Seven tips and tricks to avoid being a technology fool

By: Kim Furman, Synthesis Marketing Manager

Since about 1582*, people have been falling victim to April Fool’s pranks. Historians have speculated that this day originated in France when the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and, with this, they moved the new year from the first of April to the first of January. With no social media to blast the news, they dubbed some citizens April Fools for celebrating new year on the wrong day or so the story goes. These individuals became the butt of jokes and pranks, including having a paper fish placed on their backs as a sign of being gullible and easily caught.

Times have changed, the calendar remains the same and so is the possibility of being easily caught. The technology space is no different. It is easy to get left behind or caught up in the allure of the latest technology. I consulted Elmarie Grant, Head of the Synthesis Academy, on tips and tricks to avoid being dubbed a technology fool.

  1. Discover the true potential of your tool box

Many technologies have become crucial tools in our toolboxes but are we really using them to their full potential or are we foolishly looking elsewhere? Here are three quick functionalities from Outlook that solve everyday problems:

  • Is your mailbox overrun with spam? Outlook rules can help you delete those pesky mails.
  • Do you need a quick decision from your team? Rather than following a mail trail back and forth, use an Outlook Poll (under the insert tab) to come to a fast decision. This can be used for anything from voting on what time of day works best for future strategy sessions or to determine if people prefer to meet in the office versus joining a Teams call.
  • Do you often find yourself writing the same thing in an email, such as the intro to your company or a decline to a service? Use Outlook Quick Parts (under the insert tab) and simply insert your text.  
  1. Don’t reinvent that wheel

Unless the technology wheels you are looking into have run flat or are unfit for your terrain, don’t reinvent them. If you need a technology, the chances are it already exists. From intelligent document processing to website creation, there is a technology tool out there that can fill your need and many of which can be customised as well. This is not to say always go to the shelf, but research existing solutions or the creators of these existing solutions before you go to your IT team and have them create a solution from scratch.

  1. Buy the hole, not the drill

You do not want a drill. You want the hole that the drill creates. Keep this in mind the next time a tech tool catches your eye. “So often people are caught by the allure of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML). They are caught up in the cool rather than the appropriate. Sometimes the best solution does not require AI. All that it needed is process automation for example,” explains Grant. In other words, buy the solution (the hole), not the drill (the latest technology) no matter how shiny the drill is. The best tool creates the solution the most efficiently and effectively. Einstein hit the nail on the head, and he would have used the best tool for the job, when he said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex… It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

  1. Building is collaborative and collaboration should be trackable

Whatever your company does, you are building in one form or another – a project, a campaign, a sale and this requires collaboration. “Another common error is not investigating and investing in collaborative tools. There are so many tools today that make working together easy such as Monday.com, Miro or Trello. These tools also allow you to track your team’s capacity, performance and progress. With so many effective tools on the market, remote collaboration is easy,” explains Grant.

  1. Give everyone a manual

Technology is no longer an IT-only domain. Everyone in business should understand the new technology tool and how this impacts business. The effects of new technologies ripple and affect people, processes and cultures. “For example,” explains Grant, “people often embark on a cloud journey without understanding how it will affect the culture of the business or without the processes in place to really optimise costs. In the past the cost of any IT solution sat with Finance. With cloud, there is shared responsibility between Finance and IT. IT spin up instances and close them down, optimising costs and only paying for what is used. If they are not trained to do this then massive bills result. There needs to be education among all teams including Procurement, IT and Finance. There needs to be communication on how to manage costs as they become operational rather than capital expenses.”

  1. Ensure everyone can put the manual into practise

It is one thing for a team to be trained. It is another thing for that team to be able to implement that training for their context. Theoretical understanding is a very different thing from the hands-on training that is needed for technology where a person learns by doing it themselves. Grant elaborates, “Often, we see people spend money on generic online training that does not deliver the business results that they want. They should be looking at training that its specific for their environment and skills levels. People should not chase certifications for the sake of being certified. They should rather invest in competence-based training, whether this does or does not involve a certification. What matters is the person having the competency to use the technology”.

  1. Build for the new world with new world capability

When using new technology, you should not build in the same way you would when using the old. New technology creates new possibilities. An example of this is again moving to the cloud. You can lift and shift your infrastructure as it is but you will not get the true benefits of cloud. “First prize is to design cloud native. In the cloud you can upscale and downscale. You can create different applications. The possibilities are endless. But thinking based on the previous technology will not give you the benefits of designing your infrastructure in the new environment without these limitations,” says Grant.

An advancement of the calendar was daunting to many people in the 1500s and left many behind – in the previous year to be exact. Today’s new technologies and the functionality updates within those technologies would have left them speechless. Today it is easy to be left behind. We all face being an April Fool at some point according to its original meaning and that is okay. When this happens remember the words of Benjamin Disraeli, “The fool wonders, the wise man asks”. Keep asking and always know what you want to achieve and why. The technology should then be the bridge or the tool that builds the bridge to get you there.

* https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day