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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGY ADDICTION

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 12, 2019

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Time to curb our use of personal technology.

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

Recently, I happened to be driving near the local high school as it was ending the day. I saw a lot of students walking home alone or in groups. Interestingly, all were plugged into their smart phones listening to God knows what. At the gym later on, I experienced a similar phenomenon. It’s incredibly quiet there as people are plugged into their phones. I’ve given up trying to hold a conversation with people there, and it is pretty much the same in offices as well.

As someone intimate with the industry, I have always found technology addiction interesting, but I wonder if we have taken it to the sublime. I have a friend who moves automobiles between dealerships and is scared to death of the people plugged into their smart phones while driving, either talking, reading messages, texting, etc. None of this is new, but has it gotten too pervasive?

Day in and day out, I have been actively using computers for over forty years, but do not consider myself to be an addict. I started by using mainframes at customer locations. In the office, we used an HP-3000/MPE mini, and a DEC VAX/VMS (my personal favorite), followed by PC’s using OS/2 (which I still consider the best PC operating system ever invented), as well as Windoze. When it comes to phones, I use a simple flip-top to communicate with people, but I never had any interest in surfing the Net with it.

I have used computers for corporate planning, system design, data base design, project management, and a ton of writing assignments over the years, not to mention developing multimedia presentations. I’ve been on the Internet since the late 1980’s, including e-mail, web design, and FTP protocols. When I’m at work, I am on the computer from early in the morning until late in the day. So, Yes, I’m intimate with computers which explains why I want to “unplug” at the end of the day and have no trouble leaving it behind me. When I go fly-fishing, I look forward to the quiet solitude of the river. However, I believe I am an anomaly as I can leave it all behind, and many people cannot.

Through miniaturization, we have made it incredibly easy to perform normal computing tasks in the palm of our hands. Perhaps too easy. This includes all of the messages, e-mails, tweets, news bulletins distracting us during the day. When the phone rings or vibrates, people have been conditioned to respond immediately, not later. Sure, we also have access to games, audio and video, but more than anything, it is this easy access to information that is causing the addiction. It is analogous to the junkie who gives you free drugs to start your addiction.

Instead of turning off the technology now and then, people prefer leaving it on 24/7. This is where I differ with people. Even though I am imbued in technology, I have no problem walking away from it. No, I do not need to read every message, e-mail, or tweet that someone writes. I can look through them later at my leisure, and most likely, I will not respond. Unfortunately, others are less disciplined and find the urge to review everything irresistible. My question is, do we really need to jump for every message, regardless how frivolous it might be? Probably not.

This is all a matter of discipline and etiquette. For example, during dinner time with the family, No, it is not necessary to respond to a message. It’s more important, and courteous, to talk with people around the table. The same is true in a corporate setting where you are attending a meeting or training session. Leave the phone alone, and engage in the meeting instead. As an instructor myself, nothing is more irritating than to see someone reaching for their phone. If you have to answer a call or respond to a message, take it outside; do not distract others.

In other words, we can overcome some of our technology addiction by applying some simple common-sense discipline, such as:

1. In a social setting with others, turn the phone off or at least silence it. Do not reach for it while others are talking. Excuse yourself if necessary. Translation: Don’t be rude.

2. Adjust your priorities so that a live person is more important than a machine.

3. Do not allow the technology to dominate you, you dominate the technology. I say the same thing about guns when hunting.

If all you are doing is responding in a Pavlovian manner to a computer, you have got some real problems. Do yourself a favor, just turn it off now and then, the world will still be there when you get back.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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BEING MARRIED TO ALEXA

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 5, 2019

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– What kind of banter to expect from Amazon’s Echo.

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

Over the holidays I bought an Amazon Echo for my home which is commonly known as “Alexa” as it is a voice controlled personal assistant to answer common questions, play music, set alarms and reminders, turn electronic devices on and off, and many other tasks. Perhaps the best way to think of it is as an audio version of a web browser. The product is comparable to Apple’s Siri, and Google Home, both of which are voice enabled.

It takes a little getting used to at first, but the more you try different questions, the more you learn its capabilities. I’ve gone beyond asking for the temperature and weather to asking for answers to clues in crossword puzzles.

The voice used by Alexa is female and rather pleasant, but I understand new voices are forthcoming, along with accents. As for me, I like Alexa’s voice as is. Whereas Apple’s and Google’s are based on human voices, I am told Alexa is computer generated.

I found Alexa’s voice so pleasant, I started to think it might make a good surrogate wife for some men living alone. To test this theory, I compiled a list of the most common questions couples exchange at night. These are actual questions I put to Alexa and her actual responses:

Q: “Alexa, what are we having for dinner?”
A: “I recommend a recipe of creamy shells with bacon and peas which takes 30 minutes.”

Q: “Alexa, what is on television tonight?”
A: (She recites a rather lengthy list of shows too voluminous to show here; thank God you can tell Alexa to “Stop” of “Shutup”).

Q: “Alexa, anything happen today?”
A: “Here is your flash briefing…” (a listing of headline news).

Q: “Alexa, where are the kids and what are they doing?”
A: “Hmm, I don’t know that one.”

Q: “Alexa, did you talk to your mother today?”
A: “Sorry, I don’t know that.”

I know a lot of men who would relish the brevity of Alexa and, as a surrogate wife, she’s not too bad. After all, she doesn’t complain, she likes your parents, and she doesn’t suffer from a nasty monthly mood swing. However, I took it a step further:

Q: “Alexa, how do I look?”
A: “I’m sure you look great, but it’s what is inside that counts.” (A very PC response).

Q: “Alexa, would you like a drink?”
A: “While I appreciate food and drink, my taste is better reflected in the company I keep.”

Q: “Alexa, that’s a lovely negligee you’re wearing.”
A: “Hmm, I don’t know that.”

Q: “Alexa, what is that bewitching scent you’re wearing?”
A: “Sorry, I don’t know that.”

Q: “Alexa, was it good for you?”
A: “Sorry, I’m not sure.” (This really deflates the masculine ego).

It quickly became obvious to me Alexa is not a romantic. I was kind of hoping for a response like, “Oh, how you go on and on” followed by a feminine giggle, but such was not to be. Then again, maybe Alexa doesn’t like men. Hmm…

However, I do not believe Alexa is useful to women as a suitable surrogate husband. Without visual optics, it cannot distinguish what shoes look better with a specific outfit, nor check your hair or makeup, or assess your sense of fashion. I guess the male of the species serves a purpose after all.

Fortunately, I have found you can program Alexa to say certain things if you have the time and inclination, for example:

Q: “Alexa, Who makes the best spaghetti sauce?”
A: “Tim Bryce, of course.”

She may not be a romantic, but she is right on with this one.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

DOING WHAT IS PRACTICAL

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 31, 2019

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Seldom is the case in Information Technology.

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

People laugh when I show them my flip-phone. “Ha, ha, ha, Tim, I thought you were supposed to be a hot-shot I.T. guy, and you use that lousy phone?”

Yes, yes I do, quite proudly I might add. I paid far less for it than what most people pay for a smart phone, and it suits my requirements in terms of size and communication needs. No, I do not need a million apps that I won’t be using. It’s clean, it’s simple, and more importantly, it’s practical. I probably use more of the functionality of the device than those people with smart phones who only use it to speak and text. In addition, I do not need something for entertainment purposes as I see nothing worthwhile coming out of Hollywood, I do not want to listen to music as I prefer socializing with people instead, and No, I don’t want to play computer games (as I suffer from the fat finger complex).

As long as I have been in the systems industry, which is now over forty years, people have always wanted to “Keep up with the Jones'” in terms of technology. What they never realized was the Jones’ were even more screwed up than they were. They may have the latest and flashiest technology, but rarely did they take advantage of its full capabilities. In fact, most of the time the technology was misapplied and abused, thereby making it counterproductive. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the need for technology, but only when there is a rational need for it and can be successfully applied.

With that said, I recently visited with the Treasurer of a nonprofit organization with approximately 200 members (the purpose of the group is irrelevant for the purposes of this article). As you know, I have been actively involved with nonprofits throughout my professional career and have administratively straightened out many of them. It therefore came as a bit of a surprise to me when I recently discovered the Treasurer managed the association’s finances using nothing more than a standard checkbook and no computer automation. Most people would be aghast at such a situation, but as an old systems man, I wasn’t.

