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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

ROBO CALL HEADACHES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 26, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Are they really necessary?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

It seems I do not receive too many telephone calls from humans anymore. Rather, most are from computers (aka, “Robo Calls”) either soliciting something or informing me of the schedule of a maintenance worker. Like a lot of you, I am not immune to the absurd spam calls. One of my favorites is, “Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully…” Yea, like I’m going to drop everything and listen to some dolt trying to sell me something. I can usually hang-up on such calls within one second.

Health insurance companies use robo calls, as do travel agencies. Many companies just want to get you on the line so they can transfer you to someone in Tibet who reads a script to sell you something. I take pleasure in hanging up just as the person is getting on the line.

During political seasons, it is not uncommon to be bombarded by robo calls from various campaigns. My friends complain about it, but rarely do I get any. Maybe it’s because I’ve told them all to go where the sun doesn’t shine so many times, I’ve been blackballed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Quite often, these political calls are soliciting donations for campaigns. To my way of thinking, they wouldn’t need more money if they simply stopped using this obnoxious form of communications.

Service companies like to use robo calls, such as for deliveries or to keep you abreast of when their people are going to be working at your home or office. For example, my lawn service, which applies fertilizer and pest control, dutifully calls me early in the week to let me know when an appointment is made. I then receive another reminder the day before. Interestingly, there is nothing for me to do or respond to, which makes me wonder why they don’t either send an e-mail or text message instead. Maybe they believe we need to be reassured by the soothing voice of a recorded message. Frankly, I find it to be a colossal waste of my time.

Following one of Florida’s legendary storms which knocked out power and cable, we naturally had trouble contacting both companies. We had to traverse voice mail jail and wait in queue a long time to talk to a representative who would only say their people were “assessing and evaluating” damage as opposed to fixing the outage. I became so frustrated with my cable operator I decided to switch companies again. As an aside, it seems I have to do this every two or three years.

My latest cable operator scheduled an appointment to install the service. From then on, robo calls took over. On the morning of the day when the technician was to arrive, I received my first call…

“This is Tampa Cable (fictitious company) calling to remind you that one of our technicians is scheduled to be at your home at (address) at …2 to 4pm… today. It will be necessary for someone with a photo ID to be present for work to be performed. We estimate this work should take no more than …1… hour.”

Okay, fine, I get the idea. However, at 1:00pm I received robo call number two:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to remind you that one of our technicians is scheduled to be at your home at (address) at …2 to 4pm… today. It will be necessary for someone with a photo ID to be present for work to be performed. We estimate this work should take no more than …1… hour.”

It didn’t end there though. My third and last call said:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to let you know your technician is on his way to your house at (address) and will be there in less than 30 minutes.”

Now they had crossed over the line of obnoxiousness. I realize they are trying to keep the customer informed and their technicians on time, but it occurred to me what would happen if something went wrong along the way thereby causing a delay. Maybe I would get a robo call like this:

“This is Tampa Cable calling to let you know your technician has been delayed. He ate a burrito supreme at the Clearwater Taco Shack at …1236 US-19… and has had to make a stop at a gas station at …1457 US-19… and will be delayed …15… minutes. We thank you for your patience in this matter.”

Frankly, I don’t need too many reminders. Just make the appointment and keep it. Simple, right?

The one sad thing about all this, robo calls are normally more articulate and understandable than the average customer service rep.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  WHY WE LISTEN TO RUSH & COMPANY – Maybe because they are “right”?

LAST TIME:  EASTER ISLAND STATUES  – “If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.” – Bryce’s Law

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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Posted in Communications, Life, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

IS SOFTWARE HARD?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 20, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– “Systems are logical, programming is physical” – Bryce’s Law

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

For something that is supposed to be “soft”, computer software exhibits some pretty “hard” characteristics. The original premise behind the COBOL programming language was to devise a language that could be easily ported to several computers. This never truly happened due to computer manufacturers who tweaked the language to suit their particular needs. What ran on an IBM machine, for example, didn’t necessarily run the same on Honeywell, UNIVAC, or the rest of the BUNCH. Consequently, software developers had to maintain different versions of source code to suit the particular needs of the various computer compilers. This plagued all third generation languages until Sun introduced JAVA in the 1990’s. The JAVA premise that a programmer should “write once, run everywhere” was the right idea and the language began to gain momentum, until it ran into Microsoft who didn’t want to turn the operating system into an inconsequential afterthought. JAVA lives on, but not to the extent it should have, and developers are back to managing separate versions of source code.

The point is, software does in fact exhibit some very “hard” characteristics as it is married to the host computer configuration which doesn’t make it very portable. As mentioned, this creates headaches for those of us, particularly commercial software vendors, in terms of maintaining consistency in the different versions of our products.

