by Fred Ode

Editor's Note: The ninth of our ten part series called "Technology Traps and Mishaps" by Fred Ode, CEO, chairman and founder of Foundation Software. To read part eight of the series, click here. To read part ten of the series, click here.

A great philosopher (comedian and actress Lily Tomlin) once said, "The road to success is always under construction."

Okay, you may not want to take advice from the woman who brought us "one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy," but if you think about it, these wise words (in the first quote) can apply to just about every aspect of your life. In fact, when it comes to new technology, I would say Lily is 100 percent correct.

Thinking a project is 100 percent complete is one of the most common pitfalls that owners and managers succumb to after investing in new technology. In my fifth tech trap topic, "Enough Time and Resources Have Been Allocated," I talked about how easy it is to underestimate all that needs to be done when implementing new technology-the weeks and months following a new technology investment is the critical period for getting your new technology product up and running efficiently.

Now, let's assume you've had that new technology product for a year or two. You've long finished hardware configuration, data conversion, implementation and initial training. And users of your system say they are working much more efficiently today than ever before. So are you really finished?

Not exactly, because chances are good that the technology product you are using has layer upon layer of feature-rich applications. And chances are, you are merely scratching at the top layer. Research studies have shown that the typical software/technology user uses only a fraction of a system's overall capabilities. Why? Well, it's not because we couldn't benefit from additional time and money-saving processes. It's more likely that we just stopped learning.

Take, for example, the contractor who has invested in a vertical software application, such as construction accounting. Initial training sessions were devoted solely to getting the program up and running smoothly. New users, some of whom had low levels of computer experience, are happy to have learned new functions in AP, AR, payroll and job costing because they are accomplishing much more in less time. But now it has come to your attention that several project managers continue to export data to spreadsheets even though these reports come standard with the system. Or, you learn that your bookkeeper is manually calculating indirect and administrative costs despite the fact that the software can automatically allocate overhead costs to jobs. Or worse, these time-consuming inefficiencies continue on without anyone discovering that there is a better way.

Learning is an Ongoing Process

The business world and the world of construction are constantly changing. This is especially true regarding technology. The only way to stay ahead and stay competitive is with continuous training and education. Contractors who wish to make the most of their technology investment will continue seeking ongoing technology training. And most technology vendors have plenty of educational opportunities available to clients, including online training, customized consulting, seminars and user conferences.

To those who think they have learned all they need to know about their technological products, feel dissatisfied with some aspect of their system or perhaps feel perfectly content, my advice remains the same: Call your vendor and ask questions. Tell the developer what you are doing now and ask how you can do it better. Unless your technology is old and antiquated, chances are you will discover deeper levels of functionality and efficiency that you never knew existed.

Technology Is Forever Changing

More so than any other industry, computer software and hardware companies must adapt to changes and innovations or die trying. That means that the technology product you purchase today will not be the same package in three or four years. Users must keep themselves educated about updates, feature enhancements and even program fixes if they are to make the most of their investment.

As much as we hate to admit it, no technology project is ever 100 percent complete. We must think of successful technology adaptation as a road always under construction. In order to continue gaining the benefits of improved productivity and efficiency, we too must continue to dedicate our time and resources to our technology solutions. To this, Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann character would surely say, "And that's the truthhhhh."

 Construction Business Owner, March 2007