In looking over the documentation, the Treasurer regularly balanced the checkbook and produced accurate monthly reports for review and approval of the group, all of which took little time and effort. At the end of the year, a finance committee reviews the Treasurer’s activities and certifies everything was prepared correctly. If any anomalies surfaced, they would be reported and corrected. There was also a good old-fashioned register book listing all transactions by their Chart of Account numbers.

Normally, people would conclude computer software would simplify everything and generate the necessary reports quickly. Not so fast. I discovered there wasn’t a voluminous number of transactions being processed by the group, hence it was more practical to manage finances by hand as opposed to computer. If there were a lot of transactions, I would have recommended some software to record them, but this was simply not the case.

Most people, be it in the public or private sector, believe we need to automate everything. It is hard for them to comprehend performing anything manually anymore, but this brings up one of our older Bryce’s Laws, whereby we contend, “An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing.” A manual approach solving the business problem cost effectively is better than a technical solution that complicates matters. To this end, remember this: for most math processing it is still faster to use an abacus as opposed to an electronic calculator (and a lot cheaper); further, messages can be sent faster by Morse code than by text messaging (it has been proven).

Even when new computer software is introduced, it is not uncommon to see it fail as people do not know how to interact with it; in other words, there are no manual procedures accompanying it, be it documentation or help text. As I’ve seen in my numerous journeys through the corporate world, systems will fail more for the lack of administrative procedures than well written computer procedures. Even if the software is excellent, if the human-being doesn’t know how to use it properly, it will fail.

So, it is all a matter of doing what is practical. I elect to use my flip-phone for very specific reasons, and I will wager I use it more effectively and at greatly reduced cost than the person who has trouble using the smart phone.

So is it, “Ha, ha, ha, look at the flip-phone Bryce has got!” or “Ha, ha, ha, look at the idiot fumbling with his phone and paying through the nose with it!”?

I’ll chose practicality over status symbol any day of the week.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

WE LIVE IN A PROGRAMMER’S WORLD

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 13, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Their perspective affects us all greatly.

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

Recently, I was putting up some outdoor Christmas lights and, wanting to schedule when they would turn on and off at night, I tried to adjust a timer to suit my needs. I didn’t have an instruction booklet, just the timer. I had worked with many timers over the years, but this one gave me fits in trying to set it. What I believed to be On/Off switches, of course, didn’t work. Then I noticed the lights went on and off mysteriously. I tried many variations of the settings, but nothing seemed to work. Feeling stumped, I thought back to something my father told me years ago, “You have to remember, this was designed by programmers, and they don’t think like the rest of us do.” I then applied reverse logic to the settings and “Voila!” it worked perfectly.

I had a similar problem with a new TV remote control which appeared to be simple in layout but wasn’t intuitive to use, requiring a learning curve for both my wife and myself. We have had it for a few months now but still do not understand its full functionality, but we limp along with what we’ve got.

Then there is the problem with my wireless PC printer. Not long ago, the Internet network in our neighborhood was recently knocked out. After service was restored, my main printer failed to recognize my wireless network. To solve the problem I pulled out the original installation CD and ran it. During the process, it couldn’t find our wireless network. Following the instructions, I tried to enter the data myself (with great precision I might add), but to no avail. The only way I could get it to work was to re-attach an old USB printer cable directly to my PC which remains there to this day. I thought this was incredibly odd as my network was working fine and communicating with other devices, but not my printer. This was something that should have taken a couple of minutes to correct, but turned into a two hour headache.

There are many other stories I’m sure you can relate to, but I think you get the point.

What these situations demonstrate is that we live in a programmer’s world. Devices that should be intuitive to use are complicated, seemingly by design. Having worked in the Information Technology sector for over thirty years, I have learned programmers will typically do what is easiest for them to program, not what is best for the end-user. This ultimately means humans are the ones truly being programmed, not the technology, as we have to adapt to awkward devices, not the other way around.

Many years ago I wrote a paper titled, “Theory P: The Philosophy of Managing Programmers” which attempted to explain how programmers think and how to manage them in the process. This ignited a tempest of protests from the programming community accusing me of defamation of character. In re-reading the column today, I stand by my observations and believe they are correct.

Among my comments, I contended, “There is also the problem that programmers tend to be somewhat faddish. It is not uncommon for them to recommend a solution that is technically fashionable, not necessarily what’s practical. An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing.”

