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My team is responsible to provide a platform for our internal users. We already cover 80% of them and are planning to expand to the rest.

We've chosen a technology X a few years ago but an alternative has been raising up and is now the de-facto standard. Many coworkers (outside of my team) are complaining we are not using the latest shiny technology.

This feeds rumors and discontent in my department. Sadly nearly all people complaining are doing it in my back and no-one is ever bringing factual arguments for a technology change.

We've invested a lot in the current technology, it serves really well and I can't build a reasonable rationale for change. All my management is aligned at the moment with our current choice and support my team.

Actual problems:

  • my team is seen as the "old timers that don't want to change"
  • rumors, plots and rambles are hard to live with. Especially since the debate does not really happen in the open.
  • taking debate in the open is not that easy either since I'm convinced both technologies would work if we started from scratch. There is simply not enough gain in changing technology and migration would require very significant investment
  • our current technology is not super shiny and it may slow down recruitment (even though hires that accept to come anyway are usually happy once they overcome the "it is not very hype" and realize the good work we're doing)
  • most of our current users don't really care about our choice, providing we improve their experience with the platform
  • most of people asking for another technology actually don't really know challenges to run things at large scale (my understanding is their experience is based on running things in their home server)

I'd really appreciate any advice on how to deal with this situation.

  • I don't understand "taking debate in the open is not that easy either since I'm convinced both technologies would work if we started from scratch." The point is, you're not starting from scratch? Why not just say - I agree both have merits, but we have invested time and money into the current tech and it would cost a lot more of both to start from scratch – Bee Oct 31 at 16:30
  • true. Most people I've talked with say they understand but don't look convinced and continue to troll afterwards. Given this approach doesn't work that much, Iḿ not convinced I should organize a meeting or send a document doing side by side comparison. – Amadeus7 Oct 31 at 16:33
  • Is it completely out of the question to ever switch, or is it a matter of periodically evaluating if and when a switch is the best move forward? You will probably want to minimize the pain regardless of what you decide to do. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 1 at 11:58
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One option is to put out an explicit request for feedback.

You're saying that there's grumbling down below, but they aren't bringing any real arguments to you. You're pretty well convinced that the old technology works well enough in comparison that it's not worth spending the significant time/money costs necessary to update. Some of your coworkers are convinced that you're incorrect, but they aren't bringing their arguments to you... so invite them to bring their arguments to you. This has a few potential benefits.

  • There's a chance (however small) that they're correct. It's possible (however unlikely) that they're aware of some major advantage to the change that you are not, that will convince you that it is time to switch, or at least time to start planning to switch. If there were such a thing, you'd want to know, right?

  • There's a chance (somewhat larger) that whatever gripes they have with the current system, or hopes they have for the new system, are insufficient to be worth changing over, but still might be addressed in some way. It's possible that there's functionality that they crave from the new thing that actually is available (or could be made available) on the older system. It's possible that there's some point of serious annoyance on the old system that could be addressed by producing a tool or script or similar and making it available. The unhappiness here is an indicator, and possibly a useful one.

  • Much of the griping in cases like this comes from the "they don't pay attention to our wants and needs" factor. If you're explicitly asking for feedback on this topic, then that gets undercut pretty severely, and it provides a strong counter to many of the arguments the other side could raise. If you ask for feedback, and they give it, and it's not sufficiently compelling to address, then you have an opportunity to take it one step further. You can lay out the advantages from each platform, and the (estimated) cost of conversion, and you can show people why it's not worth making the switch - or at least why the decision to not make the switch is an eminently defensible one.

Basically, if part of your issue is that they aren't starting the conversation, why don't you try to start the conversation?

Admittedly, this requires a corporate culture that's healthy enough that they have credible reason to believe that they won't be punished just for presenting arguments against current policy, but you have that already, right? If you don't have that, then that's your real problem.

If successful, it's also likely to result in people ranting at you, and that's sometimes not so much fun. Still, worth it, right?

  • 2
    Don't forget to threaten to create a task force to "study the new technology with a view to produce a report on the advantages vis-a-vis the current platform" -- and pointedly look around for volunteers. – A. I. Breveleri Oct 31 at 20:57
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    @A.I.Breveleri the point is to actually get them to put forward their best arguments. If you can get them to put forward their best arguments, and then address them appropriately, a lot of the problem goes away. They might still be miffed that they don't get the new shiny, but it'll deprive them of legitimacy. If you include a threat with the invitation, then it's not really a serious invitation, and it won't work as well. – Ben Barden Oct 31 at 20:59
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    I completely agree. The threat to create a task force is tantamount to demanding evidence that the new platform is a better choice. It is a completely adversarial move and must be held in reserve, used only to shut up any residual grumblers who fail to present serious argument but continue to mutter mutinously. – A. I. Breveleri Oct 31 at 22:33
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You should have already had conversations with the teams/groups using the "new technology". You relying on feedback from your team (the implementation team) is backwards at best. Your team should not be forcing tech on the rest of the company. You should be asking them their needs (on an ongoing basis), give them time/cost estimates, and deliver what they want.

