Saturday, 31 January 2009

The March Of 'IT'

If you are more than say 40 years old you may not know that “IT” stands for Information Technology.  You didn’t grow up with it and if you do know how to turn a computer on it is because you stumbled on it at some point and had to achieve a certain familiarity because of your job.

Recently, our post man was issued with a magic box. When he delivers a recorded parcel to you now you sign a screen and it appears to carbonate your signature just like those old fashioned Magic Screen notebooks that worked with carbon paper. You do the same if you order your groceries on line. The gas meter reader has a similar device. The point is the contact with the computer as your acknowledgement triggers off a record on line.

If you are under the age of say, 40 you did grow up with computers around you. There are certain intuitive things you know about computers and all their quirks that pass your elders by. For example, when I get an upgrade on my mobile phone my children pick it and immediately explore its intricate depths.  I need to be shown.

It isn’t all good. The new girls in the bank cannot add up to save their life I have noticed. You can stand there in mounting frustration while the cashier taps in a few numbers on a calculator with no expectation of the outcome. Presumably, now we have Sat Navs  we shall be losing the ability to read maps and have a sense of direction and will just do what it says.

If I say so myself, I am better than most. I have long conquered the fear that by pressing something I will lose everything or somehow cock it up. I do find however that I cannot find a way forward sometimes .  The thinking isn’t intuitive for me.  It just isn’t obvious and I can get stuck in a technological loop which takes me back to the wrong page no matter what I seem to do. This new fangled stuff is too clever by half, my parents would have said.  I recently switched to a Samsung phone having had a string of Nokias and spent several hours trying to master the Samsung thinking. The basic thought that it can’t be difficult or no one would be able to use it, kept me going somehow. Likewise what you can do with computer technology doesn’t present itself to me as possibilities. When I am shown I can see it and express the appropriate degree of marvel.

Society is changing, of course. It always has. In particular the IT generation marches on, year by year. ‘IT ‘ is taking over, as it were. Very few businesses can make do without some form of IT nowadays. The few that do, pass that part of their work to others.

‘Every business needs a web site’. Nonsense still, but probably not for long. Many businesses do actually need a website to exploit their market opportunities. Look at Marketing for a moment.  Over the age of 40 and you probably reach for Yellow Pages. Under the age of 40 and you probably do not, naturally going online instead. So the marketing we need to do is affected by the age profile of the market we hope to capture.

It gets deeper the more you look into it. The whole  problem is that by the time you are expert enough to know your stuff you are probably incapable of communicating with those who have less than a basic understanding. The best advice for business folk over the age of 40 who are struggling with the complexities is to get some help before you spend endless amounts of money. If you are baffled by a plethora of web firms and IT specialists, seek help from a business consultant that does have dealings with these people while still retaining a healthy scepticism for what is practical and what is wizzy for its own sake.

In any case you do need to embrace the new technology. It could save you stress and money if you bother to take it on to some extent. Some things it does very well. Try to see it, while still reserving the right to use a paper diary without apologising or feeling the need to ‘synch’ it. Discuss it all with a review of your business practices by Bob Shepherd Associates.

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