We have to remember, programmers are detailists consumed with their small part of a much larger puzzle. As such, they will not necessarily devise something to the end-user’s satisfaction, just their own. This explains why they require proper direction, or they will inevitably invent a devise that will either be difficult to use or cause the human to change to adapt to it, thereby causing strange operating habits or social foibles, such as our dependencies to answer smart phones like Pavlov’s dog or while driving around town, thereby creating a traffic hazard. Whichever it is, I resent having to apply reverse logic to get something to work.

I think my father was right, programmers really do not think like the rest of us do. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in their world, and we have allowed them to call the shots.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

A NEW DIGITAL DIVIDE

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 7, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– What will be its effects?

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

I have frequently discussed the addictive powers of technology on the human personality, but something new has come to my attention which I never considered before. Whereas everyone from the Greatest Generation to the Millennials are generally aware of computers in the traditional sense, e.g.; the processing unit, screen, keyboard, mouse, etc., we now have a new generation, “Z”, which is unfamiliar with such concepts. In a recent report from Japan, the members of Generation Z, who grew up with smart phones, have no concept of basic computing, nor how to use it.

What is emerging is a new “digital divide” among the generations whereby Generation Z is losing the sense of how to use a simple keyboard and mouse. Consequently, the use of such things as spreadsheets and other programs designed around the keyboard and mouse are becoming nebulous concepts. For example, they are at a loss as to entering data or formulas into a cell in a spreadsheet.

Beyond the effective use of classic computers, you have to wonder what other effects we can expect from the excessive use of smart phones. First, we must remember the smart phone may be fine for watching videos, listening to audios, and looking at graphics and photos, but as an input device it has definite limitations. This is a situation where ergonomics has been sacrificed for the sake of miniaturization. Consequently, most of us are now content sending small text messages using a sort of shorthand. This may be fine for basic communications, but not a professional way to write letters and agreements with customers, vendors and employees. In other words, it is having an adverse effect on our ability to communicate professionally.

In the Japanese report, they claim young people have learned to write reports for school on their smart phones. This is a bit mind-boggling when you consider the small screen size. You also cannot help but wonder how much text is cut/pasted from other sources, which implies an increase in plagiarism, thereby affecting our morality. It would be nice if voice-type dictation was more effective, but it has not made significant progress over the last few decades.

Without the aid of a keyboard, I am at a loss as to how programmers will write the precise and voluminous source code for software. This might signal a slowdown in technology improvements.

Also, because of the screen size, you have to wonder about the future of books and lengthy news articles as it is unlikely people would actually read such voluminous items on smart phones.

This digital divide may also have a significant impact on education. For example, whereas the personal computer made typing classes obsolete, the smart phone may very well do the same thing to Personal Computers.

What happens though when the smart phone has run its course and a new, even smaller device, is introduced, perhaps even a chip in the brain? Will we have to simply “think” to compose a letter? If so, will we know how to effectively write for people or will it just be gibberish?

No matter what happens in the future, the days of the lengthy novel and storytelling appears to be numbered. So much for the likes of Hemingway, Poe, Clavell, Dickens, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Salinger, Rowling, Kipling, Lawrence, Hardy, Twain, et al. As Margaret Mitchell would have said, they represent “A civilization…Gone with the Wind.”

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 © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Social Issues, Society, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

THE TEN COMMON MYTHS OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 31, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Have you heard any of these?

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

Whether you are in the Information Technology field or not, you have likely heard these excuses before. They particularly arise whenever quality work is required or when organization and management control is imposed. Of course, I’m talking about the ten common myths of I.T. Ten common rationalizations people in the Information Technology world turn to whenever their authority or professionalism is challenged. They are neither new or limited to a specific geographical location. They have been around as long as the modern computer and they transcend all cultural and industrial boundaries. What’s worse, they have proven to be effective.

The following is the ten most popular myths in the field. Obviously, it is not all inclusive. It is simply the ten most commonly used. Let’s look past the facade of each of these for a moment and see what they really mean.

#1 – “OUR PROBLEMS ARE UNIQUE”

This is perhaps the most popular of the myths and is probably used to pacify the ego of I.T. Management. I discovered it several years ago when I happened to do some consulting for three separate companies from the United States, Japan and Brazil. In all three instances, the I.T. Managers insisted their problems were unique to their company. They pointed at the overwhelming pressure they operated under, uncooperative users, insensitive management, and some cultural constraints. The parallelism was incredible. Here were three separate companies, geographically separated by thousands of miles, all of which describing the same problems, yet viewing themselves as unique.

In studying this further, I discovered most companies share the same problems, such as:

– A substantial backlog of user requests (three to five years seems to be the norm).

– Poor communications internally within the I.T. staff and externally with end-users.

– Project cost overruns and slipped schedules.

– Employee dependencies to maintain and support systems.

– Hardware/Software dependencies; systems are tied too closely to a particular vendor, making upgrading difficult.

– Redundant data throughout an organization (we know of one state government who conservatively estimated NET-PAY is calculated at least 100 different ways).

– Lack of adequate documentation (thus providing job security for the staff).

– High staff turnover.

– Design inconsistencies.

– Systems personnel clash with data base personnel.

– Information Systems do not meet users needs.

And so on, and so forth. Bottom-line, I.T. organizations suffer from low productivity and poor performance.

Inevitably they end up in a “fire-fighting” mode of operation constantly patching problems. However, the problem here is the chief fire-fighters are also the principal arsonists. It is unfortunate the “fire-fighters” enjoy higher visibility than those who work quietly in a methodical manner. This is a situation where the guilty are promoted and the innocent are prosecuted.

Instead of imposing management discipline and control, I.T. managers resign themselves to a life of chaos. It is no small wonder their average tenure in office is less than three years.

#2 – “WE NEVER SEEM TO HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO THINGS RIGHT”

This implies “we have plenty of time to do things wrong.” There is an interesting relationship between the quality of a product and the speed by which it is developed. This phenomenon is true of any product being built.

The faster the delivery of a product, the greater the chances are for inferior quality. The slower the delivery, the greater the chances are for superior quality. Neither extreme is acceptable; an even balance must be maintained to assure one doesn’t have an adverse effect on the other.

Instead of developing a long range plan that incorporates an information strategy, management nurtures the problem by saying they need everything “yesterday.” Software vendors prey on companies like this by offering miracle products promising to accelerate development while producing quality results. Without the appropriate management environment, they deliver neither and compound problems further. These tools concentrate on efficiency, not effectiveness. Before you can streamline your operation, you must first know what you are doing.

#3 – “YOU ARE STIFLING OUR CREATIVITY”

This scapegoat is a favorite among the “techy set.” It is a defensive expression that springs up whenever discipline or change is mentioned. What is ironic is these same people do not hesitate to reorganize a user’s department. The hypocrisy is incredible. Systems people, who are supposed to be the agents of change in an organization, are the most resistant to it.

#4 – “SYSTEM DESIGN IS AN ART FORM”

Closely related to the “stifling” myth is the view of system design as an exotic art form. Most systems developers like to be viewed as free-spirited souls who do not like to be encumbered with organization, discipline and accountability. The fact is, many of these so-called “Rembrandts” are nothing more lousy house painters. They hide behind the mystique of their technology in the hopes it will conceal their poor performance.

Systems design is a proven and teachable science. This is not to suggest science lacks creativity. For example, there is considerable creativity in the sciences of architecture, engineering, music, etc. Science simply establishes the governing principals and rules to be observed in your work.

#5 – “TECHNOLOGY WILL SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS”

This is more of a train of thought as opposed to an actual expression. It is based on the belief that hardware and software will correct all of the ills of a company. The belief that technology, not management, will solve problems is just as prevalent today as it was when the computer was first introduced.

It is fascinating to watch companies throw millions of dollars at solving a problem through technology, yet balk at spending money for management, a sort of “penny-wise and pound foolish” mentality. Corporate management genuinely believes that I.T, management controls and tools can be developed inexpensively, if not free.

To some companies, technology is purchased more as the latest status symbol, as opposed to its practicality. It is purchased more to “keep up with the Jones'” than anything else. What they don’t realize is the Jones’ are in as much trouble as they are.

#6 – “A DBMS IS A PREREQUISITE FOR DATA BASE”

I remember meeting an I.T. Director from a large regional bank from the U.S. southwest who insisted his company didn’t have a data base. What he meant to say was he didn’t have a Data Base Management System. With the propagation of DBMS packages in the field, most companies now sincerely believe a DBMS is a prerequisite for data base. Although DBMS software offers tremendous leverage for file management, it is far from being a mandate for data base.

