“Pardon me, just hold up a second. What is a workaround?”
“Well, it is how we get the activity accomplished by working around the problem.”
“No, no I still don’t understand, can you define the term workaround?”
I look confusing at this executive thinking “Really, you don’t understand what the word workaround means?”
This conversation actually happened and during it, it was explained to me that this is an example of the ‘tech’ talk I use that other people do not understand and I assume they do.
I could see that in the case of the endless acronyms we use in IT with everything from WiFi to ITIL and ERP. But, workaround, really? Come on!
Wikipedia states that a workaround is a bypass of a recognized problem in a system.
Whatis states that a workaround is a method, sometimes used temporarily, for achieving a task or goal when the usual or planned method isn’t working.
Heck there is even a workaround.org blog.
To me the workaround is when the existing process or system steps (mechanical or information system) does not deliver the results desired and a ‘temporary’, often unapproved, change is implemented that does not use the standard mechanical or information system.
I put temporary in quotes because it is widely known and accepted that those temporary solutions become permanent based out of –
Culture of the company is ‘just make it work’ that promotes workarounds as solutions
Lastly, that the workaround is a shadow process or system change that supervisors choose to ignore and upper management are not aware that it occurs at all.
My favorite example of this is a major news service 10 years ago discovered during an assessment of their email system that the email system was used for up to 30% for news content delivery to editorial from the field globally. The email system was labeled as business critical, thus could be down for up to a day compared to mission critical editorial content delivery systems were downtime was measured in minutes.
No one in upper management in IT or Editorial was aware of this workaround. Why the workaround, well many areas in the world had poor connectivity (wired) to access the core editorial systems, so they would hope on a local ISP, use a yahoo account and email to editorial their stories. Editorial at the regional offices would copy and paste the story into the editorial system.
That was a potentially costly workaround that required a revamping of the email redundancy and also a change in the future editorial system replacement requirements.
So there you have the workaround. Look around your home and office, how many workarounds can you spot?
Note: Workaround book