Article Date: 3/1/2003

The Tech Song Remains the Same
Everything I needed to know about technology I learned from cell phones.
From The Executive Editor, Jim Thomas

Can cell phones teach a lesson about technology and practice management? I'd have to say yes. Here's why.

Years ago, I conducted interviews for a feature on how cell phones would affect business. My subjects either loved cell phones or they despised them.

"Do we really need these?" asked one executive. "Isn't it cheaper to use a phone card?"

"I don't see how these are going to work," said another, "unless everyone else starts carrying one."

Still another paranoid manager added, "Maybe Big Brother still can't watch us any time he wants, but now he can certainly call at any time."

The counterpoint

At the other extreme, some executives embraced the technology. "I don't know how anyone can live without a cell phone," I heard repeatedly.

Cell phones "are the greatest thing since sliced bread," I was told. "Heck, they're even better -- I mean, you'd use a cell phone a lot more than you would use sliced bread, right?"

I presented the bulk of my material to an editor who specialized in business and technology issues.

"I'm not sure about this," she said.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"These executives didn't answer any important questions," she said.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

The litmus test

"Because there's really only three things you need to know about any piece of technology, whether it's a pencil or a laser-guided manufacturing process," she explained. "First, how it will affect my top line. Second, how it will affect my bottom line. Finally, how it will improve my quality of life. Without the answers, you have no meaningful evaluation."

The analysis

So I went back and conducted more interviews, desperately trying to find an analytical cell phone user. Because I was right on deadline, I also made calls at night using a cell phone. My $95 in cell phone charges for the calls allowed me to finish my story by deadline. That saved my publication hundreds of dollars in potential late charges, which greatly improved the quality of my life.


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2003