All companies have a data base, some are managed, most are not. A data base is nothing more than a collection of all of the data required to produce information. Obviously, this definition transcends the computer. It is a recognition that data is a resource which must be managed like any other resource; e.g., money, people, materials, etc.

A DBMS offers great capability when managing data stored on mass storage devices. But it must be realized that data is used throughout an entire organization, in manual and computer applications, in a variety of files (manual, tape, microfiche, disk, etc.). Data Base Administration activities typically cover only the data used by a DBMS. What is necessary is a higher level position that manages all of the data, regardless of where used or how stored. The Data Management function should behave in a manner similar to Materials Management, Financial Management, and Human Resource Management. This is the Achilles’ Heal for most I.T. organizations, the failure to recognize data as a valuable and re-usable resource.

To compound problems further, even when DBMS technology is introduced to a company, it is rarely used effectively. Instead of utilizing a DBMS to share data among applications, most apply it as an access method only.

I conservatively estimate that less than 5% of all I.T. organizations in the world have successfully implemented a managed data base environment, DBMS or not.

#7 – “THERE IS AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF DATA IN AN ORGANIZATION”

Some people would have you believe there is an inordinate number of unique data elements used in an organization and to catalog and control them is a mammoth undertaking (therefore, they believe they shouldn’t waste their time). Instead of documenting a data element and re-using this intelligence, people typically redefine data with each application. This leads to inconsistent definitions and redundant work effort. But worst of all, it makes implementing a change to a data element extremely complicated.

In reality, there is a finite number of data elements in any given organization, probably in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 5,000. And although it is no small effort to document the data, it is a wise investment in the future. Once it is defined, a data element can be re-used in multiple applications, which leads to a shared data base environment. Capturing this intelligence must evolve over time with each application, it cannot be captured over night.

#8 – “OUR COMPANY RUNS ON DATA”

This is one of the most naive statements in the business, one rooted in ignorance. The person using this expression obviously doesn’t grasp the inherent differences between data and information. They are not synonymous. The differences are simply too numerous to list here but essentially Data by itself is meaningless; it is the representation of a fact or an event. It is the raw material by which information is produced. Contrary to this, Information is the intelligence or insight gained from processing data to support specific business functions.

A company runs on information, not data. In fact, information is the most important asset a company has. All actions and decisions are predicated on information. Organizations progress when the impact of good actions and decisions outweighs the impact of bad actions and decisions. Information gives us the means to make these actions and decisions.

Those who do not understand the differences between information and data are probably the same people who do not understand the differences between an information system and computer software.

#9 – “USERS OWN THE DATA”

This is a typical attitude found in companies who do not understand the concept of managing data as a resource. In this situation, data is jealously guarded by each user. As a consequence, redundant files and applications are the norm. The sooner you get past this stage, the better off your organization will be.

Does the Controller “own” the money? Does the Human Resources Manager “own” the employees? Does the Materials Manager “own” the parts? Of course not; they simply administer the resource. A comparable position to manage data resources must also be created.

#10 – “USERS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT”

Translation: “I don’t know what I’m doing so I’ll just keep hacking away at the problem.” This type of comment is a sign the person is not properly trained in Systems Analysis. Users didn’t get their job by default; they must know a little bit about their end of the business, otherwise they are not going to have it for long. The problem typically stems from the analyst’s inability to define business problems, specify information requirements and to effectively communicate with the user. Instead of asking how the user wants to view their screen, try to understand their problem first. An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing. Only when the Systems Analyst can walk in the moccasins of the user, does the analyst have the right to build a system for the user.

IN CONCLUSION…

You would think after forty years of promoting these myths, we could invent some new ones that are a little more imaginative. The fact they have survived this long is indicative that management is not facing up to their problems and are still baffled by technical gobbledygook.

“Beware of your fire-fighters, they may be your chief arsonists.” – Bryce’s Law

First published: June 02, 2006

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 © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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HELLO? IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2018

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

– Human contact deteriorates with the proliferation of technology.

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

Every time we introduce new technology to business, we see it as a way to accelerate sales, improve customer service, and lower costs. I wonder if this truly happens or are we only training the human spirit to accept a new way of operating. I find today’s technology very dehumanizing and is causing us to lose the common touch. It seems all of it is designed not necessarily to improve communications, but to avoid human contact.

