded him about the need, not perk, a UPS really is. After replacing hard drives, memory, and reinstalling Windows about 10 times, he still didn’t get the point! I finally had to do a cost analysis for him showing that the cost of replacement components, let alone personnel downtime, having to start over on the video captures, my extra time rebuilding machines, etc., far exceeded the cost of 10 expensive UPSs.”
Do the right thing: Just say, “It’s dead, Jim”
Amergin had this suggestion: “The best way to solve the problem with that manager and his love for the printer: sabotage the printer. Declare it unfixable. It’s the right thing to do for the company.”

Tim Gray concurred: “My IT department was given a nice letter to deal with these managers. The letter states that the device is to be retired. We go in, take the printer, and when confronted by the irate manager, we give the paper to the ‘whiner’ and state that any problems with this can be directed to the corporate headquarters. We then continue with our job, ignoring the manager.

“What do you do if you don’t have the backing of upper management in your company? Simple. When the report comes in that the printer is broken, you say it can’t be repaired. (Don’t even try!).

“Say, ‘I have a replacement downstairs; it will take just a little bit of time to install it.’ What if you get flack? Ask the manager for approval to hire a technician from that company to repair the printer on the spot—emergency service—for about $300 per hour, plus airfare and travel expenses. That usually shuts them up.”
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff’s View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you’ll get a bonus of Jeff’s picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers.