The Danger of Tech Assumptions

The Danger of Tech Assumptions


Do you know how to set follow-up flags in Outlook? What about how to book meetings, reserve presentation equipment, set up an ‘out of office’ reply or archive emails? Do you know how to use the lookup function in Excel, how to make use of the formulas and graphs, set conditional formatting or make use of the short cut keys?

As far back as 1987, Robert Solow (a professor at MIT) wrote in a book review in the New York Times: “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Sadly, 25 years later this might still be true.

In a recent survey amongst Outlook users we found that 100% of the people use it for managing their email, 64% use the Calendar function for meetings, 42% use the Contacts function to keep contact information and only approximately 5% use the Tasks function to manage their projects and actions.

Making full use of tech

Companies typically implement the use of technology and software to improve efficiencies. In theory the bottom line benefit is clear. But in practice we find that companies have seldom trained all staff properly to utilise these applications to their full intended potential and as a result the benefit in reality falls far short from the theory.

The main reason for this failure to realise the full benefit from automating a process through the use of an application is assumptions. Here are a few of the assumptions that most affect us in business:

1)The person who chooses the applications assumes that they are the best qualified to evaluate application. Instead the best approach would be to have the people who would actually have to work with it try the application out and give their inputs into its user friendliness and value add. They may identify important short comings very early in the process, saving the business having to create a manual work around later.

2)Managers assume that an application is user friendly enough and that people will figure it out by themselves or that because they themselves know how to work it, everyone else does as well or will be able to figure it out.

We find that managers often assume that because someone can double click on the application icon to open it up, that it automatically means that the user is also familiar with all the other functionality. Even worse, they expect people to highlight that they require training, but how can people do that if they do not know what they do not know? Even when people do know, they are often too ashamed to admit that they fall short on expectations.

3)Managers assume that any training program will do, but not all training programs are equally effective. You may find that so much information is shared that very little actually gets assimilated because of the information overload. People may walk away with an increased awareness of the capability of the program and even a certificate, but still have no idea of how to apply this in their own working environment.

Addressing the gap

So to address the technology knowledge gap you need to first determine where you are today and then compile an action plan to improve and of course, then execute the plan!

STEP 1:  Determine where you are today

  • Compile a practical assessment to assess the current level of skills in your team.
  • Also keep an eye out for some of the tell-tale signs. If (for example) you are often getting a “delivery failed” notification with the reason “mailbox quota exceeded”, it may be that the individual you are emailing does not know how to file and archive emails.  

STEP 2: Compile an action plan and execute it

  • There are many different training options available, but choose very carefully!
  • Instead of external training you can also capture knowledge in easy to use reference guides that are readily available and easily accessible for your team.
  • Establish a learning culture and encourage knowledge sharing.
Su-Mari Du Bruyn
Su-Mari Du Bruyn is co-founder of Adapt To Change. She is a qualified HR practitioner and logistics specialist and is passionate about Continuous Improvement and people development. Through Adapt To Change she assists businesses to improve their business performance and better engage their staff. Su-Mari also recently launched her e-book business guide, The Power to Ignite. Available exclusively on for Kindle, The Power to Ignite is a practical guide to the powerful art of Continuous Improvement, sharing proven methodology and highlighting important dos and don’ts in engaging staff and improving business results. Find her on Google+