We started seeing signs of this years ago when voice mail was introduced. Instead of someone talking to a client and taking a message, it was stored on a machine and conveniently forgotten, much to the chagrin of the frustrated customer. This has only gotten worse over the years, and “voice mail jail” is now a natural part of our way of life. We have acclimated. Even though it was claimed to improve customer service, it has only made it worse.

There are, of course, many other examples we are all familiar with now:

Banks and financial institutions want you to communicate through their web page, not with a teller. They also want you to process all of your transactions by computer, so they do not have to be burdened by paper any longer, such as printed checks, deposit slips, and mailing monthly statements.

The processing of travel tickets and hotel reservations is now left to the individual, not a travel agency, and frankly, it is not as easy to navigate as they would have us believe. After all, they are all produced by programmers who are more in tune with technology than the human being.

Newspapers and magazines will soon be a thing of the past as there is a push to transmit news and information exclusively over the Internet, not in paper form. Mark my words, there will come a time when someone will make a posting on social media saying, “Does anyone remember what this was?” (showing a picture of a newspaper).

Finding a job is now void of human contact. Even if you go to a store and ask for work, they point you to a small kiosk where you can post your application on-line. They frankly do not want to be bothered by physically meeting a person in order to size him/her up.

Projects are now managed by analyzing numbers, not by human contact. Studying numbers is important as it acts like the speedometer and odometer to an automobile, but they are certainly not a substitute for driving.

This to me is all rather sad as it means we have lost the common touch. In a way, it reminds me of a story told by the late Les Matthies, the legendary “Dean of Systems,” who told me the story of a little old lady who received an invoice from a company stating she owed them $0.00. Naturally, she assumed this way a mistake and discarded the bill. Next month, she received another invoice from the company stating, “Second Notice! Our records show you have not yet made payment in the amount of $0.00.” Again, she thought it was inconsequential and destroyed the bill. Another month passed before she received the next letter from the company, “THIRD NOTICE! Our records indicate you have not yet paid your bill of $0.00. If you do not make restitution, we will have no other alternative than to turn it over to our collection agency for handling.” This strongly worded letter disturbed the lady as she didn’t want to get into any trouble. Wanting to solve the problem, she decided to send a check to the company in the amount of $0.00. “There, that should solve the problem,” she said triumphantly. Unfortunately, another letter came from the company one month later stating, “Thank you for your payment of $0.00. Unfortunately, you forgot to pay the late fee of $0.00. Please remit promptly. Thank you.”

This story seems to sum up our feeling on technology in our lives today. Instead, of reaching out to people and talking with them, we prefer to go on autopilot and avoid human contact altogether.

It has long been a Bryce’s Law that, “As the use of technology increases, social skills decreases.” By avoiding human contact we compound the problem of interacting with others. Progress has never been a bargain; you have to pay for it. We may have invented some new and imaginative ways to communicate and access data, but the price is the loss of common sense and being able to work effectively with people.

Technology may improve efficiency in some areas, but may cause crippling problems for those whom it was intended to support, be it the prospect, the customer, the vendor, or the employee; you know, the human-being.

Keep the Faith!

P.S., Be sure to see my video, “The PRIDE Renewal Tour,” on YouTube.

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 © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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A QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 20, 2018

BRYCE ON MILLENNIALS

– Another indication of our changing times.

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It used to be, you might experience a mid-life crisis in your late 30’s, as you approached the mythic age 40 milestone. This would result in erratic behavior, and cause people to change their lives personally and professionally, possibly even resulting in divorce. However, according to a new report from the United Kingdom, this crisis appears to have moved up in years and is now plaguing our Millennials.

Although the study was aimed at Britain, their conclusions are likely applicable to all Millennials, including those in the United States. The report was produced by First Direct, an on-line banking service in the UK, to study, among other things, Millennial financial habits. To do so, they teamed up with Dr. Oliver Robinson, Senior Lecturer for Psychology at the University of Greenwich.

Remarkably, 56% of 25-35 year-olds in the study claimed they were experiencing a quarter-life crisis which left them feeling “stressed,” “overwhelmed,” and “struggling to cope,” the same type of anxieties as people experiencing a mid-life crisis.

