The Double Disconnect

In looking around the offices where I have worked, I see innumerable places where existing technology could be leveraged to expedite, simplify, or otherwise enhance day-to-day workflow. Things could happen faster, cheaper, with fewer staff. So why isn’t this done? I think there are two fundamental problems:

The first is the disconnect between the potential of the technology and the knowledge of those who use it. There’s an awful lot of software out there. I expect almost no one understands all the capabilities of even standard office suites. I have been called a “Word specialist” by temporary employers, but I certainly won’t claim to know every feature of Microsoft Word. I list Excel on my resume, but Excel has hundreds of features I know nothing about. It is difficult, even in this day and age, to hire quality technical personnel with sufficiently broad knowledge to combine the capabilities of different software packages in useful ways.

The second disconnect is between those who know how to use the technology and those who direct how it is to be used, i.e. management. Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss notwithstanding, I don’t really believe managers deserve the blame for misuse of technology. They lack training and experience, but they also lack technical personnel who are sufficiently skilled at realizing and applying the potential of technology. This problem is only made worse when managers learn something of technology’s potential without learning the complexity of the steps required to implement it.

So we have not one but two vast gulfs of understanding. No wonder everyone keeps muddling along with half-baked solutions. I don’t know how to fix this. Yet another piece of software is obviously not the solution. I think nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way software is designed and used would suffice.