I have heard these comments time and time again in my position as an IT Consultant. Individuals and businesses as a whole have historically seen technology as a necessary evil; something that cuts into their profits and does not help their business perform any better. Further, and especially in the accounting, legal, and medical industries, the government is pushing technology down the throat of companies whether they want it or not. Needless to say, perception of technology is oftentimes poor.
And who can really argue this point? For such a long time information technology was limited to either that which was forced on you in your workplace or that expensive new home theater system with a 200 button remote that no one seemed to know how to use. But the good news is that it was just that, perception, and not necessarily the technology itself. In fact the technologies were and are quite remarkable but the negative connotations including cost, poor implementation, lack of training and complexity all led to negative perceptions.
All that said, over the past 2-3 years there has been an active shift in the perceptions of technology. It is my opinion that this is a result of extreme popularization of consumer technologies that are actively making peoples’ lives better. Technologies like Skype, iPads, Netflix, GPS, and SmartPhones, just to name a few, are changing perceptions. It’s no secret that these technologies are older than 2-3 years, but what has changed during this recent period is the simplicity of these technologies and the fact that “they just work.” As proof in point, my grandmother of 87 years asked me what my “Skype name” was last week. That hit home.
As a result of consumer grade technology drastically improving in capability and simplicity, and people actively seeing it as a way to improve their lives, positive perceptions are spilling over into the workplace. Instead of me, the IT consultant, showing a doctor how an EMR feature can improve their patient flow, I have doctors coming to me with ideas on how a tablet device they saw on the news last night might fit into their practice. This is great news and has positively impacted countless businesses as they begin to embrace technology.
And while this effect has also improved my quality of life as an IT consultant, it does present an unwanted spillover. The “it just works” factor does not simply apply to business class technologies like it does for consumer grade devices. While consumer grade technologies are largely self-contained, the business class technologies have an incredible number if pieces that must perform flawlessly for the “it just works” factor. For example, video chatting with Skype really just needs some battery life, a working iPad and a connection to the internet. Not too much can go wrong. However take that iPad to your medical practice for use with an EMR and it needs an application to connect to the EMR, a strong and secure wireless infrastructure, high performing EMR server(s) that are redundant and backed up regularly and the list goes on and on. If any of these pieces are missing then failure results and perceptions are ruined once again.
So while there is a significant improvement in the perception of technology, there is a disconnect with respect to the perception of the management, planning, and implementation of that technology in the workplace. Navigation of this terrain gets difficult. The “Nerd Herd” can rarely solve business infrastructure needs or achieve the “it just works” factor as they can with consumer grade technologies.
In summary, as you continue to improve your business and make those critical decisions, ask yourself if you have used the following comments in the past 12 months: I hate technology. Why do we have to use this? If you have, then an opportunity exists to leverage technology in a more cost effective, efficient, and “it just works” way. Just remember, in order for technology to be an enabler in your business, managing that technology and the accompanying perception is key.
Byron Harrison is a consultant with Jackson Thornton Technologies.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in the Recipeideas blog in July 2012.