Small Business

The Three Truths of Technology


By Brian J. Nichelson

OK, so there's no resident geek in your outfit. In that case, you might consider hiring such a person or retaining an outside consultant. However, if your budget doesn't allow for that, you will be able to leverage the advice you get from the people you interact with when putting together or upgrading equipment.

When considering software, for example, you can discuss your needs with designers engaged by the vendors from whom you might buy. You can nail down information about tech support, such as whether you will have access to a human being when problems with a product arise.

With technology, ironically, it's all about people. Make sure you do your part. Treat the people you deal with as human beings, not as handy targets for venting about the problems you've encountered with your equipment. If you are respectful, you will reap the reward of gaining their knowledge.

Truth #3: Technology is interconnected.

When building companies, entrepreneurs must always keep the big picture in mind. In no area is that more apparent than in technology. Once the company outgrows the kitchen table, once its core staff mushrooms into a work force, technological needs will multiply accordingly.

It's at this point that the third truth becomes apparent, namely that technology is interconnected. As your business grows, you must remember that the list of contacts on your desktop must be able to make its way to the new inventory-control system, and eventually onto the sophisticated network. In short, you must make sure that the hardware and software you select when upgrading can work with what you already have.

Some questions to raise when buying, using, or maintaining your various technological items include the following: Is the new device compatible with the machines to which it will be connected? Do you have enough software? Is the new component more advanced than the pieces you have and thus limited in its usefulness? What are the costs of supplies and maintenance?

Once you understand that technology is interconnected, you will be viewing the process from the perspective of a leader -- from 20,000 feet.

SELF PRESERVATION. You as an entrepreneur aren't in business to evaluate technological needs, nor to put together systems that your people can use and you can afford. Nonetheless, as the founder of a company in the 21st Century, you must attend to this fundamental process -- or you won't be in business for long.

Technology can no longer be ignored, even in pursuit of the more visionary aspects of company building. The truth is that you, the entrepreneur, have a stake in making technology work for your company.

Brian J. Nichelson, 48, founded TechMatters Institute, a Pearland, Texas-based consulting firm that specializes in enabling organizations to maximize technology, in 2002, and serves as executive director. He worked for ExxonMobil from 1990 to 2002 as an instructional designer and trainer. Previously, he served for 13 years in the U.S. Air Force as an ICBM launch control officer and an associate professor of history at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he received his B.S. in 1977. Nichelson also earned an M.A. in the history of science from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and a Ph.D. in the history of technology from the University of Minnesota in 1988. He is the author of Taming Technology: You Can Control the Beast, published in Apr. 2003.

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