Stop blaming your digital tools for your problems

Jira, Trello, Basecamp, Sketch, Invision, Zeplin, Jenkins, Google Analytics — I could go on, but no matter the tool or how good it is there will always be a problem with it.

Your tools are not the problem, your reliance and attitude towards them is.

I’ve seen so many teams complain that “Jira doesn’t let me do this” or “the setup in Jira is too restrictive and we can’t do that”. Its nonsense — all of it. I’ve heard it about Invision, I’ve heard it about Jenkins, you name the digital product that is meant to be making our lives easier and I can guarantee someone out there has had a problem with it.

So what does that actually say?

Well — perhaps we should stop relying on them too much to make our lives infinetly easier?

An example:

We have a physical agile board AND a digital board within Jira. Tickets go through both the digital and the physical board. We’ve found an issue in our current workflow is causing us lost visibility on when we’re trying to complete too much at once.

Our workflow setup in Jira doesn’t allow us to do the thing we want to do. In the retrospective, collectively we agree it will be too much effort because no-one can be bothered to go into the config and make the changes OR no-one can be bothered hunt the person down who either has the right level of access — assuming they even know how to make the changes required.

So that problem that we identified — poof its gone. This very real problem that we had — we’ve just decided to not fix it because its too hard. Perhaps it comes up in the next retrospective and we go through the same motions again. Perhaps this issue gets so bad it actually starts to demotivate the team…

It happens too much. I’ve sat in too many retrospectives across teams who have actively decided not to change something because of some restriction within their digital tool.

Thats a serious problem.

I get it — we create digital things so we end up expecting our digital tools to be right for us. However — I build products, I know that I can’t ever make a product that services 100% of my users needs. There is always going to be compromises and sacrifices for the user base, so why don’t we think this about our tools that we use? Yet we treat them both as gods and as a crutch.

Simply put — there isn’t a one size that fits all. A jack of all trades is a master of none. Every company is different, every team within every company is different. Its insane to assume it’ll work for everyone.

So what should we do about it?

Well — we should invest in thinking about what we can do and not in what we can’t. If Invision is not giving me enough value at the moment because its too restrictive, why? Will a paper prototype serve the same purpose?

If I cannot easily add a column into my workflow on Jira, who cares! Add one on your physical board. If it doesn’t match up it doesn’t really matter — after all everything is either in todo, doing or done.

Digital tools are there to make our lives easier, so use them in such a way that they make it easier — not restricting you.

Stop letting the restriction in your digital tool stop you from doing the things you want to do. The tools are designed and built to make your lives easier — not more complex or miserable.

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