This particular article came from a customers’ request. Their question was “How can I help determine what tech I’m not using, but should be”. I've thought long and hard about this question, it isn’t easy to quickly answer. Also, answering this question thoroughly is like revealing what the secret ingredients in KFC's or Coke’s Cola recipe for how I approach questions and problems. For every company there is something that’s their “secret sauce”, so here I will lay it all out and tell you my secret, but first a word from our sponsors.
A term that has been thrown around a lot lately is the idea of IoT or Internet of Things. This concept is very complex, dense, and many people have very different opinions about what it is and what impact it will have on our civilization. I am not going to dive deeply into that particular subject, but I will say that the Internet of Things is growing and more and more devices have intelligence. From our cars, to our vacuums, mobile phones, etc. This creates some unique challenges along with opportunities. There are billions of devices out there that have intelligence. It is impossible to have a technology strategy that encompasses all devices and software; however it is relatively easy to come up with a strategy that effects you. This concept is at the heart of what Tech Effect does, helping find technology that matters to you.
So what is this secret sauce?
Let’s think about a favorite meal for college kids. We are going to dissect a technology strategy using Ramen, don’t worry the secret sauce isn’t the flavoring packet.
I want to first pay attention to how the manufacturer suggests you create your fine dining experience. Here are the instructions:
1. Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan
2. Add noodles, and cook for 3 min, stirring occasionally
3. Turn off heat, Add contents of seasoning package
4. Stir well for 1 min. Serve when seasoning is fully dissolved
I know in my college years I ate my fair share of ramen. There were weeks where that was my predominant sustenance. During four years of college you will prepare and eat a lot of ramen. To help determine what tech you’re not using, but should be, we will take this list of instructions and break the process into a few parts. So we will simultaneously find a way to optimize preparing Ramen along with finding better tech solutions. Probably the first time in human history this comparison has been made.
The steps are as follows:
1. Be Specific
2. Look for a current process that is repetitive or needs optimized
3. Curate and Evaluate Options
5. Ask a better question
Step 1 and 2 of the process are hidden in our introduction of this example. We will actually start with step 2, because it is the most obvious at the moment. We eat a lot of Ramen in college that alone is repetitive. Given the instructions and the amount of Ramen consumption we have discovered something that may benefit from being optimized.
Step 1 is even more critical. You must BE SPECIFIC. Step 1 narrows in on the problem you are trying to solve. If you make the question too wide then it becomes much more difficult to look for an answer. If we asked a generic questions for example, “How to make eating more efficient?” We are asking a very different question, and depending on the actual technology question you are trying to solve it may make it impossible to answer. So first you have to be very specific about what question you are trying to answer. If we were to make this question about technology the question might be about how you use email every day, what music you listen to daily, or how your settings on your devices effect your security? What specific aspect of how you go about your day-to-day life do you want to look at? Remember as I mentioned in the beginning it isn’t about creating a technology strategy, it is about creating a strategy about you. You can never be too specific if there is still a problem that needs solving. That’s how some of the world’s largest companies have been formed. They start with a specific question.
I want to return to Step 2 in the process now. Once you have been specific and find a process that is iterative. Ask; is there a more efficient way to complete the task that either gives me the same outcome or very close to the same outcome with significantly less work? A good rule that helps explain input with results is Pareto’s principle, which is the 80/20 rule.
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
When we step back into our Ramen analogy we are ready for Step 3 (evaluate options). There is no reason to wait to put the noodles in, Noodles in cold water or hot water…the end result is that you don’t want to eat crunchy noodles. Same thing with the flavor packet, why not put it in first? And as the water boils and the noodles become soft that helps mix in the flavor a little.
If we look at our Ramen instructions, can we simplify them? Yes! What if we put the noodles and seasoning in the cold water, boil the water in the microwave, stir, and serve? We’ve now taken 2 steps into practically 1.
In steps 1 and 2, narrowing your question and finding areas in need of optimization allow you to identify what can be changed. That is, what areas you might benefit from Tech that you are not using! Step 3 of this process, there is no magic bullet for it is curating or evaluating possible solutions to your problem. We are making an assumption right now that our “improved” process will minimize our time to prepare Ramen. In the real world Google searches work for finding way to fix or speed things up. The problem is that they are often disparate information with no real effort or business case to give you all the information about all the options. What they do well is give you most of the information about a single option, which you then have to process and evaluate. This can be a daunting and for many, time consuming process.
Once you have all the information Step 4 is about making a decision and integrating it into your life. Step 4 simply puts our decision into action. Creating or changing habits is tough from a behavioral perspective. Hopefully the time saved is worth the pain of implementing a new system. This, at times, can be the toughest part of the process, change is hard and we generally like things that are familiar. This stage is as much about implementing as it is about experimenting with our change. We don’t have to commit to this change yet, but we should be able to tell if it is effective. If it isn’t effective, there is no reason to continue doing it.
Step 5 in this process is to go back to step 1, and find another specific problem. Learning is a non-stop process. Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying. “After you have chosen a solution, there is nothing that says you can’t stop using it or choose another solution. If you want technology to help you be more effective, it is good to look at your decisions around technology to see if anything has changed every now and then.
As helpful as Ramen was in helping make this process approachable, I want to give a historical real world example related to technology changing our habits, because technology changed. The example is once again going to be specific. “How do I capture family moments?"
Step 1: Be Specific - I want to find an easy way to capture moments of my family
Step 2: Current Repetitive Process - I use cameras of all sorts for different activities, some that are water proof, some that are for fast action, some for good lighting, poor lighting. I even use a video camera at times as well. On any given vacation I may bring 2-3 cameras
Step 3: Curate/Evaluate - You look at all the top brands of cameras, read the reviews, features, and capabilities. Many Smart phones come with cameras, maybe that’s an option
Step 4: Implement/Experiment - You decide on the next vacation to only bring your smart phone. You now have less luggage, less time worrying about all the different batteries, film, lenses. And you just take photos to your heart’s delight.
Step 5: Return to a Question: How can I store all these photos now?
As I mentioned this is a relatively dated example, but don’t be fooled, people are still making this decision and going through this exact process today. Over 80% of the moments you want to capture can be captured with your smart phone. For other people, because of hobby or occupation, they prefer to capture photos using traditional cameras, but once again that goes back to creating a strategy individualized for you, not for technology.
Now you have it, Tech Effect’s secret sauce and a quick way to make Ramen noodles. I have given you the recipe so you can help yourself, or so you can better understand what we do. Through our consultation service we ask specific questions about your day-to-day activities, discover ways to make it more effective, more efficient, and more automated. Then help you implement those solutions so that technology handles the boring ramen noodles of life, and you can spend more time doing what you enjoy.