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“at this time” August 26, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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at this time
(at this time)

“At this time” is a phrase you usually hear during the implementation process of a new product feature or technology workflow. It usually comes with other words such as “that’s not something we’re going to address/support/do at this time.”

Here’s the thing: something that won’t be done at this time is almost always something that should have been done long before this point. Let’s say, for example, that you work for Office Depot. At Office Depot in the late 90s, stores were served by an inventory computer; if store 10 is out of an item, they can check the computer and see if stores 20, 30, or 40 have said item. The inventory management system is updated every night at midnight by the in-store computer system.

What if the in-store computer system couldn’t break the data down by type? In other words, what if a customer wants Item 123456 (maybe it’s a printer), but all stores are out of it? On the web, a customer would see other items s/he might like, such as 234567 or 345678.

You’re highly likely to hear, especially on a company-wide, corporate-run, third-party-provider-involved conference call/webex combo, that you can’t look up all printers at this time? You can only look up all electronics equipment (which includes printers, faxes, phones, tape recorders, hard drives, and so on) or all HP equipment (which includes computers, printers, projectors, paper, ink, and so on). The company has no plans at this time to make items searchable by subcategory.

Everyone on the conference call groans loudly, protected by their muting feature. Everyone turns to the one or two people in the small office and bemoans the sheer lack of foresight on behalf of the third-party company that your corporate office just bought a majority stake in. Everyone on the call then begins formulating ways to get around “at this time”.

But why waste the energy? When you’re halfway done, the third-party company will engage in a round of congratulatory handshaking that they just enabled the subcategory feature. Sort of. You’ll be able to search for other HP printers, but not other printers from other manufacturers. The third-party company will be so thrilled with their half-measure that they won’t even bother building in full functionality. It’s not something they’ve planned for at this time.

Full Disclosure: That Guy worked for Office Depot from 1995 to 2003. The above example did not occur during his tenure with the company. It is simply an example.

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