HE SAYS:

I hate to admit it, but I am old enough to have started my career before there were fax machines, word processing, e-mail, or the Internet.  When I first started practicing law, documents were created on a typewriter and if you needed multiple copies, you used carbon paper and hoped that you did not make a mistake.    If you wanted to get in touch with someone, you called them on the telephone.  I mean the kind that was attached to the wall, I am sure you remember them.

Today, we now have available to us all forms of technology to make both our work and personal lives so much more efficient and productive.

We can instantaneously communicate with people all over the world through e-mail and the Internet.    Time and distance are no longer obstacles to our ability to send and receive information to and from family, friends, customers and clients.   This technology has put the entire world at our disposal and we can now reach out to practically anyone, anywhere at any time, for both business and pleasure.   

The Internet is an expansive landscape of communication with the possibility of an unlimited exchange of goods, services, information and ideas, mostly, free of charge, unless you choose to buy something online.

The Internet has made the world one immense global marketplace where, with a little ingenuity and creativity, any business can have a presence on the World Wide Web that gives them exposure to the entire world and helps level the playing field in what was once an arena only available to international corporations with very large advertising budgets.

Unfortunately, none of these great technological advances come without a price.   The price we pay is the inevitable abuses that always arise whenever there is so much access by so many people.

The wonder of e-mail has been cheapened by unrelenting spam, viruses and phishing.   These concepts are not new.   Junk mail, identity theft, and invasion of privacy have always been with us in one form or another.   The only difference today, is the speed and extent with which it can happen.      

In the world of business, there have always been unscrupulous people who would do anything to make a buck.   Well, the Internet is no different.    Everyone can find something on the Internet they find offensive or disturbing.  

Despite all of its shortcomings, today’s technology, when used responsibly, is still the greatest tool ever to exist for the benefit of our businesses and our personal lives.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

When I first started operating USFSB, I knew next to nothing about how to use the available technology in furtherance of our business.  In fact, I knew so little that I did not even know all of the technology that was available let alone how to use it effectively.   I slowly learned by trial and error.

USFSB already had a computer system that had been patched together, over several years, by a part time computer consultant and it was cumbersome, inefficient, and constantly in need of repair.  I eventually came to the realization that USFSB, with its unique business requirements, needed a comprehensive and highly customized computer system designed specifically for the way USFSB does business.

I put one of my employees in charge of the project and directed him to find the right people to design and build our new computer system within our budget.   His plan was to farm out the work to a group of cutting edge techno-geeks recruited from a local college.   These people appeared to be highly knowledgeable about the technology and proceeded, at great expense and over a long period of time, to build a very complex system that did not work.  To say the least, I was shocked, angry, and frustrated with this turn of events.    As a side note, the employee was our marketing person who was able to sell me on the idea that he could pull this off.   

After having the failed system evaluated by other experienced computer experts, it became clear that the problem was not with the technology used to build the system but that the people who built it had absolutely no business sense and did not know how to take their theoretical knowledge and apply it in a real life situation for a real business.   I learned a valuable lesson.   Knowledge without common sense can be very dangerous.

Finally, I found a computer expert who also had experience dealing with the real world of business.  I hired him as an employee so that I could directly work with him on my requirements for the system and make sure that it was tested to my satisfaction every step of the way.    I knew what I wanted the computer system to do I just did not know how to get there without his help.   Together we made a great team.

In the final analysis, I learned that it is great folly to pursue any technology unless there is a clear business plan and you have the right people to implement your vision.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

SHE SAYS:

USFSB operates our business with our own custom computer system.   It is the Membership and Benefits Information System or for short, MBIS.  It is a sophisticated system that was born out of necessity, but was not easy to come by. 

 When I first came to USFSB, it became quite clear that the existing computer system was not only inaccurate but also the staff was inept at using it, maintaining it and translating the data it produced.  We were not able to keep any kind of consistent or accurate reporting.  Reports were spit out and handed in without any concern or interpretation of what they meant or if they even made any sense.  It wasn’t until Joe started questioning the data that it all unraveled.  As he asked for explanations of the data, the responses were vague usually no more than “Well, that’s what the computer says.”  It was obvious that no one knew what was going on.  Probably the only thing in the system that worked with any consistency was the monthly billing, but even that we learned, had some flaws. 

 In reality, we have to be able to track our current membership including who does or does not have insurance, who does or does not get a bill, who pays or does not pay on time and who has to be cancelled.  Each of these layers of information is important to the success of our business and is now built in to our system in a much more accurate and inter-active manner than our previous system. 

 It took almost two years before we were finally able to create both our computer system and our website and it was not without great expense and much time. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY?