Technology as a Force Multiplier: August 2012

My college professor used to be quite critical of the computers that were common at that time (mid-eighties) because they were difficult to use and not very useful for the average person. He would tell us that the purpose of a computer was to help people perform tasks. But at the time, it seemed like people needed to think like computers to use them, and not the other way around.

Things have changed since then.

Our computers are transforming into "devices", some that we use at our desk and some that we carry with us and all of them connecting us to our businesses, our friends, and the world beyond. Steve Jobs used to describe the computer as a "bicycle for the mind"; something that helps us to think and create more effectively. For businesses I think of technology as a "force multiplier", something that helps employees do more, faster. It connects them in a multitude of ways and enables them to move in one direction. Like a battleship, platoon, or flying formation a business works better if everyone is moving in the same direction.

Here are 5 ways that to improve your business or organization with common, inexpensive products:

  1. Improve Focus: A content filter is a device that helps you in two ways. The first is to shield you and your employees from malicious websites. These sites typically contain malware: programs that are designed to infect computers with software designed to cripple your system. (Many of you have probably seen the "Antivirus 2011" or similar popups that are a sign that you may have an infection.) It can also block sites that are designed to fool you into typing in sensitive information such as your bank account or social security number. It can also block entire categories of undesirable sites such as "Adult", entertainment, or shopping. The more sophisticated filters can be configured to allow different levels of access to different groups of employees or can even be configured for individuals.
  2. Improve Productivity: Your employee's computer is often his or her stock-in-trade. Regular preventative maintenance will help to keep it secure and running at peak performance. When your employee spends a large part of the day waiting for the computer to respond, or if there are frequent application crashes, productivity can suffer. Fortunately these problems can often be easily corrected without purchasing new equipment.
  3. Reduce Risk: Hype and technology seem to go together. New products that claim to change everything rarely do. Being at or near the cutting edge can be risky and expensive. It's usually best to wait until something is tested and widely used in the real world before taking in on yourself; let someone else take the 'arrows'. I find most companies can do a lot more with what they currently have, with little or no additional cost or risk.
  4. Improve Teamwork: All of your company data should be in a single location where it can be secured and backed up. It's a valuable asset that needs to be protected, secured, and cared for.
  5. Improve Agility: It's liberating to be able to get to your data at any time no matter where you are. Driving to work merely to get a file is no longer necessary. And the latest version of Windows Server allows you to your desktop at work from home, your hotel room or anywhere there's an internet connection available.