It’s all geek to me

A friend of mine has, on more than one occasion, and somewhat unfairly in my opinion, accused me of being a Luddite. It’s not that I have anything against technology per se and, unlike the original Luddites, I have no particular desire to destroy it (at least only the occasional urge, but only when it’s deserved). In fact, a small part of me – getting smaller as time goes by, admittedly – does actually like the idea of getting some shiny new piece of ‘tech’ every now and again. It’s just that it never actually seems to do what it’s supposed to do – at least not for me.

Let me give you some examples.

I recently bought a fairly expensive laptop, which, for no apparent reason, freezes with irritating regularity. And it makes such a good job of it that the only way to thaw it out is to disconnect the tablet part of it (yes, it’s one of those – in fact it has all sorts of other whizzy features that I seldom use), play around with the touch screen for a while, then reconnect it.

My previous (also fairly expensive) laptop, although a completely different make, suffered with a similar affliction. The solution with that one was to remove the battery, count to five and reconnect it, thus taking the ‘power it off and on’ routine to a whole new level.

As with the previous laptop, I was advised to buy my latest model by someone far more knowledgeable than me in these matters, who, as well as neglecting to tell me about the freezing thing, also told me that “it has more than enough grunt (a technical term, I believe) to do everything you want to do”. Except when it decides to go on a go-slow and I sit there twiddling my thumbs for several minutes after my colleague’s far less expensive laptop is up and doing what it’s supposed to do. Without freezing.

My previous two mobile phones didn’t do what they were supposed to do either. The first was recommended by another someone far more knowledgeable than me in these matters, who told me it was exactly what I needed. What a piece of junk it turned out to be. It was the least intuitive, most difficult-to-use piece of kit that I’ve ever had the misfortune to own, and about as user-friendly as a cornered rat. I just couldn’t get on with it, so when my contract finally came to an end, I got myself a different make, which also turned out to be a load of rubbish. Once again, I’d been advised by someone far more knowledgeable, etc, etc, who told me that this particular make is intuitive, easy to use and never, ever goes wrong. It just works. Always.

Yes, you’ve guessed, mine didn’t. Like my laptops, it would also freeze occasionally for no reason. Unlike the laptops, however, it wasn’t possible to remove the battery without specialist tools – or, perhaps, my chainsaw (see ‘Boys’ toys‘ and ‘No jacket required‘), which, I have to say, was tempting. Then the quite important button on the front stopped working properly and when it got to the stage where I had to press it multiple times before it would acknowledge my presence I thought it was time to get it sorted out. So I went through hours of mental torment talking to various technical support people in various countries – mostly called Derek or Kevin for some strange reason – who all spoke very politely but extremely condescendingly to me, pointing out that it was quite clearly me and not the phone that was at fault. So I had a bit of a shout and sent it back.

I’ve since had two replacements. Admittedly I dropped the first one (from the massive height of approximately six inches), after which it started to do strange things – like cook itself and get through a fully charged battery in about half an hour (which was roughly a quarter of it’s less-than-impressive normal battery life). The second replacement did actually work and continued to do so for a comparatively impressive amount of time, until a few weeks ago when it decided that charging whenever a cable is plugged in is far too predictable and an intermittent approach would be much more interesting for all concerned.

So it looks like I’m in the market for a new phone again. No doubt I’ll go for the all-singing-all-dancing top of the range model with lots of features that I won’t actually use, like I usually do.

Whilst my relationship with technology is often slightly strained, unfortunately, like most people, I can’t do without it. In fact I’ve written most of this blog on my phone, which, I have to admit, is quite amazing when you think about it. That said, it’s taken me longer to correct the ‘corrections’ that the phone decided to make without asking me than it would have taken to type the entire blog on my laptop (assuming it remained unfrozen for long enough, of course); and twice as long as it used to take to hand-write something and give it to a secretary to type (yes, sadly, I’m old enough to remember those days). Which I can’t help thinking is missing the point somewhat.

Talking of points, apart from this being an opportunity for another Osborne rant, the point is that, whilst some of us love technology, some of us actually don’t. In fact, shock horror, some of us of a more ‘mature’ disposition actually still prefer paper in certain situations. For instance, it makes me chuckle when I’m with a bunch of people looking to book a meeting and I’m there with my paper diary instantly available, while those with electronic calendars spend an inordinate amount of time tapping and swiping before they’re ready to even begin looking at dates. And, whether the technophiles like it or not, there’s still a hard-core contingent who prefer paper-based business continuity plans to electronic ones, for a number of perfectly valid reasons.

So when we’re distributing our plans to the key players, we ought to bear this in mind and provide them in a format that the recipient is actually comfortable using. Or at least ensure that the technology and the media that we’re asking them to use is actually right for the task at hand, and they’re sufficiently au fait with it to be able to use it effectively.

Technology – at least the right technology in the right situation – can be hugely beneficial. But, if it’s unsuitable or not used properly, it can also get in the way. Technology should be an enabler, not an inhibitor, which, in my humble, and quite probably jaundiced opinion, it all-too-often is.

I realise that I’m a grumpy old so-and-so who can occasionally come across as a bit of a dinosaur, but I just want things to work, which I don’t think is unreasonable. I’m actually starting to think that maybe it’s just me, and that I must emit some kind of aura that causes technology to throw a wobbler in my presence – a bit like those people your dog takes an instant dislike to and growls at for no apparent reason. Or maybe it’s the same for everyone and it’s just that most people are more accepting and don’t get quite so wound up about it. Either way, I’m not ready to throw away my paper diary just yet.

 

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Agree? Disagree? Want to share your own thoughts or opinions?

Leave a reply (below) and let me know what you think.

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Andy Osborne (known as Oz to friends and colleagues) is the Consultancy Director at Acumen, a consultancy practice specialising in business continuity and risk management.

Andy is the author of the books ‘Practical Business Continuity Management’, ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ and ‘Ski Boots and Celery – A Compilation of Oz’s Business Continuity Blogs’, as well as his popular blogs and ‘Tips of the Month’, all of which aim to demystify the subjects of business continuity and risk management and make them more accessible to people who live in the real world.

You can follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyatAcumen and link with him on LinkedIn at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/andyosborneatacumen

 

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