From the August 2010 Issue
In columns last month (July 2010), Executive Editor Darren Root, CPA.CITP, and I wrote about Apple’s new iPad (Darren’s July column is available at www.cpata.com/go/2841; my July column is at www.cpata.com/go/2843).
Darren has long been a proponent of Apple technologies as reliable, quality products, while I’ve long been an Apple critic, pointing out cost issues and the desire for common computing platforms. So I was surprised when I found myself just as impressed with the iPad as he was. Although we both looked at it from different perspectives, we both agree that the iPad, and future netbook-style devices, will likely play a significant role both professionally and in personal recreational computing.
So it is that yet another type of technology has entered the lives of the modern professional, promising to make our lives more connected and, therefore, enabling us to be more responsive to incoming communication channels such as email, text, IM and RSS news feeds, and to be more productive with that information. In other words, we’re adopting new technologies with the expectation that they will help us better manage other technologies.
This happens on a continual basis, of course. As we have access to increasingly growing amounts of information, we develop new technologies that enable us to access even more information. But simply having more messaging, data and communication directed at us doesn’t mean we are becoming better at managing it. Knowledge can be power, but only if it can be retained.
Unfortunately, there is a saying that “technology always seems to outpace our ability to use it wisely.” In the case of business communications, this has been proven year after year by technology analyst firm, the Gartner Group. In a recurring annual study, most recently in late 2009, Gartner identifies the technologies that decrease productivity in professional offices. Not just tax and accounting firms, of course, but all modern information professionals.
And a recent Wall Street Journal article (http://tinyurl.com/oytkcz) quantified this information, noting that professionals are exposed to about 1.6 GB of information per day. How much is that? According to small business expert and regular columnist Doug Sleeter, the average small business using QuickBooks has a company data file that’s about 50 to 75 MB, which includes all of their transactions, their client data, their inventory items, bank data, employee information … everything. Well, 1.5 GB is about the equivalent of 200 to 300 of those average-sized QuickBooks company files being hurled at us every day. It’s no wonder that we can’t efficiently manage this fire hose of information that’s coming at us, but there are tools and techniques for getting a better handle on it all.
In short, these and other studies show that the very technologies we rely on to perform our jobs are also preventing us from doing them efficiently. These mission-critical communication channels are, unfortunately, congesting our information processing capabilities … not because of the technology itself, but because of our inefficiency at using them more productively. The key, then, is finding ways to better manage these technology communication channels.
In the Gartner Group’s 2009 study, and for the past 10 years, the number one productivity-wasting technology in the modern professional office was email. Yes, even after 15 years in mainstream business use, we seem to have managed to avoid finding productive management techniques. Well, that’s not entirely true, of course; it’s just that the volume of messaging coming through email increases faster than we can learn to better manage it.