No Maintenance Required

I spent the last week spinning my wheels. That is not entirely true, but it did feel that way. You see, we decided that we should switch our email server from the Microsoft Exchange server Seth was having to take time to maintain to Google’s business mail system. It appears that we will be able to have everything we need on a corporate account in the cloud without the need to maintain and upgrade our server periodically. Anything that will save maintenance time is useful for a small company like ours.

Unfortunately, it was a frustrating week. Because none of us had used Gmail before or had much experience with the Google system, we had to muddle through. All of us keep a large number of old emails so we can document and have reference to a variety of communications. That meant we had to upload our emails to Google and then synchronize them with Outlook if we intended to continue to use Outlook for email (as most of us did). This took a few days to do because of false starts and because of the length of time needed to upload and to synchronize. And then we needed to learn the new system!

The primary problem for me was that this interfered with my day-to-day work. It is difficult to get my usual tasks done and to include anything extra, but adding something this big into the mix was a major disruption. I am like many other people I know…I believe that you don’t fix it if it ain’t broke! My email worked just fine. Occasionally, I  delete old emails from the READ and SENT boxes. I try to keep on top of the INBOX, but that is much harder for me to manage. I have lots of rules in Outlook to transfer some incoming mail directly to other mailboxes so I can do quick scans of large amounts of content, but I am not really very good at it. So my email had not been well maintained to start with…and now I need to learn a new system…and also try to do the maintenance I have so far managed to avoid.

Not my favorite things!

In fact, I think about maintenance of any kind and know these are my least favorite things in life. Today I had the oil in my car changed. I know this is essential to keeping the car running well. I know that periodic maintenance is what will keep my warranty intact. But I hate to take the time to do it.

The same is true with the small, repetitive maintenance tasks of life. I hate housework. I love a clean orderly house…but please do not ask me to clean it. I will do the garden maintenance, but I will do it in my own time. As a result, my garden always has lots of weeds…of course, I have lots of gardens, so there is too much to keep up and also to co-run a business. But that does seem often to be the case with these kind of tasks…there is never really enough time to do them and to do the rest of life.

Add to this the fact that no one actively appreciates the person who does the maintenance, and the difficulty of keeping it done increases. These are all things that are just supposed to get done silently and invisibly in the background without the rest of us being affected by the process. Women have traditionally been the doers of these tasks at home; many of us resent that fact and the lack of appreciation that goes along with it. In fact, now that so many of us must work outside the home just to make ends meet, lots of these jobs that our mothers did just don’t get done.

As I struggled through the week, I found myself thinking about our customers. Every time we have an update of our software, we encourage our users who have current Support/Update contracts (maintenance agreements!) to download the update and install it. Not only have our developers worked hard to fix issues that users have discovered, but they have also added new features that make our software a very powerful tool for behavioral health billing and clinical record keeping.

Inevitably, many of our users do not install the updates. Doing so disrupts their work flow…they need to make time to download and install. If they have a network system, the time involved is not insignificant. The fact that doing the update will also do maintenance on their database is irrelevant. The new features and fixed problems do not matter. If things were going smoothly…please don’t fix it!

It is not at all uncommon for someone to call with a problem in their database who has not updated their software for a couple of years or more. And now they may even have corruption in the database. And sometimes no backup! They do not believe us when we tell them that installing updates, even though an interruption of their work, performs maintenance on the database that can prevent problems down the line. Just like with a car…or a house…or a garden.

So what is the solution to this avoidance of maintenance tasks? How do we manage to find the time to perform the actions in life that will keep things running smoothly? Some of our customer organizations have a managing partner or a Chief Operating Officer whose job is to make sure that the operational side of the business is a well-oiled machine. If you read our user group discussions, you will regularly see input from some of those managers. But how can the rest of us build regular maintenance of those things we use every day into our lives so we do not feel so interrupted by those processes?

Please, your suggestions and input would be greatly appreciated by this person who struggles with ongoing maintenance of anything in life! What do you to do keep it all going?

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