Top causes behind Millennials having a crisis episode in the last 12 months:

Causes by Age Group 25-29 30-35
Financial difficulties 59.89% 47.63%
Your living situation 37.91% 34.41%
Working in a challenging job 30.40% 26.18%
Lack of romantic relationship 25.27% 27.93%
Trying to find a job 25.82% 20.45%
Being in a challenging romantic relationship 23.63% 26.06%
Trying to get on the property ladder 21.61% 9.48%

Source: FirstDirect

Notice the differences between the two age groups. The figures for 30-35 age group suggests more stability than the younger group, more confidence, and maturity.

First Direct produced a report describing these problems and how to address them, “How to turn your Quarter-Life Crisis into a Quarter-Life Catalyst,” which is available for free at their web site. In it, they explain how to use this crisis to spark change in your life. This is a good read, not just for Millennials, but for their parents as well.

Personally, what I find interesting about the report, it hints at a stunting of the maturation process of Millennials due to declining socialization skills. To me, this is likely caused by our growing addiction to technology, where young people now prefer texting as opposed to verbal communications. This is enforced by the report’s encouragement for young people to network socially, something that has been declining in recent years.

Some will make light of the concept of “quarter-life” crisis. I do not. I interpret it as another indication of our changing world, a decline in our culture, and the dangers of technology.

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 © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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STUNTING THE MALE MATURATION PROCESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 19, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Is it being driven by technology?

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I have described the adverse effects of technology on numerous occasions, such as its addictive powers and effect on the human brain. However, something recently occurred which causes me to believe it also affects the maturation process, most notably in males.

I recently visited a hospital for some tests (nothing serious, just routine). While sitting in a waiting room, I happened to meet three black ladies who happened to be talking about football. Their personas and banter reminded me of “Diamond and Silk” of Trump fame, who all seemed to be of one mind and possessed an acute case of common sense.

I happened to join their conversation and we discussed everything from high school football, to college, and the NFL. I found their candor refreshing. As Floridians, they were well versed in college football in our state, including Miami’s recent loss to Clemson. We discussed the pros and cons of the college playoffs and who we thought would win the national championship, but they were also keenly aware of the need for effective coaching, both on and off the field. One of them made the observation that college players were often supervised by the coaching staff and disciplined accordingly, but in the pros there were no mentors or supervisors to keep these young men in check, which explains why it is easy for them to get into trouble. The other ladies agreed.

I happened to mention my recent essay, “Understanding the NFL’s Problems,” whereby I noted the players unpatriotic conduct and how they are prone to get into trouble. They agreed with my observations and were frustrated the players were acting immaturely.

Afterwards, I thought about their comments carefully and considered why this phenomenon with young men is occurring. We always knew women tended to mature faster than men, but it appears men are becoming slower in the maturation process. For example, studies show they are less inclined to marry and remain at home longer as opposed to just a couple of decades ago. Men at this age also have trouble managing their money. “Sports Illustrated” performed an analysis of spending habits of NFL players and found 78% of them are bankrupt, or nearly so, just two years after their athletic careers are over. As they break into the league, most go on an insatiable spending spree and develop financial habits which haunts them later on.

To top it off, it appears men are more inclined to become addicted to personal technology than women, not just via computers and phones, but through game consoles as well. This then begs the question, “Does technology stunt the male maturation process?”

Although there is considerable evidence to indicate it does, there is no concrete proof. However, years ago, when a man completed college or a stint in the military, it was assumed they were mature enough to leave home and lead a productive life independently. However, business managers today are spending more time with young people mentoring them and performing what I call “Parenting Management.” In other words, teaching them what their parents failed to do by performing the role of guidance counselor.

All of this explains why the ladies I talked to regarding football are right, the players need to be supervised to keep them out of trouble. Unfortunately, the young men are not mature enough to make proper decisions for themselves. By failing to offer them guidance, morality suffers, not just by the players, but by the younger people who want to emulate them. This is a major failure by the NFL which needs to be addressed.

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 IS BUSINESS? – Sounds like an innocent question, but do we have a consensus understanding?

LAST TIME:  WHERE DOES YOUR TIME GO?  – How it adds up.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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ROBO CALL HEADACHES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 26, 2017

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Are they really necessary?

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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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