What to do?

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s our company was faced with the dilemma of managing a single product on over a dozen different computer platforms. We quickly came to the realization we would go stark raving mad managing multiple versions of source code and came to the conclusion we had better come up with a solution pretty quick. Because of our experience in converting software, we became well versed in the nuances of the various compilers and devised a Repository (we called it a “filter program” at the time) which maintained the rules of the various compilers. We were also very disciplined in writing code to specific standards and embedded certain switches in the base source code. When we were ready to produce a new release of our product, we would feed the base code into our “filter program” which would then create the different versions of the source code ready for compilation. This saved us an incredible amount of time and brought consistency to all of the versions of the product. In other words, our programming staff worked with only one set of programming code (not multiple variations). The “filter program” then analyzed it and created the necessary permeation for a targeted platform. As compilers changed, we would update the “filter program” accordingly.

We also learned to maintain print maps, screen panels, messages and help text separate from the source code, which greatly enhanced our ability to create a new version of the product to suit a foreign language and culture; see “Creating Universal Systems.”

Let us take it a step further, for years we have touted there are logical and physical dimensions to Information Systems. We look upon Systems and Sub-Systems (business processes) as logical constructs, and Procedures and Programs as physical constructs. Further, data components such as inputs, outputs, files, records and data elements can be specified logically and implemented physically many different ways. Let me give you an example; back in the 1980’s one of our customers (a large Fortune 500 electronic conglomerate) bought into our logical/physical concept and decided to put it to the test. Working from their headquarters, they designed a complete Payroll System which they wanted to implement as the corporate standard across all of their divisions and subsidiaries. They completed the system with a recommended programming solution they wrote themselves (no packages were used) which I believe was an IBM MVS solution using COBOL. However, they recognized this implementation wouldn’t work across the board in the company. Consequently, they gave the system specifications to all of their divisions who would then program it themselves in-house. The project turned out to be a major success and the company ended up with multiple implementations of the same system under IBM MVS, VM, Honeywell GCOS, UNIVAC Exec, HP MPE, DEC VAX/VMS, and Prime; all working harmoniously together. Other customers experienced similar successes, particularly in Japan.

All of this drives home the point that systems are logical in nature, and that programming is physical. If systems are designed properly, there is no reason they shouldn’t behave identically on whatever computer platform you come up with. Better yet, it allows us to easily migrate our systems from one configuration to another. Uniformity and consistency in execution; and portability to boot. Imagine that.

First published: January 24, 2005

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FUN WITH HAIR BLOWERS – How to kill a few birds with one stone.

LAST TIME:  LESSONS LEARNED FROM IRMA  – A lot of the problems were our own doing.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 11, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Good question. Do programmers act like professionals?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

“Are I.T. Workers Blue Collar?” Interesting question. I was recently asked this by some executives who were concerned with improving the productivity of their I.T. departments. I asked them to explain why they thought this way. They contended their I.T. people (e.g., analysts and programmers) exhibit a lot of blue collar characteristics, e.g., repetition in types of work performed, they do not dress or act like professionals, and regularly punch in and out of work with little interest in going above and beyond the call of duty.

I countered there were two other aspects to consider: first, blue collar workers tend to perform manual labor, and; second, they are nonexempt workers who are paid an hourly wage. Also, they tended to be less educated than white collar workers.

They told me I was being naive; that blue collar workers can perform technical tasks as well as manual tasks, such as those found in manufacturing and assembly; and although they are classified as exempt workers paid a salary, they tend to behave like hourly workers instead. Further, there are plenty of blue collar workers who were just as educated, if not more so, than a lot of the programmers and analysts on their staffs. One executive even went so far as to tell me about a couple of craftsman machinists he had with MBA degrees.

Frankly, I had a hard time refuting their arguments. This is actually an old concept, one which I haven’t heard in quite some time, back to the 1980’s when there was talk of unionizing programmers. Nonetheless, it should cause us to pause and think how I.T. people are regarded in the board room. To me, it suggests a credibility gap between management and I.T. and helps explain why a lot of jobs are being outsourced.

In recent years I have met a lot of people who have abandoned corporate I.T. shops and have opted to become consultants instead. Its not that they didn’t like their companies, they simply became disenchanted with how I.T. departments were being run, read the writing on the wall, and figured it was time to bail out before they were outsourced. So who is at fault here, management or I.T.? If management truly perceives I.T. workers as blue collar, than there will be a great temptation to give the work to shops overseas at greatly reduced costs.

There are those in the I.T. field who believe unionization is the route to take. As far as I’m concerned, this would be the kiss of death to corporate I.T. shops as executives would rather outsource than be held hostage to a union.

