Technology and the speed of business

For the better part of my life, I have heard how technology is going to make our lives better, easier and more efficient. And one would think that with the highly evolved state of computers and the Internet, this would be the case.

And it often is. You can get instant access to millions of products, music, movies, books, news and just about any other form of content you could imagine. The other night, my wife and I drove through the Italian city of Reggio Calabria, looking in store windows, admiring the architecture, and occasionally making a wrong turn and ending up in a somewhat less than savory looking neighborhood. We were hopelessly lost the entire time but it was great fun. And it all happened right there on our living room sofa, courtesy of Google.

But there are times when it seems like either this is all an illusion or maybe that some people just don’t get it. The other day I was asked to fax a document. Fax? Who faxes anymore? When I suggested that I unleash the power of my computer and generate a PDF that could be emailed, I was told that, no, it had to be a fax. And then a bit later, someone told me that a payment I was expecting was waiting on a copy of the invoice to arrive via FedEx. FedEx? How quaint! Haven’t these guys heard about direct deposit?

Sometimes, I get the feeling that technology is being used as a scapegoat. How many times do you hear that something could not happen because “the computer was down.” So instead of these technologies speeding things up, they often end up slowing things down. Or at least, they are providing newer and better excuses.



  • Chris Wong says:


    Once, I got a phone call from someone who wanted to send in a purchase order and requested an e-mail address to send it to. Well, I didn’t have access to an e-mail account and I explained to him that we usually request that customers fax in the PO. He grumbled and complained about how faxing was so last decade, so I finally gave in and asked an employee with an e-mail account if I could have my customer send them the PO. I gave him the e-mail address and he was happy.

    Ten minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the same fellow. He explained that his scanner was broken and requested our fax number.


  • Mark Slafkes says:

    David, I’ve worked around computers since 1962 and we are so used to mass-marketing software that’s it’s hard to understand why computers will be down. Unfortunately, with specialized packages that only one or a few companies will use, there are plenty of bugs and the computer being down is another way of saying “our software has some bugs in it and our techs are struggling to fix the problem.”
    As for all of the other excuses, that matches my experience of dealing with companies that hire folks at minimum wage, treat them poorly, and expect very little out of them. We can blame management and owners for those type of responses. A lesson we woodworkers should remember when we hire, train and pay our employees.
    Thanks for your thoughtful columns.

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