Friday, October 29, 2010

I, EnvisionWare 2: Escape From Witch Mountain

Okay, that’s not really the topic for this week’s blog, but I figured it would get your attention.

Actually, I’m here to talk about the Professional Services Department, which happens to be the corner of EnvisionWare, Inc. where I hang my hat.

The Professional Services Department essentially constitutes the front line of the company; it’s the Pro Services Implementation Consultants, after all, who work directly with libraries after the software has been purchased, assisting with the customization and implementation of the product. We train the staff in the proper usage of that product. Heck, we wear the purple shirt (or, if we feel like spicing it up, a white long-sleeve with purple embroidery – see attached photo), and therefore set the style and tone for the long-term relationship between the customer and company.

The natty attire of a Professional Services Implementation Consultant

I find my work challenging and immensely rewarding. Some of the installations are conducted on-site and some remotely, but in either case, a rapport is established and relationships are developed over the span of the project. You may recall how I wrote last week of the miraculous transformation a software product undergoes from a “dream” in the heads of the developers to a downloadable installer to a fully functioning system (be it for printing, time management, fines payment, RFID, or any number of other permutations) in a physical library. The Implementation Consultants are the sorcerers (just bear with me here, I tend to think in these terms) weaving spells (customized configurations) to bring the dreams to life. Yet that analogy only goes so far; Merlin never shared his secrets with the knights, but library IT teams and staff become full partners in an implementation, learning how to expand the software ever outward—taking control for themselves of the product which EnvisionWare has worked with them to sculpt.

Getting down to brass tacks: a project typically consists of four phases: planning, installation, training, and post-installation. It’s not my goal here to go into the details of each; the titles are pretty self explanatory. But the length of time spent on each depends on a number of variables including the customer’s general level of technical ability and/or previous experience with the products, customer resources (time, personnel, funding), and the overall size of a project (i.e. how many branches are to be installed, and how many PCs in each branch will carry the software). In short, each project is unique—the shape of which is determined by the needs of the customer.

These projects are like musical compositions: there is structure, a series of pre-determined movements, but also fluidity—what jazz players call “free play.” The free play is the ever evolving dynamic between the library and EnvisionWare, and the ongoing fine-tuning as the “dreams” take on tangible form. And it's this human factor that really keeps me engaged. Isolated lines of code holds little interest for me, but seeing people—library staff and patrons—make use of the software in real libraries (rather than test labs), and watching their eyes light up as they grasp the potential of what we have built together—that is magic.
Dreams made real

Next up: A Day in The Life (of a Support Technician)

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