Instead, I believe I.T. workers should do some soul searching and ask themselves how they can differentiate themselves from their foreign counterparts. Technical knowledge alone will not do it any longer. Outsourcers have already demonstrated their technical skills are on a par with ours. No, the answer is they must demonstrate how the I.T. department adds more value to the company than an outsider can. This means they have to become more serious about their work and produce better I.T. solutions more quickly, correctly, and less expensively. Anyone can apply quick and dirty Band-Aid solutions. What is needed is a higher caliber of professionalism and improved skills in management. The I.T. workers have to work both harder and smarter. In other words, job assignments have to be performed in a more professional and craftsman-like manner (methodically with a quality consciousness). This requires a more disciplined, organized, and professional attitude which is the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of I.T. shops today.

If I.T. can demonstrate they behave more like white collar professionals, executives will become dependent on them and will be less likely to outsource their jobs. Ideally, you want to hear executives say, “I can’t live without these guys (the I.T. department).” But if executives perceive you, the I.T. worker, as nothing more than a blue collar worker, than your story is told.

Think I’m kidding? Consider this, I know of a large manufacturing company in the U.S. Midwest who had a pressing I.T. project not long ago. Knowing he was short on staff, the CIO appealed to the executive board for additional funding for more personnel. Basically, the board gave the CIO carte blanche to hire as many people he wanted at generous wages, with whatever job title the workers wanted. But the CIO was explicitly told, “When the project is over, fire them.” Do you think these executives had a high regard for I.T. people?

So, are I.T. workers “Blue Collar”? Look in the mirror and you tell me.

“How we look and act speaks volumes.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: June 4, 2007

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  EMPTY NESTS – What happens when your children finally leave home.

LAST TIME:  BEWARE OF BAITING  – Do not allow yourself to be baited in debate.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Management, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

IS PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY A DRUG?

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 21, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– If it behaves like a drug, and possesses the same characteristics of a drug, then it may very well be a…

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

As many of you know, I have discussed the adverse effects of technology on numerous occasions. Specifically, I am talking about such things as mobile phones, video games, tablets and personal computers, those devices we embrace in the daily affairs of our lives. I have argued there is no documented proof it improves productivity (at least not with the U.S. Department of Labor), and that it affects our socialization skills particularly in the area on interpersonal relations. Such technology may allow us to express our creativity faster, to quickly access information, to communicate with anyone on the planet and share such things as notes and photos, but there is nothing to substantiate it enhances our ability to think. If anything, it diminishes the use of the brain. For example, many people can no longer perform basic math without the assistance of an automated calculator; We cannot communicate except by constant text messaging; We no longer believe we can compose letters or essays without a word processor, etc. It should come as no small wonder to watch an average office come to a complete standstill when the power is cutoff. Studies have also shown that extensive use of such devices actually lowers IQ. As Hicks points out in his book, “The Digital Pandemic,” technology has the ability to alter our minds; that it can assume the same robotic mannerisms as the technology we use. This means we are subliminally adjusting our lifestyles to adapt to technology.

We tend to think of drugs as chemicals or substances that are either used for medication or as a stimulant or depressant affecting the central nervous system, thereby causing changes in behavior. Under this paradigm, drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream orally, injected or smoked. In contrast, personal technology is absorbed through our senses particularly sight, sound and touch which, in turn, stimulates and arouses the brain, and provides a convenient venue for escapism. If used in moderation, there is little problem, but when used on a prolonged basis it leads to addiction and can alter moods, perceptions, and thinking patterns which leads to both positive and negative side affects. One obvious positive side effect would be a sense of accomplishment as in winning a game or successfully completing a task. The negative effect though comes from extended use whereby people become dependent on their technology to perform a variety of mental functions, such as math and writing. Further, we become impatient for results; as we grow accustomed to instant information, instant cash, instant photos, instant food, instant everything, and as a result, we become less tolerant of any form of delay which increases stress levels and leads to anger.

I contend our extended use of technology leads to an increase in violent behavior. This is a proposition that is hard to prove as it is difficult to locate reliable data tying technology to violent behavior. Also, such things as road rage, sports rage, work rage, bullying, anger management, animal cruelty are relatively new phenomenons and weren’t very prevalent just a few short decades ago. Consequently, finding reliable data over an extended period of time is very limited. The closest thing I could find was data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (its “Arrest Data Analysis Tool”) which revealed an increase in assault, sexual abuse, and threatening communications over the last ten years (the period when the use of personal technology soared). However, there is no direct connection to technology being the cause. Because there is no hard data, my premise will remain a theory until sufficient data can be assembled tying the two together.

In terms of addiction, technology exhibits the same type of powers as chemical dependency or, at the very least, gambling which also does not require drugs in the usual sense. Actually, the parallel between technology and gambling addiction is quite remarkable, and can be just as devastating. One interesting report that attests to the power of technology addiction is “The World Unplugged,” a global media study led by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA), University of Maryland. As part of their conclusions, the report comments on how students in the study handled the lack of media (meaning electronic devices):

“Going without media during ‘The World Unplugged’ study made students more cognizant of the presence of media – both media’s benefits and their limitations. And perhaps what students became most cognizant of was their absolute inability to direct their lives without media.

The depths of the ‘addiction’ that students reported prompted some to confess that they had learned that they needed to curb their media habits. Most students doubted they would have much success, but they acknowledged that their reliance on media was to some degree self-imposed AND actually inhibited their ability to manage their lives as fully as they hoped – to make proactive rather than reactive choices about work and play.”

Like anything, if used in moderation, technology holds no ill-effects. However, we have turned it into an 24/7 extension of our lives and can no longer imagine living without these devices. Because it offers instant gratification, it has become a new form of pacifier which we scream for when it is taken away from us.

The “pushers” of this new drug, of course, are the entertainment and electronic industries who keep refining their technology and content, making it even more enticing with each new release. They truly understand the addictiveness of this drug and how to use it for their benefit, as do politicians.

Let me leave you with one last thought; Life doesn’t emulate art, it emulates technology. Think about it, are we becoming more robotic in our thinking? Is our imagination and creativity limited by our technology? Can we live 24 hours without such products? The subjects in “The World Unplugged” study had trouble living without them and exhibited genuine signs of withdrawal, and if you are honest with yourself, you’re hooked too. So, is technology an extension of us, or have we become an extension of our own technology? Either answer is unsettling.

It may not be a chemical or powder, but make no mistake, personal technology is just as addictive and can alter the human spirit like any other drug.

First published: December 19, 2011

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE – What we can learn from Lincoln’s bid for election.

LAST TIME:  TAKE HIM AWAY FOR REGROOVING  – What happens when you find yourself out of step with the times.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE ABSENCE OF ELECTRONICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 23, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– “Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky.”

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

While I was driving home one night, I was stopped at a traffic light and began to imagine what life would be like without the many electronic conveniences we enjoy. Hmm…

As a Floridian, we are accustomed to losing power due to tropical storms and hurricanes, which tends to annoy us by living without such things as air conditioning and television, as well as the loss of food maintained in the refrigerator. Schools close in such situations and are often converted to shelters. Other than this, life basically goes on as usual, but what if it turned into a permanent condition? What if some sort of electronic virus infiltrated all of our computers, phones, and other electronic gadgetry, and somehow shut them all done?

Our first concern would be whether our military could continue to defend our country effectively, that our hospitals could properly function, and that we could feed the populace adequately. It would be like the premise used in the movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” except it would be for an extended period of time. Assuming we could accommodate these situations though, what would life be like without electronics?

For starters, you might think that automobile traffic would snarl up as all of our traffic lights would be out of commission. Inevitably, traffic cops would have to be dispatched to key intersections and we would actually get some intelligent traffic control in place (better than the preprogrammed lights). For minor intersections, we would have to start practicing basic driving courtesy again and, God forbid, cooperate with and respect other drivers. I suspect traffic accidents and fatalities would actually go down.

So far, so good.

If televisions and computers were knocked out, people would be forced to read, write and speak again. Kids would have to come out of their caves and into the sunlight, pick up a ball and get a little exercise and socialize. We would all still be craving some form of entertainment and, because of this, you might see more picnics, concerts in the park, and other civic functions. Attendance at school functions, such as the PTA and SAC, would be stimulated, and parents would become actively involved in the welfare of their children again. Participation in other nonprofit groups would undoubtedly flourish as well. Basically, our socialization skills would improve and we would become more conscious of our civic duties.

As mentioned, food would be a problem; we would have to learn to shop more frequently and prepare meals differently, and we would have to learn the lost art of baking and cooking. No doubt, we would miss all of those highly nutritious microwave meals and snacks. “What, no more Hot Pockets??!”

We would become healthier as we would have more time for exercise and play games like tennis, golf, softball, or whatever without Wii. This should cause health insurance rates to go down.

Since computers would be out of commission, the unemployment rate would go down because we would need more clerical people for such things as filing, typing, preparing graphics, processing orders, etc.

Our personal debt would probably go away as we would be unable to process credit cards and, as such, we would be wiser in the use of our cash.

Our sex lives would improve as evidenced by the power outages of New York. The only downside is it would probably result in a population explosion if we don’t properly promote birth control.

Due to a change in our diet and having to be forced to improve our socialization skills, maybe we can finally get people off of drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and Valium.

And finally, the cost of living would go down as we are no longer having to pay for all of the electronic luxuries we are accustomed to.

All of this illustrates our addiction to electronics and their manipulative powers. Life would be cheaper, more healthy, and perhaps more industrious, but it would certainly not be as fast-paced or complicated than what we are familiar with, but then again, would this be a problem?

Maybe the rallying cry would be a variation of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine” –

“Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky.
Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”

Yes sir, the best thing that could happen to this country is to have a virus that knocked out our technology…

Then the light changed, I snapped out of it, and drove home.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  IS WAR INEVITABLE? – Will the Union survive?

LAST TIME:  BEWARE OF THE WHIZ KIDS  – Why you should keep a tight reign on your young Mustangs.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

TECHNOLOGY: SHOW ME THE PROOF

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 12, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Is is really improving our lives?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

On more than one occasion you have heard me express my skepticism on the beneficial effects of technology on our culture. Proponents obviously claim it has a positive effect, and proudly point at the capacity, speed, and sizzle embedded in such things as computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, but I’m still not convinced. For example:

* We can communicate with anyone on the planet at any time from just about anywhere (and too often we do), yet we haven’t got anything useful to say or say it at the wrong time and place. Further, our command of the English language is slipping, newspapers and magazines are failing, and book publishing is sharply diminishing, thereby indicating a decline in reading.

* We can now write beautiful documents, but our grammar and spelling seems to be degenerating. People may know how to send text messages, but have difficulty composing an effective business letter.

* Our automobiles now offer abundant luxuries through electronics, but the cost to repair and maintain them has skyrocketed.

* We can now purchase items and make travel reservations on-line, thereby displacing this function from trained travel agents and sales clerks with better skills and knowledge to process such things. Inevitably the customer purchases the wrong thing or makes an error in processing the order, which is difficult to correct (and very frustrating).

* Technology may give us in edge in warfare; but you first have to have a well trained and determined soldier to pull the trigger.

* Computers were supposed to be a boom for office productivity but consider how much time is lost tweaking and rebooting MS Windows alone. Further, computers were supposed to cut down on paper; but sales at the paper mills appears to be doing just fine, as well as robust sales of copiers, printers and cartridges.

If our technology is so good, it would make sense that we would see a noticeable leap in productivity in our country. However, if you study the statistics at the US Department of Labor, output has actually been declining over the last ten years in just about every industrial sector. Those sectors showing an upswing can hardly be described as “dramatic.”

If there is a statistic to show how technology improves productivity. the US Department of Labor certainly doesn’t have it, nor does anyone else for that matter, which is why I continue to say, “Show me the proof!” Frankly, you cannot because there is more to productivity than technology. To me, technology simply represents the tools we use at work and home, and like any tool we can either use it properly or improperly (like shooting ourselves in the foot). Even the finest tool in the wrong hands will produce inferior results. This implies there is more to productivity than the technology itself, that it depends on how the human being uses it. In other words, management is an integral part of the equation, and something that has been sorely lacking in recent times, as indicated by our current recession.

Consider this, number crunching has always been one of the prime benefits of computing. If this is true, then why does it take so long to compile a financial report or budget? After all, everything should be available at the push of a button, right? Unfortunately, corporations and government agencies, operate with poorly designed systems and data bases, thereby the reliability of data is doubtful, thus requiring rechecking.

Productivity should not be measured simply by how fast we perform a given task (efficiency), but the necessity of the task itself should also be examined (effectiveness). After all, there is nothing more unproductive than to build something efficiently that should never have been built at all.

Let me exemplify this another way; the general perception in this country is that America no longer knows how to build automobiles, that the quality is not good. I disagree. Americans know how to build good reliable products as demonstrated by the Americans working in Japanese automotive factories. The difference is in building the right products. Whereas American companies focused on luxury and gas-guzzling cars, the Japanese were busy building economical and fuel-efficient automobiles (as were other countries). Here, it is not a matter of how well we build a product, but is it the right product to build in the first place?

More than anything, technology is a reflection of our standard of living. We have always had technology, we will always have it, and it will constantly change and evolve with us. However, over the last thirty years we have witnessed an explosion in technology that has permeated our society and changed our culture. It was triggered by such things as the Cold War and other military interventions, space exploration, medical research, and global competition in business. Technology came at us so fast and furious that a lot of people had trouble assimilating it, thereby causing a noticeable frustration factor. In all likelihood we probably use only a small fraction of our technology properly (which would be another interesting statistic). For example, how intimate are you with all of the features of your cell phone, computer, TV, digital camera, or even your sprinkler system? Are you using them to their full potential? Probably not.

It has always been my argument that as technology increases, socialization skills decreases. The more we depend on technology to fulfill basic functions like mathematics, communications, spelling, etc., the lazier the human brain becomes. Technology may be fun to use and play with, and can indeed provide tremendous mechanical leverage for humans, but be wary of how it is used and avoid dependencies. Regardless of your pride and prowess with technology, please don’t tell me it improves productivity. The jury is still out.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  HOW WE ARE JUDGED – Describing how we size people up.

LAST TIME:  FOR THE LOVE OF STATUS SYMBOLS  – What do you win with them?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

EMBRACING COMPLEXITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 14, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– It’s a matter of how many things we can juggle at one time.

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For years in my youth, I was the “go to” guy for operating the family’s technical equipment, be it tape recorders, record players, or even our Super 8 movie projector. As I grew older, I eventually relinquished my title to my son who is adept at setting up our High Def TV, cable box, DVD/VHS player, cell/smart phones, and other such devices. It was only when I realized we were as dependent on my son, as my family was on me years ago, that I began to ask why.

It is a long accepted theory that younger people tend to embrace and adapt to technology faster than seniors. I am reminded of the story told by comedian Jay Leno where he purchased a remote control for his parents’ television set. On a return visit to their home in Boston, Jay couldn’t locate the device and asked his father of its whereabouts. The father informed Jay they kept it locked up in a nearby drawer as he considered it a complicated piece of equipment and wanted to be sure it “wouldn’t go off accidentally.” Despite Jay’s attempts to assure him it wasn’t a phaser that could burn the house down, the father was unmoved and kept the device safely locked up. Whereas we tend to accept complexity in our youth, we grow abrasive to it as we grow older under the mantra, “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

In our youth we are more inclined to accept complexity as we assume it is a natural part of the learning process. As we mature, we learn to handle more responsibilities and assignments much like a juggler takes on additional objects to be thrown into the air. We keep juggling more and more objects until we reach our capacity and discover our limitations. Our arms deftly spin for years and years juggling everything until we grow weary and can no longer embrace any more items. In fact, we start to slow down, prioritize what we are doing, and drop those tasks we no longer consider important thereby simplifying our lives. In the Jay Leno example, the father had grown to accept changing the television channel manually and felt the remote control was simply one more thing to complicate his life. Consequently, he avoided using it, even going to the extent of fabricating an excuse.

In youth we are eager to accept new challenges as we want to prove ourselves ready to assume our place in society. As we master the subjects that interest us, we begin to exercise our skills and express ourselves creatively. Typically, our window of peak creativity is no more than ten years. To illustrate, both the Beatles and the Beach Boys, two of the most successful Rock and Roll bands of all time, were at their zenith of their careers for no more than ten years, as is true for most bands. The members of the bands ranged in age from their late teens to late twenties. In their thirties, they slowed down and were never able to duplicate the creative output of their earlier years. This phenomenon is not only true in the arts, but in the sciences as well. Our tempo slows, we prioritize our efforts, and we begin to focus on fewer things. Whereas we were eager beavers in our youth, we become more cognizant of our limitations and more selective in our challenges.

One reason young people are gravitating towards the Information Technology field is because of their ability to embrace complexity. For example, the average computer program consists of approximately 100 components (such as data elements, records, files, modules, etc.), each requires a series of design decisions based on type (e.g., a data element’s length, precision, scale, label, validation rules, etc.). In total, there are approximately 2,000 such decisions to be made and controlled, which is quite a challenge for anyone to track. Whereas younger programmers are more inclined to simply write and compile the software iteratively until it is clean, their older counterparts are more likely to carefully plan and document the software to avoid forgetting or overlooking the components used and the design decisions associated with them.

Whereas youth is quick to tackle complex issues, often to the point of recklessness, this inevitably leads to mistakes and causes us to slow down and become more cautious. As we grow older, we don’t mind tackling complex issues, but we are leery of making mistakes and, consequently, become wiser in how we tackle such undertakings. As we approach retirement and beyond, we are less likely to tackle bold new ventures and, instead, are more inclined to “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Actually, if programmers weren’t so bad at designing devices to be easy-to-use, we wouldn’t be so dependent on our youth to operate them for us, but that is another subject. As a teenager, there were only two buttons on my family’s television set, one for on/off and volume, and a tuning dial. Today, God only knows how many buttons I have on my High Def TV; I know there is one for power, three for color, two to adjust screen positioning, and one to automatically call 911 when I’ve finally lost my mind.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  TALKING TO YOURSELF – What it says about you.

LAST TIME:  THE STATE OF I.T. IN BUSINESS  – Have we really made progress?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE STATE OF I.T. IN BUSINESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 12, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Have we really made progress?

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Watching the speed by which Information Technology (I.T.) has changed over the last forty years has been amazing. Hardly a day goes by without some new twist or invention. In particular, my interest is in how I.T. can be applied to support the systems needed to operate a business, such as for manufacturing, inventory, order processing, customer service, accounting, human resources, and much more. I have seen a lot during the last four decades, perhaps too much.

