Technology: Bring Me Simple Solutions

In honor of the retirement of Andy Rooney from his video editorials that closed the iconic CBS show “60 Minutes” for more than three decades, I’ll start my column off in like form:

Did you ever notice that getting new technology is like a kid getting the Christmas toy he’s been begging you to buy for months to get, only to find him playing with the box it came in after 10 minutes?

I had a similarly giddy moment when I received my new Android smartphone in August, and I was pleased for placing myself within 12 months of having “the latest gadget on the market,” as close to technologically hip as I usually get.

I admit that the prospect of being able to download applications and “maximize my Droid experience” was part of the excitement, along with receiving and reading email closer to the way it appears on computer, and view Microsoft documents and PDFs the way they were intended to be viewed.

What I found was sort of disappointing — a lot of the applications that looked enticing ended up being a letdown. The more that was promised, the less they seemed to deliver.

The things I do find functional provide the simplest solutions — the navigation does a reasonable job of finding where I am and directing me to where I am going. The airlines and hotels that provide check-in and other travel tools do a nice job. The mobile Yellow Pages is fantastic for finding local business wherever you are. Finally, the voice recognition capability that allows you to speak a command or do a search by voice has far exceeded my expectations.

OK, I will admit to downloading Angry Birds. Sometimes, even with a ton of work to do, I need a diversion.

My point is, technology has to be really functional to provide the payback that makes it worth the investment, and it’s not the whiz-bang stuff that makes the difference, it’s the small things technology can do that allow ME to do more of the big things. The endless capabilities make you want to try it, but functionality keeps you coming back.

My relationship with my phone was an inverted bell curve — I loved it at the start, became a bit disillusioned for a while, but now I’m very pleased with what it can do. It takes some research, some networking with other users, reading online reviews and just plain digging in and using it. But if you focus on the benefits to business, you’ll find lot of hidden power inside mobile technology.

Another reason I’m pushing myself on the technology side is the upcoming Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) annual conference coming to Boca Raton, FL, later this month. Daren Coppock, president of ARA, is focused intently on presenting new technology and helping retail attendees to understand how it fits into the ag retailing business. He has some top-notch speakers lined up, and networking with top retailers is always of great value.

Coppock has brought a passion for new and emerging technology to the organization, forming committees (of which I am a part) to help direct technology education efforts within the organization. He’s doing a fine job at the helm of ARA and it should be an outstanding conference.

I hope I see many of you there! You can find conference information on the Web at www.aradc.org.

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