When IT changes too quickly

As I have mentioned in the past, besides this site I also run a site called "WebCMS Forum" [now defunct]. The forum is a place I started in hopes of bringing users of various content management systems (CMS) together for exciting discussion. While the number of users participating in actual dicussion have always been low, those people that are posting often write something that makes hosting this underused forum well worth my time.

This week I had a user, Anti, talk about frustrations with rapid changes currently happening with the content management system, Drupal. Don't get her wrong, she likes Drupal. However, for the first time in a long while, she is in need of taking a deep breath before absorbing all the new changes into her routine. At the forum she writes:

It seems like such a short time ago, in reality maybe six months or so, that I felt I at least had a finger on the pulse of Drupal. I knew where each off the settings were and was never intimidated by the concept of taxonomy and I was happy as can be. While none of that has really changed, I can still install and configure a Drupal site in record time, I am sometimes completely overwhelmed by the explosion of new ideas I find on Drupal.org. It is all very exciting but after watching this thing for a couple of years I suddenly feel out of sorts. Things really do seem to be happening right now.

While the above post is specifically focused on Drupal, it is not a stretch for me to say that about every user of information technology (IT) has felt overwhelmed when rapid changes take place with the products they are using. These changes take place in the name of innovation. These changes bring features in a product that promise to make our life easier. And if the changes don't make our life easier, the changes still appear to be necessary to get the product in the direction it needs to go. As IT professionals we understand the need for progress, but this understanding doesn't really address the impact the new demands have on our users.

I've been dealing with IT users in one form or another since the mid-1980s. Yet, with twenty years of experience I still don't have the answers IT users need. I don't have the answers to give for helping IT users feel better about the innovations they are about to see in their computers and software. How do you tell users when something isn't broke we still need to fix? It doesn't make sense to them that we're actually improving on a working product today so that it doesn't become "broke" in the future.

Personally, I have never felt that the technical aspects involved in implementing new technologies to be all that difficult. What I have felt is difficult, both off and on the job, is preparing the users for those changes. When implementing IT changes, if you move too fast you can overwhelm even the most enthusiastic users. However, if you move too slow with the changes then users eventually become impatient that the changes to make their life easier are not happening. There is definitely a balance needed between innovation and protecting the status quo. A balance that I struggle to achieve every day I'm at work serving my users...