Technology Fighters

Apr 07, 1997

There may be truth to the old adage: “Ignorance is bliss.” Because the fact is, there are a lot of people, many of them at the highest levels in A/E/P and environmental firms, who are fighting technology. They aren’t all old— some of them are even in their 30s. Evidently, the problem is even worse in Europe than it is over here. I understand that in France, Germany and England, it is considered low status to be a CEO with a computer on your desk! Following are some of the statements these people (those who fight progress) make, and what my response usually is: “Voice mail is bad.” Do you really dislike voice mail, or are you getting it confused with “auto attendant?” I find that most of the time, the person making this statement is confused over the terminology. Voice mail is when individuals have an electronic box that is for them and them alone— a place where callers can leave messages that no one else will necessarily hear, and messages that can be long or complex. You can be put into someone’s voice mail either by a live person or by an auto attendant. Auto attendant, on the other hand, is the front door to the firm’s phone system. It is what callers hear when they call in instead of a live voice. It forces the caller to punch an extension or make a choice of an electronic menu option. I find that what most people really object to is auto attendant, not voice mail. They don’t really mind voice mail, but they hate having to deal with a machine voice every time they call. “We don’t need electronic time sheets.” Right, because the old paper ones work just fine....! Sure, paper is OK for most people, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. To start with, when someone transcribes from the paper time sheet to the computer, which will have to be done somewhere along the way, mistakes are made. It takes longer. No interim data is available on hours charged to a job until the time sheet is actually collected. And there’s no way to eliminate input errors as you input them with a paper time sheet— whereas with a computerized time sheet, inactive jobs, or jobs that haven’t been properly initiated (i.e., those without a budget or schedule) can be locked out so no one can charge time to them. “E-mail is a cop-out for those who don’t want to communicate.” There is some truth to this, no doubt. On the other hand, people such as Bill Gates supposedly run their firms through e-mail, and Gates is no dummy! I find that e-mail is, in many cases, better than personal communication, because it can be used anywhere, any time, and it leaves an electronic paper trail that can be used to cover your butt or be electronically CC’d to the project file. “I can do that job cheaper manually than I can do it on CADD.” The point isn’t what you can do one job for. It’s what it costs you to do all of your work, put together. And the fact is, if you’re smart, and you think about how to store everything you do so you can re-use it, you will gain some overall production efficiencies. Even if all you get out of it is more experienced engineers, architects, designers and technicians, in terms of what they can do on CADD, you’ll be better off. “Our high-priced technical people shouldn’t be doing their own typing.” Wrong! No one who actually does their own typing would make this statement. It’s a lot more efficient to do your own typing than it is to manually write up something, give it to a secretary, get it back from the secretary, read it, make your corrections, give it back to the secretary (again), get it back from the secretary (again), read it (again), and then perhaps make your corrections (again), then give it back to the secretary (again), get it back from the secretary (again) and then read it (again). You get the idea? Or try cutting and pasting. Or dictate— then see how good the first and second drafts look. It really is easier and better to compose on the keyboard. You can recall anything you have done before, use templates, spell check, consult an on-line thesaurus or grammar checker— all of these things help improve the writing. And the best part is, you never complain about staying late to get something out the door! “If you give people Internet access, all they’ll do is surf the web.” They will for a few weeks or a month, and then they’ll all get tired of the chat rooms and “adult” sites, and get down to using the Net for what it can really do to help them do their work. What I’m talking about is tapping into online sources of credit information, identifying leads through published sources, and using the Internet as a recruiting tool. There are so many uses for the Internet that I can’t imagine not being connected to it. Hopefully you aren’t one of these people who works in a technical firm but is down on technology. Just imagine how goofy it would sound today to say: “If God wanted man to fly, he would have given him wings.” Yet in 1875, that was probably a “sensible” view to espouse! Originally published 4/07/1997

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