A fond farewell: Valuable lessons learned from 18 years in BIV’s High-Tech Office
new hardware or software on employees without budgeting for training is
a waste of money and a cause of employee resentment
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver Jan 7 2013 High Tech
been writing Business in Vancouver’s High-Tech Office column since
1995. Along the way, I’ve come to a few realizations. Among them:
happens. That might seem obvious. In the time I’ve been writing,
business technology has evolved from clumsy desktop computers to sleek
notebooks and on to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. From
standalone computers to systems connected to a local network to being
always connected online. From business software like spreadsheets and
word processors to business software like, well, spreadsheets and word
processors; from Microsoft Office to (hmm) Microsoft Office.
So change happens – except when it doesn’t.
if you believe what you read in the media, you might assume that change
happens quickly. But that’s rarely the case. “Overnight” success
typically takes four or five years. I first wrote about digital cameras
around 1998; in 2002, when I travelled with one, people were impressed
that it let us see photos I’d taken, deleting the ones that weren’t
worth keeping. A year or two later, everybody had one.
iPad (released in 2010) might seem like an exception, but touchscreen
tablets date back to 2002 or so; Apple took an existing niche
technology and fine-tuned it into what seemed to be a new product
And change isn’t necessarily universally welcomed.
Last spring, Windows XP (released in 2001) was estimated to be running
on 42% of “commercial” PCs, and there are estimates that when Microsoft
drops XP support in 2014 it will still power more than 25% of Windows
While 2009’s Windows 7 has proved popular with both
home and business users, 2006’s Windows Vista failed to resonate with
users. It’s too early to tell about Microsoft’s recent Windows 8
release, but so far it’s looking more like Vista.
And change –
when it does (finally) occur – isn’t universal as those business
systems still running Windows XP can attest. Even though a report
claims that those aging XP systems can cost five times as much to
manage and maintain than current systems, the cost and disruption of
change can outweigh the promised benefits. Similarly, in 2010, Google
Canada estimated that half of Canadian small businesses did not have a
Canadian businesses are often slower to adopt new
technology than their U.S. counterparts – and that’s not necessarily a
bad thing; because Canadian businesses had waited to jump on the
late-1990s Internet bandwagon they were much less affected by the
2000-01 dot-com meltdown.
Another cliché: Build it and they will come.
a cute catchphrase from B.C. writer W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe
made into the 1989 film Field of Dreams, in the high-tech office I’ve
learned it simply isn’t true.
Instead, it should read: “Build it, then revise it and keep on plugging away at it.”
of the reason half of Canadian small businesses don’t have a website is
that they understand that building a website is just the first step,
and they’re too busy to take on yet another ongoing project. Similarly,
dumping new hardware or software on employees without budgeting for
training is a waste of money and a cause of employee resentment.
2009, I wrote about local video production company Base Two Media,
which was gaining 75% of its new clients by using Google’s AdWords. The
company attributed its success to the hour a day company co-founder
Jeff Pelletier spent fine-tuning the ads’ wording and targeting. I
suspect that the currently popular social media marketing can be
effective – but only for companies prepared to commit to ongoing
A last lesson learned: back up. High-tech office
disasters, whether from equipment failure, malware, fire or theft,
happen. The best insurance is having a reliable and up-to-date backup.
Test it to ensure that the backups can be restored.
This is my
last column for the High-Tech Office. Thanks to BIV and all my readers
for their support over the years. I hope the column has been helpful.
Feel free to check in with me at zisman.ca.