The stupid technology questions you must ask

Do we get the enterprise technology we deserve because no-one dares to ask the awkward questions? Or do we waste too much time at work because of all the pointless stupid queries that people raise?

Question mark symbol on speech bubble, top view
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There are no stupid questions apart from the one you didn’t ask, according to Royal Marines legend. It’s not just when lives are at stake that we should throw off our embarrassment. There have been plenty of IT hoaxes played on corporations because nobody dared to risk looking. Maybe we need a strategy for asking questions. Here are some questions for structuring your query.

Can I see the research?

Don’t ask how I know, but sometimes people make up the research they sell to big companies. How they get away with it? Because big companies have a whole layer of middle management run by BMB (the bland misleading the blind).

Here’s two examples from the very top. Blockchain expert and systems integrator Andrew Bird was once invited to address the UK Cabinet Office on the feasibility of solving the Northern-Southern Ireland border crisis, should the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) vote to leave the European Union. Bird had previously devised a cattle tracking system endorsed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). So, creating a system to track goods and livestock out of Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags, Bluetooth and Blockchain was well within his grasp. However, his proposal was dismissed with the words, “We don’t need it” by a ministerial mandarin who described herself as “the High Priest of Everything Clever”.

Lacking the confidence to challenge this Minotaur, Bird withdrew. However, after British public surprised everyone and voted for Brexit, the Northern Irish border became a massive sticking point because there were no systems. Bird filed a Freedom of Information request with the government to ask exactly how many systems they’d looked at. Eventually they reluctantly revealed the embarrassing truth. The ‘High Priest’ had been winging it and hadn’t looked at a single system as a precaution, should Brexit be the people’s choice.

“Nobody believed Brexit would happen, so they did nothing to prepare,” said Bird, “we are still fumbling our way through now. We’re like a rudderless ship.”

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