The spiral of technology

Does Technology really make your life easier?

Let’s say a company implements new tools/processes in a specific department. When the benefits are promised, it’s normally in things like seamless data transfer, reducing manpower or increased responsiveness. And when systems/projects fail to realize benefits its normally technical failures that are blamed. Seldom is it the case that personnel could not be motivated to use the systems (with adequate support/workarounds) to achieve the end as designed. The easiest way around this is to upgrade or replace the new system, often at double or more of the original cost!

A common misconception about technology implementation is that it makes our lives easier- and if I haven’t stressed this enough – no, it generally doesn’t! It makes mundane, routine tasks easier, forces structured and systematic workflows and processes, but in doing so leaves us with no option but to focus on higher-order workflows. That you can send and receive messages, media and documents via email at virtually no cost and at any time is a tremendous convenience, but then we have opened the floodgates and exposed ourselves to information overload- more than we can typically handle. In the past, we would have had to wait for access to a fax machine, telex or snail mail (all at significant cost) to get information around- which, essentially, bought us time. It was only the privilege of senior managers to have a secretary who could do the ‘donkey work’ of obtaining, collating, presenting or distributing information. The pace of our lives has had to step up a notch since information technology has become the global currency that’s making most things too convenient!

Another fundamental way IT has made life a bit more hectic is that its ability to transform industry supply chains. Take the airline industry for instance- the middlemen are all under immense competition not with other branches offering competing packages, but with a multitude of internet-based travel companies (and the airlines themselves) to capture the mass price-sensitive air travel market. And of course retailers face the same problem with non-perishable goods – people can always find the lowest cost provider with practically minimal effort.