3 things you’re likely doing wrong with the technology you use in your business (and 4 things you’re probably doing right)

In the first article in this series, technology was defined as the “practical application of knowledge”, without regard to particular equipment or processes. I think this is important, especially the “practical” aspect of it.
We have so many impractical technologies – impractical in the way they are utilized, not the technologies themselves. As has been proved multiple times throughout history, technology itself is not inherently good or evil, useful or useless, positive or negative. Practicality, however, is another matter. Practical is not theory, practical is not conceptual, practical is not merely an idea. It is that theory, concept or idea put to actual use in a particular manner.  The methods to which we put technology, the way we use it to our collective benefit or detriment, tell the story of if that practical application helps or hinders.

This is where things get interesting. By definition, for a technology to exist and be of use, the need for there to be practical application of it must exist, but all too often we miss the mark, misusing or abusing our technologies in ways that end up hurting our businesses or society.

Societal problems can be a discussion for another day. Here are three things we all do wrong with technology, to some extent or another, when it comes to business.

1. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”

In the iconic “Princess Bride”, Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya says this phrase to Vizzini after the Sicilian repeatedly uses, or misuses, the word “inconceivable”. We do this with the technologies we implement all the time – whether its not applying a sales technique correctly, underutilizing the capabilities of our software systems, or failing to optimize the hardware and equipment we employ in our business, we operate from a position of thinking we know what we’re doing, but habitually we keep using it in the wrong manner.

One interesting example is the QR code. There are instances where these are used very effectively, although they are few and far between. Some of the worst uses I have seen have been where they provide links simply to a company’s home web page instead of something specifically related to where the QR code was displayed. The worst, however, might be having it on a website itself. Think about that for a second. Unless you are providing a unique experience that can only be seen on a mobile device (such as Augmented Reality), there is no reason to replace a link with a more complicated link. NFC and better Bluetooth technology came along just in time to render most of the QR code fad impotent early on, however, it would have been interesting to see if some early adopters had set the trend to better utilize this arguably innovative advancement of the simple barcode.

Tools and devices such as the pen, yoke, and hammer have been around for ages, and the smartphone, ever more efficient batteries, and industrial robots are merely modern takes on these technologies. But a yoke designed for two animals would never work properly if only fitted to one, and even the most sophisticated graphene battery would fail in much the same manner if hooked up to too heavy of a load.

A lower-tech example might be not maintaining resources like a fleet of trucks properly, and allowing them to go way beyond scheduled oil changes or tire rotations. The reasons can range from consciously trying to save money to blind unawareness of when things should be done. This can end up causing costly repairs or premature replacement.

Another is improperly designing and laying out an office. Open-office design seems like a good idea to some, however, as was discussed in an Inc. article last year, there is much evidence that this concept – centered partially around better utilizing both human and technology capital – has not been implemented effectively in many cases, causing disruption in workflow and a drain on productivity where the exact opposite was the goal.

2. The trap of “sunk cost”

In a previous article, I discussed the way mobile devices get slower over time partially due to the way newer versions of apps tax older processors. The question for the end user then is when to upgrade the hardware. If you’ve spent nearly a mortgage payment on that slice of metal and glass in your pocket, you probably have little desire to do it again just because it isn’t opening up “Angry Birds” as quickly as it used to. But there reaches a point (for some of us) where the frustration overwhelms the rational mind, and we give into shoveling out the cash or making payments for a shiny, new device – probably with fewer scratches and cracks on the screen.

In the business environment, this might look something like keeping around a training program that doesn’t address new equipment, situations or policies. It could be hanging on to a software system that has outgrown its true usefulness, but so much time and funding has been thrown at it over the years that the thought of abandoning it for something better hurts your ego to the core.

It could also be outdated manufacturing equipment that continues to reduce productivity, but the cost of replacement still exceeds the losses incurred. The real tragedy is when that tipping point is passed and still no change is made. This can often be fatal to a company, especially if no room was ever made in the budget to plan for it, and a catastrophic failure occurs.

3. Hoarding of new technologies

Sometimes the latest and greatest isn’t what you really need for your business to succeed. We’ve seen the reality shows where such a sad state of affairs has developed when a person or family refuse to throw items away and simply keeps buying them. The same can be said for businesses that will run to new technologies, only to abandon their use when it is discovered that they don’t perform to expectations. All too often these relics never disappear – software trials stay loaded on laptops, paid for equipment gets pushed into a corner and forgotten about until spring cleaning day, and then it just gets dusted and put back, usually in a different corner.

What you’re doing right

The good news is there’s a flip side to all of these.

1. Maximizing investment by repurposing 

Once a particular technology has served its intended purpose, instead of tossing it we can look at what other function it can provide. Getting the full ROI can be a fun game if you play it right. Being able to say that your prize manufacturing equipment is not only still operating at peak efficiency, but has kept up with increasing demand over the past 20 years is quite an accomplishment.

2. Donating older technology to non-profits who could really use it.

There might be a local shelter or low-income targeted thrift store whose staff could really use those old laptops you were going to recycle, resell, or throw out. Clean them up (both outside and inside – a good wipe-down and a factory fresh image on the hard drive erasing all your data from them first) and call the management to offer them up. Chances are it won’t take more than a couple calls to find a taker.

3. Always looking to improve

At the $3-50million range, your business is most likely still an extension of you and your drive to succeed. While you are working on your own personal and professional development, you also want to develop your company and provide the best possible tools for your staff and partners

Being an early adopter of new technologies also means you’re paying attention to both your customers and competition, keeping ahead of the curve isn’t easy, but if you’re riding the wave, sometimes an advancement in technology solutions is just the ticket to take things up yet another notch, and give Jones, Inc a run for their money.

4. Anticipating the next big thing

Stay tuned – exciting news from TCHNGLY coming soon!

This article was originally published  on LinkedIn September 7, 2018