I’ve written about technology moving too fast and technology going too far on several occasions. Today, I want to attack from the other side. Maybe it’s the flank. I don’t know, I was born at a bad time for military service. By the time I was 18, the Viet Nam
war conflict police action war was ending, the draft was over, but the Volunteer Army deal hadn’t really solidified into a thing worth doing. So, my understanding of military terms and tactics was obtained via osmosis while watching Rat Patrol, Patton, The Longest Day, Bridge at Remagen, Midway, Saving Private Ryan, Kelly’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy and assorted other things on large and little screens. I digress.
I’m not attacking technology today, I’m asking:
“How long does it take for technology to be accepted into everyday business culture?”
I’m asking because I have experienced several events, some firsthand and some vicariously, that tell me that some companies are living in a Warp-Bubble. Here are my favorite examples:
I have a friend who recently had to consolidate two bank accounts in the estate of a deceased family member. The bank had him pick one account and then told him that the entire balance would be available in 10-15 business days. 10-to-15 business days! The Pony Express delivered mail between Missouri and California in 10 days! It took less than 10 days for Apollo 11 to liftoff, put men on the moon, return and be plucked from the ocean. I understand that an estate was involved, but this was ridiculous. The problem was that there was no motivation for the bank to move faster.
Motivation, you see, allowed me to enjoy a small victory over a rental car company. One of their vans backed into our car while it was parked at a dealer, waiting for repairs. The company was self-insured and the Claims Manager said: “we investigate all claims to determine who’s at fault and what limits apply. We should have an answer in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can process a claim with your insurance company.” I said: “you know who’s good at investigating stuff? The police. That’s my next call.” Claim settled.
Last month, I was part of a meeting that was being conducted via conference call. Not enough members of the committee were on the call to represent a quorum. At one point the organizer asked: “how long should we wait?” One answer was: “I think it’s accepted business etiquette to allow 15 minutes for late arrivals” I checked. According to Emily Post online, 15 minutes is usually considered “fashionably late.” Well…OK…but…
A) She was talking about dinner parties
B) Many people seem to disagree
C) She’s dead! No offense, she was probably the greatest living authority on etiquette, but she stopped living in 1960, a few years before AT&T started offering conference calling and several decades before WebEx.
Since a person can join a WebEx meeting from anywhere on their phone, I don’t think we need to allow 15 minutes.
Two years ago, while I was attending a meeting in Chicago, I received an “Urgent Message” from AT&T. Our account representative had been reassigned and no one had sent me a renewal form for a service that was expiring later that day. I was asked to “…print the renewal, sign in the appropriate places and fax the signed form to…”
I called my new representative:
“I am in a hotel without easy access to a printer or a fax machine. I’m going to sign the form with a digital signature and email it back to you.”
“We don’t accept digital signatures.”
“Sure you do, I’ve signed AT&T forms with them before.”
“Our group manager doesn’t consider them to be legal signatures. You can (pay to) print in your hotel’s business center and fax it to us.”
“First, this was your mistake. Second, I’m in a meeting. Third, Bill Clinton made digital signatures legal in 2000 – it’s 2013, so your manager is going to have to deal with this.”
These shake-my-head-moments are still happening. Every night, during a commercial break, a TV newscaster will tease us with a few seconds worth of information about a “breaking news” story and then remind us to “tune in at 10:00 for the full story.”
Um, no thanks. I can tune into Twitter, or a half-dozen websites or I can Google this story right now. If I wait a few minutes, I can go to Facebook, get the full story, a few conspiracy theories and at least one crackpot explanation of why this bad news was the fault of Obama, the religious right, Roger Goodell, one or more minority groups or be told how this proves that global warming is or isn’t happening. If I wait until 10:00, this story may be a question in Trivia Crack’s History section.
For more on this topic, stay tuned, or add your story to the comments.