“. . . well I do have a gold card . . .”

I travel on business a lot so I may as well collect all the air miles and tier points with different airlines as I go. What I hadn’t realised until very recently was that having the right colour loyalty card makes me somewhat “more equal than others.”

Arriving at the airport I simply asked an airline attendant whether I needed to print my boarding pass at the kiosk, since I hadn’t needed to last time. What I thought was a straightforward question was greeted with a look of disdain and a “yes at the kiosk, but why are you standing over here?” i.e. in this ‘premium section’ of airline check in. “Well,” I responded, “I do have a gold card.” All of a sudden the lights appeared to come on, doors opened and there was a little private fanfare all just for me as I was waved through to have my boarding pass printed for me at a desk with no queue. Odd, really. Aren’t I just the same as all the people queuing in the regular queue?

That got me thinking. Perhaps I’m marginally more valuable to my favourite airline than the occasional traveller. Maybe they’d like to retain my loyalty in a way so many business fail to do these days, despite the current economic climate. When I sit working on flights, or in the office for that matter, I don’t treat what I’m doing with equality. Some pieces of work are definitely more important than others and there’s a natural tendency to treat more lucrative or personally beneficial pieces of work differently.

So why is it then that it looks like my work, when its just ‘data’ is treated equally? If I delete an email in error and can’t get it back myself I genuinely struggle. If there’s a problem with a document on a file server I can probably get by for a bit longer without it. So what do I want from my IT organisation? I want them to prioritise the information that’s important to me, when I’ve messed it up or when there’s been a problem. I, like so many users, am not interested in whether there’s a hardware problem, or a network problem, or if the virtual server that Mr.IT is migrating to isn’t playing nicely today. Whether its me deleting something or not, this is business. Or it would be if I could get my information back!

Maybe Mr.IT views it differently though. He doesn’t care whether one piece of data is more important to me than another. I suspect what he wants is the ability to take a look, find what he’s after and do something useful with it. If it’s on a file server, an application server or a database isn’t it all the same thing really? What about the machine itself. One manufacturer or another, one operating system or another, physical, virtual. Should it matter?

Its all about meeting needs. The airline meets my needs as a frequent traveller by making life a little easier for me at the airport and maybe on the flight too. IT makes my life easier by being flexible. If they’ve got the same capabilities across all data I need them to help me with then it’s up to me as the user to decide what’s important to me right now – what I need restored as a priority. They don’t have to worry about what they can and can’t do depending on what I’m asking for this time around. They’ve got visibility into it all. They pick and choose. I benefit.

So, the ability for Mr.IT to look into whatever data he is asked for is critical in satisfying the business need. Picking that data up; just what is really needed and putting it back down somewhere else. Treating data equally – the ‘equal data agent.’ If he’s smart though, and wants to match flexibility with managing that data sensibly he’d add an archiving process into the mix. That way some data can be treated as ‘more equal’ than other data – the ‘unequal data agent.’ That’s for another time, but I’ve said it before – ‘it’s all about making life easier.’ Or should that be ‘ITs all about making life easier?’

You choose. If you’ve met me or read the last blog, you know what my software choice is. Maybe that’s your ‘gold card.’

By the way, I’m in Florida for the global Backup Exec conference the week after next so watch this space!