Editorial: Dealing with frustrating technology changes

Apr 25, 2013

While the loss of a beloved BlackBerry device is a traumatic experience for Mark Zweig, change is inevitable. The last week brought a lot of change into my world. That included moving to a new Windows operating system (I don’t even know which one) on my ZweigWhite laptop AND having to get a new phone. While the new Windows and accompanying Microsoft Office suite with plenty of changes was frustrating enough, nothing compared to the new phone. It’s been said that changing jobs, moving, and getting divorced are among the most stressful events one can go through in life. For me, the new phone ranked right up there with those. It’s sad but true.

I’ve been a loyal BlackBerry user since they FIRST came out some time in 1998 or 1999. Fred White (the former ZweigWhite partner) got one and he told me I needed one – so he got one for me. I never realized (as is the case with most new technologies) how it would change my life. At first, I still carried a regular cellphone AND the BB. The BBs had notoriously bad phone connections. But you got your email anywhere. And that helped me be the most responsive guy in the world who did what I did (management consulting for the A/E and environmental business!).

Over the years, I was a dedicated, loyal “Blackberrian” (if there is such a word). We got them in the hands of all of our employees. I got many A/E firm principals to start using them. Productivity studies at the time had payback periods of less than 30 days for these things. I could not understand why anyone wouldn’t want one. I have had a BlackBerry ever since.

Flash forward to the present. I was ordered by our resident IT expert and manager that I had to lose the BlackBerry I’ve been using (probably my 15th unit – surprisingly similar to the first one I had) because Research In Motion is no longer supporting BlackBerrry Enterprise Server and it won’t work with the other new systems we’re implementing for email. RIM (the makers of BB) are pretty well toast as a company by now. Androids and iPhones rule the day. I had to make a switch.

I looked at the newest BlackBerry Z10 thinking that even though I was going to be losing the physical keyboard I am so adept of (a big reason not to switch with the email volume and writing I do on it), the new BB would have some similar functionality to the old. But the AT&T sales guy told me the only thing it had in common with my old phone was the name. So I ended buying a Samsung Galaxy S III (Android) yesterday.

Needless to say, the day was shot. I don’t normally drink during the day but I certainly felt like it yesterday. I could not do the simplest tasks on the thing. I couldn’t even figure out how to send an email. My entire calendar didn’t transfer over. My notes (I have over 300 of them) cannot be found. It wasted a day I cannot afford to waste and will waste even more time before I become proficient at using this thing.

The point is: changes in the tools we all use every day are hard for all of us. While we have to keep up with the rest of the world, sometimes it is particularly difficult for us older folks to make the move. We have to be patient and understanding with our people when they are working under deadline pressure and we change things on them. Yesterday, I even had to ask our director of finance and administration to be patient with me. I couldn’t deal with any requests for information or meetings that I didn’t already have scheduled to deal with. Not everyone has the luxury I had yesterday to waste a full day learning how to use a phone. Yet it is the single most important tool that I use every day for 16 hours or more.

I had a CEO client and friend of mine here last week who recently went through the same change. I think I got him to buy his first BB, in fact, years ago. He told me I would “be in hell for 90 days and then afterward all would be better.” If you have yet to go through it, my heart goes out to you. But the bottom line is: you will have to go through it! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 1005 Originally published 4/29/2013. Copyright© 2013, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

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