The power to live without power

by Mark Hodges ([email protected]) 559 views 

Technology, specifically information technology (IT), has done more to advance business capabilities than any form of progress in recent memory. Or has it?

What comes to mind upon hearing the word “technology” is typically a mobile phone or computer, or another electronic device. We think of technological advancements as faster computing power, fewer wires, electronic vehicles or even applications that buy us a few minutes back in our day. We typically do not think about how useless all these innovations are without the tenuous marriage between them and an 18th-century “technology.”

Toward the end of the 18th century, harnessing electrical power and having it work for humans was all the rage. Now our lives come to a screeching halt during any power outage. All that work we force through silicone and all that power we store in lithium ion either stops or diminishes when the lights go out. Our version of technology is dependent on a broader technology — the electric grid.

That may seem like a real “duh” moment, but most of us typically do not think about power unless it is missing. It has become expected. The marriage of our systems to power has no equal and has grown to the point that a business typically cannot function without either partner.

Mark Hodges

I was recently having lunch in a restaurant when it lost power. After the cursory applause (because that is expected with any power outage or dropped dish), the wait staff began to scurry — not knowing what to do. Transactions couldn’t be processed or even retrieved. Food couldn’t be cooked. Math that hadn’t been performed for years had to be unearthed to figure out how to add sales tax to an item so people could cash out — and I literally mean cash out because all of us using credit cards couldn’t get processed. Thus, the step down memory lane of cracking open the carbonless credit card sheets that took a while to find. The 20-year-old technology couldn’t run because the 100-year-old technology was not available.

Every business (and every consumer) should remind themselves of the interdependencies of technology. When all resources are available, things go well. When two out of three components are available, you might as well have none. Power availability with a computer but no internet connection results in frustration. A computer with no power available means limited battery life and no internet (because you now have no modem, wireless, etc.). Because few systems are truly independent (the closest thing is a mobile phone until it runs out of charge), any time is a good time for business leaders to review their “disaster” plans.

Someone in your workplace needs to develop a plan for a loss of power — or a loss of connectivity — or the compromise of a system. While most refer to all of these as components of “disaster planning,” they all carry the theme of preparedness. Your only other option is to turn the sign to “closed” and lock the door hoping that things will work tomorrow. Most businesses, though, did not build their revenue budgets that way. The maxim is simple: If you rely on technology in any form, you need a plan to operate when a necessary component is unavailable. Do you have that plan? If not, schedule the meeting for next Monday. Get it started.

The goal is not to implement that plan, but having it provides a way forward when an outside force does not allow the technology to work — even when it is not the technology’s fault.

Mark Hodges is chief growth officer of Arkansas IT services firm Edafio Technology Partners.  The opinions expressed are those of the author.