So often in the rush to use the latest Information Management technology, we don’t take a minute to look at how it can change the way we live and work.

This was true when we started scanning documents and is still true with the latest collaboration and web technologies.

Perhaps, you don't need new technology?

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

I went to my bank’s ATM the other day. I had six checks to deposit from a variety of sources. Lucky for me, it had one of those new check scanners, so I didn’t have to take the time to add my checks together or put them into an envelope.

Lucky me. <Insert sarcasm here>.

I started the process and inserted my first check. It was great. I validated the amount on the check and indicated I had another check to deposit. The next check was from my grandmother. While I love her to death, she can’t draw a straight line anymore. As a result, the ATM asked me to enter the amount on the check when it was unable to read the number.

Funny thing, I had to validate the amount on half of the printed checks as well, leaving me to correct the system. This whole process resulted in a three-foot-long receipt. Oh, and now I apparently have six separate deposits into my account and not one single deposit.

The basic problem is that this system was implemented to solve one basic problem: How do you digitize the information sooner? I can’t think of any other reason.

It won’t save much labor, as they will still need to manually validate the checks received to check for mistakes. It won’t make me use the ATM for deposits more, as I am now more likely to use an actual teller in order to avoid the stares from the people behind me in the ATM line.

There are a lot of things that could have been done to improve the process, but the baseline goals should be simple. Improve the user experience and/or reduce costs. If you hurt one at the expense of the other, you may face a losing proposition.

So You Want to Improve Your Website?

I remember when the concept of a web interface was just becoming possible. All my clients wanted to move to the browser. After all, what was their not to like?

  • Less Functionality
  • Less Scalable
  • Less User-Friendly
  • Less Reliable

Aside from all of that, it was perfect! Web Content Management Systems started that way as well. Lots of promise, but very difficult to implement and use. Over time, both technologies have become useful, practical and obvious.

Now we have all of these new tools at our disposal. We can link to Facebook, Twitter, host a blog and create communities. There are new technologies coming out regularly and people are constantly rushing to implement the latest and greatest. The questions that don’t always get asked include:

  • Should we?
  • To what end?
  • Will people care?
  • Why do people go to your website?
  • Do they want to follow you or be your friend?
  • Do they really want to interact with you?

Maybe they just want to find your address for that next meeting or find a number to call support. Remember, you may want to market to them but they are looking to get a piece of information. If you make it hard to find, they may go elsewhere.

The questions should never start with the technology. Really ask yourself what problems you are trying to solve:

  • What do your users, internal or external, need to accomplish their goals?
  • Do you understand their goals?
  • Do we really want to be Fans of Ketchup?
  • Does your entire website need to be written in Flash?

Look past the “benefits” of a new technology and focus on what you are trying to accomplish. When you deploy new technology, are you meeting your goals or helping users achieve their goals? Do people want to engage with you, or do they simply want some basic information?

Identify the challenges to your business and to your users. Work on addressing those challenges and not on the latest shiny new thing. Maybe you don’t need new technology.

Maybe you just need to make your existing investments sweat a little.