The hidden pitfalls of adopting technology – part 1

We all know the bright and shiny face of skillfully crafted consumer technology and for the most part as consumers, we enjoy a relatively painless relationship with a wide range of exotic new technology.

Our cell phones connect us to faraway places while we careen madly about on the highway. We zap our toast or pop tarts and they come up just like we want almost all of the time. We receive music and news from satellites, our cars tell us more about our environment than we can safely absorb, and voices from our dashboards tell us to turn left in 200 feet.

When it comes to automating a business however, technology is a two-edged sword. It takes a high degree of skill to master the technology sufficiently to actually make money using it. It also displaces long-established manual procedures which are part of the DNA of the organization and have never been fully documented because they are understandings, not procedures.

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When technology works for me as in the image shown here, life is fine and my days are productive. I am happy and make the people around me happy. When technology eludes my grasp, my days are filled with frustration and suppressed rage, mostly at myself for falling into a self-made trap.

I have been an early adopter for many years, but that was because I was one of the people who were creating and selling technical solutions. I had very little real understanding of the needs of the business owner who has to keep things running for years on end and absolutely HATES upgrades and new models of anything!

Now that I am a business owner myself, I find myself caught on the horns of a dilemma.

As a newcomer to the field of custom picture framing, I was able to embrace the latest computer technology for designing framing solutions and cutting mats because I didn’t have anything to unlearn. I could go for whatever solution made the most sense today without having to regret the loss of traditional skills.

On the other hand, I wrote my own software for a simple Point of Sale system that was based on how I was doing business. Since I crafted it to handle my business model exactly, there was nothing extra and nothing that had to be "worked around". It worked fine, but it had a major limitation, a hand-built supplier database.

Now I am trying to upgrade to a one-size-fits-all retail Management System with all sorts of bells and whistles and I am struggling!

I cannot avoid upgrading because the new system has regular price
updates for every supplier in the industry and a picture framing
business must have up-to-date supplier information to survive.

It is not that I can’t master this new system, the problem is that I
don’t have time to learn everything I need and still keep up with
orders.

I am beginning to appreciate the comments made by a California framer I
know who has been in business for thirty years and has no computer in
the shop. Everything is done with pencil and paper and he is one of the
most successful framers in his area.

He told me he cannot envision
going to computers, because no one in his shop is computer literate and
they are spending every moment keeping up with customer demand. His
shop runs like a well-oiled machine and he is wise enough to know that
you don’t tear down or unmock a working installation. He really doesn’t
need a computer to keep track of his supplier costs, because he has
thirty years of experience with these suppliers and he talks with them
every week.

Technology does save time, but you have to know how to use it
effectively. If you are not in a position to learn new technology while  keeping your business running,  you need to use non-technical solutions.

I know how to use 75% of my computer-based tools
effectively and they are paying for themselves every day. It’s getting
up to speed on the other 25% that is the real challenge.

I have probably adopted more technology than I can comfortable digest alone. I will pull in help eventually and we should see some interesting progress. Until then, blogging may be sporadic at best.

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