As we have developed our blogs and topics, we’ve found often one thing leads to another. My recent post on scanning the horizon for changes led me to this post. When we started our trial consulting business, Magnus Research Consultants, in 1993 we had to provide clients with VHS videotapes of the proceedings. I researched available cameras and purchased our first camera, then another and another, and so on. We also needed a way to put a title on the videotape – so we researched and bought a title maker. And, then we had to duplicate the tapes, so we bought a tape copier. And we had to buy microphones, cables, tripods, and so on. It seemed like a lot of work, but as it turns out, it was nothing compared to what was to come. In those days, we simply copied the tape and shipped it. Then clients wanted DVDs so we had to figure out how to convert tape to DVD. That wasn’t too hard. But, at some point, we knew we needed to begin using digital cameras instead of analog tape and that is where it got difficult. Technology is supposed to get easier as it advances, right? Not in this case! The upside is that we could purchase relatively inexpensive cameras and they were small so we could buy 1 case to carry 4 to 6 cameras and that case is about the same size as 1 of the old camera cases. The problem was that everything else changed too. Digital cameras were not compatible with the old cables we used to run the video feed to the observation room. The old $25 cables were replaced with similarly priced digital cables – and we immediately had bleed over problems when we picked up audio from random radio stations. This was fixed with $125 cables. The new cameras also record in stereo – not mono – more new cables were bought after this discovery. But, it was the post production work that became the most difficult. Now the files have to be downloaded to a computer, run through an editing program and the titled video is created. Then we had to export and burn that file to a DVD – a process that seemed to fail 30% of the time. More computers and more software improved this, then clients wanted the videos emailed to them – but the files were too big. The Magnus client portal was the answer to that challenge. I think we’ve now mastered the transition, but it took months, even a couple of years, to move from the relative simplicity of videotape to delivering video the way we do today. That transition was hard on Melissa and me as business partners, and on staff, some of whom had to be pushed and cajoled into doing what was necessary to make the transition. Could we just have hired it out? Maybe, but to maintain the control over our work, it needed to be done in house. Perhaps it was a no pain, no gain scenario – the results have been worth it, but I can attest to the pain along the way!
I enjoy change, but sometimes change comes at a high price. In the example David mentioned regarding our company’s change in video equipment, the costs were enormous, in terms of both financial expenditures and personnel. In fact, we lost a long time employee, largely due to mistakes he made during our transitional period between analog and digital video recording. The first time we used our new equipment, our client was unhappy with the audio quality of the recording. I asked, then begged, then begged again, our employees to find out, with certainty, what went wrong so that it could be corrected before the next client’s research project. Even though I am not a video recording expert, it didn’t take too much brain power for me to realize that something in our new, expensive equipment didn’t work as intended. However, employees being employees, my staff went through the motions of checking for the underlying problem without ever diagnosing its cause. And… you guessed it, the exact problem happened again, only this time the client was mean and nasty when expressing his extreme displeasure with my company’s work product. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on one’s point of view, of course), the employee who failed to correct the problem heard the client screaming at me and promising never to hire me again (a promise that, so far, he has kept) and became so upset that he began doubting his ability to perform his job in today’s high tech world. The fall out has been enormous; we suffered significantly from this employee’s departure. So, when making a change, particularly a big change that has big consequences, be sure you are ready for the challenge.