On the physical side, I have watched computing go from mainframes to minis, to PC’s and Smart Phones. Instead of mere Local Area Networks (LAN), we now network through the Internet and share resources via “The Cloud.” By doing so, we have placed data entry and information retrieval into the hands of more people than ever before, be it internal users, or externally with customers and vendors. In the process though, security has become a serious problem.

There have also been drawbacks to computing’s diminishing size. By thinking smaller, we tend to focus on only a small part of the puzzle and have lost sight on the total picture of our systems. The physical aspects of computing may be seductive, but it has compounded problems within companies. To illustrate, data redundancy remains the Achilles heel of most businesses, be they large or small. It may seem odd, but it is certainly not unusual for companies to have multiple interpretations of such simple, yet important, data elements as “Customer Number,” “Part Number,” “Order Number,” and “Product Number.” Whereas there should be a single interpretation of each, there are multiple interpretations instead. Consequently, the opportunity to share and re-use such data is lost, and systems invariably lack integration.

The formulas for generated elements, such as “Net Pay,” “Order Total,” and “Earnings Saved” may also be redefined for each program written. This results in erroneous information throughout the business. For example, one user’s calculation of “Total Sales” may be entirely different than the values produced for other users. With such inconsistencies, the business will ultimately make poor decisions. It also means systems lack integration, thereby dividing the business units simply because of the lack of consistency, and leading to user complaints.

Despite the sophistication of today’s data base management technology, the idea of a managed data base environment in companies today is still the exception as opposed to the rule.

The programming staff tends to pride itself in terms of speed of development and technical elegance for their piece of the puzzle only, not the entire system. Requirements are roughly prepared and evolve as the program is developed. In the end, it looks nothing like what the user had hoped for.

Because writing program source code is typically a 1:1 endeavor, it tends to foster an individualistic attitude among programmers, and institutes a heterogeneous development environment. This leads to inconsistencies in workmanship and deliverables, thereby hindering quality. If you were to ask programmers if systems development is a science or an art form, without question they would respond as to the latter. This grants us insight into how programmers see themselves and their work.

Interestingly, programmers are not concerned with producing any documentation to maintain or modify their program should future occasion require it. It is generally believed it is cheaper and faster to simply rewrite the code as opposed to modifying the existing program, regardless of its level of complexity. Naturally, as the programmer moves on to another job in a different company, he walks away with the program logic safely lodged in his brain.

In terms of managing the development effort, companies covet Project Management certification, which is useful for such things as estimating and scheduling, but provides no insight into using effective methodologies for developing systems. Despite their best intentions, development projects still come in late and over budget. Consequently, companies shy away from massive development efforts, and are content building smaller things, thereby discouraging systems integration.

Come to think of it, the state of the I.T. industry is essentially no different than what it was when I began in this business back in the 1970’s. The technology may have changed, the problems in terms of development certainly haven’t. This includes how to specify information requirements, standardizing on systems theory, the role of documentation, managing information resources, etc. These problems are no different today than what they were back in the early 1970’s. Common sense is still uncommon.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  EMBRACING COMPLEXITY – It’s a matter of how many things we can juggle at one time.

LAST TIME:  THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT; HERE WE GO AGAIN  – It looks like history is going to repeat itself.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

THE FAST-FOOD KIOSKS ARE COMING, THE FAST-FOOD KIOSKS ARE COMING!

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 29, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Get ready for major changes at the fast-food franchises.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Back in the 1960’s, teens gravitated to drive-in restaurants with “carhops,” who delivered food to your car, sometimes on roller-skates. This all changed with the burger chains, yet young people still showed up for shakes, burgers and fries. When I lived in Chicago, there was a local McDonalds where you went to hang-out and be seen with your friends. It was one of the original McDonalds, complete with the big golden arches out front and the “number served” sign updated regularly. More than anything, it was a social venue which propelled the restaurant.

Such fast-food franchises have changed over the years and I’m not sure young people look upon it as the Baby Boomers did. Whereas such restaurants back then required a crew of people to operate it effectively, it is finally giving way to a hi-tech approach.

Robotic-like kiosks have been in the experimental stage since about 2006, but with the recent push to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, the fast-food industry has accelerated its plans. Although many people embrace the idea of raising the minimum wage, industry executives realize there is limit to what the public will pay for service, hence the need to automate.

Today, virtually every major fast-food chain is either in the experimental stage or in the process of rolling out automation to speed up the processing of orders while minimizing the need for manual labor. This includes McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and many more. Even my beloved white Castle, home of the original “sliders,” is embarking on such automation.

McDonalds recently reported they have implemented automation in nearly 2,600 of their restaurants around the world with hundreds more planned for 2017 in urban areas such as San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, D.C. and Seattle. Approximately 500 have already been implemented in Florida, New York, and Southern California.

