Feb 21, 2005

Thank God for technology! If we didn’t have the technology that we have today, there’s no way most of us who travel could keep up with the demands of work and life. For example, I am writing this article on my BlackBerry wireless device while sitting at Gate 19 in Terminal C of Boston’s Logan Airport as I get ready to head out of town to teach my class in Fayetteville. It’s the latest and greatest from parent company— Research in Motion— and the fourth BlackBerry I’ve had. My beloved “BB” has a built-in phone (I don’t use it, as it’s only useful in areas with digital service, and I still go a lot of places where analog is essential), along with fantastic e-mail and calendar functions that perfectly integrate with my Microsoft Outlook back at the office and home. It also has full web search capabilities, something I really appreciate when I am out of town and need to use MapQuest and don’t have a Hertz rental car equipped with NeverLost, Hertz’s version of Garmin GPS. And while I’m on the subject of GPS, if you rent cars when you travel for business or pleasure, being able to get NeverLost is reason enough for selecting Hertz as your rental-car provider of choice. Life is so much easier when you can get into town, key in the address of your client or hotel, and drive right there with no problem. If you are like me, and have a particular weakness for Red Lobster or Steak ‘n Shake restaurants, all you need to do is search the nearby restaurant listings for their name, and you can see exactly how far you will have to go if you want to get there. And, if you do decide to go, all you have to do is select that destination, and you can have voice and screen commands tell you turn-by-turn how to get there. If I was still working on a full-time schedule in the office, I’d have my “Out of Office Assistant” on my Outlook directing all inquirers whom to contact in my firm in my absence, supplying them with names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers, to be sure no one wasn’t served properly by our company. While I’m in the air, I’ll send e-mails to anyone I need to stay in touch with, including family members, through my BB. Maybe I’ll choose to watch a movie on my laptop’s built-in DVD player. And, when I get to wherever I’m going, I can use my laptop with wireless network card to log in and see any faxes that have been sent to me by a client or my Realtor through the Faxination software that sends all faxes to my e-mail account. No more $5-a-page incoming faxes that have to be picked up at the hotel front desk! I can give assignments to my students through the university’s electronic “Blackboard” system. I can even review their work and grade it online, or start an electronic discussion group on any subject I want, to see who in my class is really thinking. I can also review and leave comments on any articles, reports, or proposals written by others on Microsoft Word, and send them back to the writers electronically so they can either accept or reject my changes. No word-processing pool for me! Tomorrow, I will be taking digital photos of the progress on the house we are renovating with my Canon camera. And when I get back to Boston, I’ll load the pictures on my personal web site, www.markzweig.com, so my family and friends can see them. No more dropping film off at Walgreens and going back to pick up photos, half of which I won’t want. And no more trips to the post office to mail out the duplicate copies I had to pay for. I’ll call the voice-mail system at home and office to check in and get messages left just for me any time, day or night. No costly secretary or answering service required. It’s almost hard to imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have these amazing technologies today. They certainly have changed the way we live and work. Late last year, I invested in a firm that has a remote surgical technology that allows a physician to operate on a patient halfway around the world with a precision never before possible. I wonder what’s coming next. It has to revolutionize the AEC business as we know it. I completely disagree with those cynics (some of whom have been quoted right here in The Zweig Letter) who say “IT doesn’t matter.” Perhaps it doesn’t matter to those who have it all and then take it for granted, or those who don’t mind wasting their money, time, or labor resources because they’re too lazy to learn something new or too cheap to invest in something better. As for the rest of us— IT is changing everything! Originally published 2/21/2005

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.