Technological ramblings

Apr 28, 2008

With this week’s special focus on information technology, I thought I would take the time to sound off on a number of different technology-related topics. BlackBerries: I still think they are the greatest. I am going longer and longer without turning on my “real” computer— in some cases, weeks— since the BB’s Internet capabilities and ability to download attachments keep getting better and better. I cannot believe that every company wouldn’t get one for each of its employees. The productivity increase and responsiveness that BBs facilitate is probably one of the best efficiency enhancers available to a professional service firm today. Upgrades: Microsoft Windows 2007— I can’t stand it. The menus are impossible to navigate. We have had it at the university for about nine months and most of the faculty and staff are still trying to figure out how to do things like count words in documents or keep from saving two files for every spreadsheet opened. It is a classic case of features for the sake of features, created by technical people who work only with this software all day every day and don’t understand the rest of us have jobs to do. Don’t let Microsoft scare you into buying this unnecessary upgrade! Return on investment (ROI) for technology upgrades: Windows 2007 aside, don’t let anyone tell you that every technology expenditure has to be proven to have a favorable ROI before you try it. You will never know with most of these things how they can affect every single aspect of your business. Some— like implementation of enterprise-wide integrated systems for manpower allocation or client management— could conceivably be the one thing that makes it possible to be profitable during an economic downturn, if they provide early warning on workload problems or help you market yourself cost-effectively. I guarantee you that I can poke holes (lots of them) in ANYONE’s ROI analysis for a software-related technology upgrade. It’s almost impossible to do! IT people: You need good ones. I have seen plenty of bad ones and a few good ones. The good ones are nice, they are responsive, they don’t avoid talking to people, they don’t talk down to people, they are creative, they are wide-ranging, and they are practical. They also understand that we are in the architecture, engineering, planning, environmental, or surveying business. The good ones are valuable now and will be more and more valuable as time goes on. Notebook computers: They are getting smaller, lighter, and better all of the time. If you are using a computer that’s three or more years old, you’ll be surprised how quickly they boot up, how much better they find available wireless networks, and how long the batteries hold a charge. It’s kind of like driving a new Toyota Camry and then getting behind the wheel of my ‘58 Edsel Villager— there’s a world of difference! Originally published 4/28/2008

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