Wendy’s has announced they will place kiosks in about 1,000 locations by the end of the year at a cost of about $15,000 for three kiosks, according to the Columbus Dispatch. This is cheap when compared to McDonalds where a single kiosk is said to cost between $50K-$60K. Even at this rate, a franchise can realize their return on investment in as little as two years based on the labor savings.

In China, a KFC restaurant is experimenting with a kiosk featuring facial recognition to predict a customer’s order. The company plans to roll out this technology to 5,000 stores throughout China. If successful, look for it to migrate to America.

Fast-food automation comes primarily in three forms:

1. Self-ordering – using touch screens, the customer can quickly make their selections, and tailor the product to their tastes. After watching a demonstration of this, it appears to be user friendly, but I still believe you can place an order faster with a human-being.

2. Order by App – using smart phones, you can quickly find a local franchise, and place an order ready for pickup.

3. Mobile payments – again, using a smart phone, you can pay by credit or debit card. McDonald’s claims “you can pay with your card at the kiosk or use mobile pay options like Apple or Android Pay. We’re even testing Google Hands Free payment options in the San Francisco Bay area.” I suspect PayPal is another option. The companies will still accept cash, which requires a human to process and make change, but the lion’s share of business will inevitably be conducted by smart phone.

There are two benefits related to fast-food automation, a reduction in labor costs and stimulating sales, particularly by young customers imbued with such technology. Older people may shy away from it.

The point is, through their protests, the “Fight for $15” activists are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Even if they are successful, the pace of fast-food automation will accelerate, thereby reducing the number of employees. They may get their raise, but at a price of replacing workers with automation.

Like it or not, fast-food automation is here to stay and we will have to adapt to it. One thing is for sure, there won’t be any attractive “carhops.”

Also published in The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FUN AND GAMES AT THE AIRPORT – “Please report any suspicious behavior.” Are you kidding me?

LAST TIME:  UNDERSTANDING MILLENNIALS  – What we read in the news cannot all be true; can it?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Food, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

TECHNOLOGY CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 30, 2017

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Farewell to the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

It was recently announced the legendary Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, “The Greatest Show
on Earth,” would be closing in May 2017. To fans of the circus, the news was devastating as it had become an institution after 145 years of operation. Like so many families, I took my children to see the circus at a young age. They were fascinated by the trained elephants, tigers, horses, and various other animal acts. The trapeze performers and high-wire acts were also a favorite.

My daughter particularly enjoyed “King Tusk,” a massive elephant, and the animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams. My son was more interested in the clowns and their shenanigans. The acts and names of the performers changed over the years, but the excitement of the circus seemed to go on unabated, until recently.

In a letter recently posted to the Ringling web site, Kenneth Feld, the Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the producer of the circus, broke the news to the public. Last year, the circus removed the elephant acts due, in large part, to animal rights activists who thought the animals were being mistreated. With the elephants gone, the circus started to diminish. To make matters worse, the attitudes of youth today are changing in terms of entertainment. They are now more imbued with the Internet and computer games than watching live performances, thus causing the death knell of the circus and other forms of live entertainment.

The average price for a ticket was affordable for families, but couldn’t sustain a traveling circus. Ticket prices were much less than Cirque du Soleil which are staged in fixed indoor venues, such as in Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York.

The passing of the circus into memory is another indicator of how technology affects the human spirit. It is sad to think that in the not too distant future, the only way we will be able to experience a circus will be through virtual reality glasses.

Another symptom of technology’s influence is in the area of shopping. Year after year, on-line shopping is said to be making great strides against shopping malls, particularly at holiday time. Unlike retailers in a mall, who have the overhead of renting space and paying for utilities and on-site personnel, on-line shopping has none of these concerns and, as such, can offer products more cheaply. The only time mall retailers have the advantage is when it is necessary to “touch and feel” a product, such as when selecting furniture, a major appliance, and automobiles. Even here though, on-line shopping is being strongly embraced by young people trained in the use of the Internet. If they do not like the product, they simply return it for a refund. Here again, we are losing the personal touch, our sense of customer service and basic salesmanship.

There are trade-offs for the extended use of technology; it may be useful to expedite a sales order or transaction, but at what price? The care of the customer? Or how about the decimation of an old institution such as the circus, where children of all ages sat and marveled at the abilities of man and beast? I, for one, will miss it greatly.

By the way, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus will conclude its tour at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, on May 21, 2017. Be sure to see it before it fades away into memory.

Also published with The Huffington Post.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRAVEL EXPENSE REPORT? – Are your employees abusing travel expenses?

LAST TIME:  FACING REALITY  – People plain and simply don’t want to know it.

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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