During my holiday travels, I shared a drink at an airport bar with a charming enlisted man who ran a military IT operation that deals with natural disasters. In the course of introductions, the Gripe Line came up, and naturally, he had a gripe. Expecting a doomsday-related tale, I listened carefully, but it turned out that the biggest hassle in his job is officers with new toys.
These honchos get a new device and fall in love with it, he explained. The magnanimous ones decide that everyone needs one of these time-saving, essential-to-their-existence units so that the entire team can be more productive and connected. Then they expect this poor, overworked guy whose job it is to make sure that people can communicate in situations when the power is out and desperation is rampant to support them.
"I might be installing a server that keeps essential agencies connected," he said. "I'm eye-deep in code and one mistake could take down the entire system. Then my phone rings. We are a small department, so I have to answer it. And someone wants help -- right now -- using the camera on their new mobile gizmo."
Though very wrong, this situation is also very common, and it has a dark side: technology resistance. In this military IT pro, I could see it. He wanted to share the officer's enthusiasm for the innovation and the amazing technical advances of our times. After all, a love for technology is what moved him to study computer science. But as the one guy who everyone turned to to get all this innovation working, connected, and fixed when things went wrong, he was afraid -- very afraid.
I saw this play out last week in my own home. I bought my mother an Android tablet so that she could surf the Web and read her email wherever she was. My brother, who works in IT, got mad, assuming her gadget meant work for him. This reaction was a reflex.
I'm hopeful that 2011 will be the year of innovations that will bring us great new mobile devices and better ways to support them so that you -- and the guy who keeps important government agencies communicating -- have time to do your actual job. My military friend was optimistic, too.
"The time has come for the support for all this gear to get the respect it deserves. It has to be something that people value and are willing to pay for," he said. Otherwise, he added, the failure to appreciate support as a necessary service will hold back innovation.
I'm on my way to CES this week, and I have several new support companies and services on my schedule. My hope for the future is fueled by this fact. Stay tuned.
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