Why Personal and Work Technology Feel So Different

Is it frustrating for you, too?
You’re at home and all your technology does exactly what you need it to do.
You check in with your family and friends over any number of social media platforms. You pop open your internet browser and have your grocery shopping finished in minutes. You update the shared Google Doc that holds your family’s running shopping list. You AirDrop photos from last weekend’s get-together with three taps of your finger. You ask Alexa about the weather before you call an Uber and head to dinner where you’ll split the bill with your Venmo app.
And then you get to work… and everything feels so sluggish and clunky in comparison.
Why is it so complicated to share a file? To collaborate on a document? To communicate with your team without battling splintered email chains? What gives?


Why our work technology feels like it’s lagging behind

There are a few key factors at play here:
Economics –
You can make a lot of money from consumer applications, but they have to work well. Creators will pour tons of resources into perfecting functionality and the user experience. Then we tap “download,” sit back, and enjoy the fruits of all their hard work for maybe a couple bucks, and often for free.
For businesses, much of that legwork falls on their shoulders; they’re the ones spending the money on the new technology, and they’re the ones investing all the time (or paying someone else to invest their time) in customizing the product design to fit their particular needs and workflow. This is a significant barrier.
Risk –
If you download a new program onto your phone or laptop and end up not liking it very much, you get rid of it and move onto the next one – no big deal.
Businesses, on the other hand, have much more at stake – if you roll out a new program to your team and it doesn’t work well, you’ve wasted a whole lot of time, a whole lot of money, and piss a whole lot of people off in the process. And then you have to start all over again. Yikes.
Comfort -
Lastly, a lot of folks just aren’t comfortable with implementing the latest technologies. We all want to work with the platforms that we’re most familiar with, and for many decision-makers this means older, less advanced systems. Why change to something like Slack if email has worked for you for the past 3 decades?
As more and more millennials grow into leadership positions, I think we’ll see a pretty major shift here. But for now, there’s some resistance to work through.

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Final thought

The businesses that are able to bridge this gap and eliminate the dissonance are going to have the advantage. Building a more modern, seamless, collaborative technology experience will result in a more engaged and more effective workforce.
While it likely isn’t prudent for any of us to upend and uproot our entire systems, we should start looking for ways to make improvements to our systems in the form of, say, incorporating an instant messaging platform. Small steps forward can have a big impact.
Most importantly, we need to have a clear and methodical plan in place for how we’ll move our systems forward over the next couple years.
Otherwise, the gap will only keep growing wider.


As originally published in the American City Business Journals