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“I’ll send them an e-mail” – do you really believe it’s enough?

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

In my career I used to work as CM engineer many times. It so happens I just love dealing with builds.

When you’re a CM engineer – you usually get to change many things around: how builds work, where’s the main POM, how jobs are configured in Hudson and when they’re scheduled to run.
Lots and lots of things.

What happens when other people need to be informed about those changes?
Or they actually need to do something about it ?

For example, when our Artifactory instance has moved to a new server – all developers had to update their "settings.xml". Technically, this situation brings no issues – it doesn’t take a lot to make the move, the time is only spent for exporting the data and importing it back. But it’s still very tricky as lots of people are involved now: when old Artifactory instance is shut down – lots of builds will fail if "settings.xml" isn’t updated.

So I’ll just send the new file by e-mail, right? Wrong.
Many people think e-mails is the best way to “let people know” but, unfortunately, in many offices it doesn’t work that way.

Mails can be ignored so easily.

Take a look at average user’s “Inbox” – how many unread mails will you see there? 10, 50, 300? I usually keep my “Inbox” empty – all incoming mails are filtered into relevant folders so when I get to the office in the morning I see the overall picture right away: 3 mails from my boss, 5 mails from our group, 2 mails from QA, etc. Very few mails are usually left in “Inbox” and it allows me to know what’s “unread” right now so I can easily decide who do I ignore or start with first. I try not to have any unread mails by the end of the day so that my counter drops to zero when I go home.

But many other people have an “Inbox” full of all last year’s e-mails and when they see “30 unread messages” – they don’t really know what’s there until they go over all of them, one-by-one. And when they do read the message – they can choose to ignore it or misunderstand the importance of the change.

That’s life and and we can talk endlessly about how educating people about time or mail management will help .. Fortunately, there’s a simpler way – we can talk to them.

In our place, it only takes an hour or two to step into all rooms, announce the change and get the feedbacks. And it works much, much better as people now get to talk back. I let them know there’s an e-mail sent, I make sure the importance of the change is clear and, of course, I try to listen to what they have to say.

When I was first suggested to go room by room and talk to people I was wondering how come such a waste of time can be of any use. After all, it’s all written nicely in mail or Wiki – why bother then? But after doing it once I’ve felt how much difference does it actually make. How much information and attention I had back from people.

We can schedule a meeting for the whole group, of course! Whatever works. The main idea is simple – there’s no replacement to the talking. I came to believe it’s the combination of published information (that can always be referenced later) and verbal communication that provides the best way to “let people know” and ask for their cooperation.

And it also makes everyone involved feel much better along the way!

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Categories: Misc Tags: ,