So do they like the new tech because of...

  • better UX
  • more abilities
  • more integration
  • something else?

You sound very dismissive of this ideology because you did not get into specifics. If an entire company has decided to use something else there is probably good reason. Either you need to fix some of the issues with the current tech or move on. And this needs to be driven from the rest of the business not your group. Your group's job is to educate them on the pros/cons/costs not to tell them what is better for them.

The silence is only because you are not having conversations with them. You need to fix that. Your team's input is marginalized until you get a clear list of reasons the business is using and wants to use the new technology.

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So you clearly have the write idea as you mention:

"taking debate in the open is not that easy either since I'm convinced both technologies would work if we started from scratch."

The point is, you're not starting from scratch? Why not just say - I agree both have merits, but we have invested time and money into the current tech and it would cost a lot more of both to start from scratch.

I would suggest organising a meeting, even just an informal one if you have an open plan office.

Start off with:

It has come to my attention that there those who are a little unsure why we are still using technology X, when technology Y is available....

Then just go through all the points you've outlined above about cost, address any issues employees may have with X and explain that they aren't really enough to warrent switching everything over. A good example is you said:

our current technology is not super shiny and it may slow down recruitment (even though hires that accept to come anyway are usually happy once they overcome the "it is not very hype" and realize the good work we're doing)

Obviously change the wording to be slightly less negative.

I think this is the only real way forward and you can't have negative thoughts poisoning the watering hole (or water cooler in this case).

Invite questions at the end, if you feel like you can handle them on the spot, otherwise suggest people email you with any concerns and then you'll have time to address them at your own pace.

Best of luck!

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Call a meeting (or initiate a review, or something similar) in which the upsides and downsides of switching to the new technology can be discussed.

There is no need to wait for someone else to call a meeting, particularly if the people pushing for the newer technology are agitators. That sticking with the current technology is the "default" choice doesn't gain you much.

Some people have suggested that operations would be better with the new technology, and it's every bit as much your burden to indicate why the changeover is not desirable as it is for the others to indicate why they think that it is.

Since so much undesirable behavior is taking place in a secretive, unofficial fashion, the best thing to do is to drag the issue into the open where it can be discussed definitively. That you are not starting from scratch is irrelevant, because changing to the new technology will incur transition costs and these are a major part of the decision to change or not. Bringing those transition costs into the open is important to supporting your position.

There will never be a guarantee that people will be happy about the outcome, no matter what it is. But if the decision is made in the open with every potential stakeholder able to add their thoughts and discuss matters, at least everyone will be aware of the operative considerations and have a chance to understand why a particular decision is made.

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I'd really appreciate any advice on how to deal with this situation.

Until someone formally requests a discussion about current technology vs the new one there is no real situation. If and when there is formal discussion, you can listen to their arguments and then determine what the best course of action is going forward. Just be sure to remain objective about both technologies and the needs of the company.

At the end of the day if someone wants to replace technology X with some other technology, they should be evaluated objectively and then determine which is best for the company. If starting from scratch with a new technology will benefit the company more than continuing with the current technology you should be on board.

  • The "situation" is two fold: people are ranting behind my back and it creates negative atmosphere. I would love for someone to come openly and discuss fairly options. – Amadeus7 Oct 31 at 16:42
  • @Amadeus7 People will always rant about anything in any company that you work for. Don't take it personally if someone prefers a different technology. – sf02 Oct 31 at 16:53
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Construct a straw man.

Decide on an appropriate forum to communicate with a large group of your colleagues. This could be a meeting, a presentation, the weekly news email, or even a group-wide email.

Say something along the lines of...

I have been approached by a few employees who have suggested that we use technology X for project Y.

This is a really interesting idea. We have given it a lot of thought and want to share some of our thoughts and conclusions with the wider group.

... blah blah blah...

I hope this has been a useful insight into decision making within project Y.

OPTIONAL: we value your feedback. If you have any thoughts on the topic then please get in touch.

The content is highly optional. My point is that you don't need someone to contact you directly in order for you to address the issue.

(assuming that you want to address the issue, which you may not)

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