What does your technology do for you?

March 23, 2017

How to chose what technology you should invest in.

The year was 1997 and I was setting up a computer network for a small printing company. I had reached the point of configuring workstations to access the internet when one employee stopped me. Upset with the disruption, she asked, “Why do I care about internet access at my desk?” 

Twenty years later the question seems silly to some but I can’t help wonder how much better would our world be if everyone asked something similar when new technology was pushed on them.

Don’t get me wrong. I like buttons and blinking lights as much as the next guy, maybe more, but even I must admit that tech for the sake of tech is not the same as progress for the sake of progress. The way I see it, we have two choices (don’t you just love it when people try to boil a complex world into only two camps?):

Buy tools for your life/lifestyle

A business owner friend of mine was opening a new office. He sat down with me and described what they would be doing in the new facility and asked me to propose technology that would support those specific operations. We had the chance to select network devices and services that would make IT virtually transparent while it facilitated exactly what they needed to have done. They get to focus on their business and not on their technology. 

Transparency, however, wasn’t the most useful feature of their solution. They didn’t spend a single dollar on technology. They leased a way to collaborate with coworkers in remote locations. They bought access to the information that protects the integrity of their workflow. How awesome would it be if all expenses were actually buying advantages for your company?

...Or Buy Technology That You Will Eventually Decide was Useful

The alternative is to buy a product and shape your life around it, creating a dependency on something that up until a few days ago, you didn’t know existed.

Wait. That sounds like every smartphone I’ve ever owned.

And Facebook.

I can’t blame Apple, Samsung, or Facebook for their approach at giving us what we want. If we can’t be bothered to figure it out, they are left to step up and decide for us. They’ve been doing a pretty lucrative job of packing enough features into their product that something is bound to resonate with everyone. Whether for your person, your home, or your business, you should assess your needs first and shop for available solutions second. What would make your life and your job better? What information do you wish you had and when do you wish you had it?

I guarantee someone has a solution to propose. If not, find a mobile app developer and see if you can make millions. But for now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go help this old guy who keeps asking why he should care about having internet on his phone.

Scott Burrell has spent 18 years in higher education and 30 years with technology, and has experience on executive leadership teams and with front-line leadership. Click here to check out his LinkedIn Learning courses.