Why your office software program stinks


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I'm going to make an educated guess that you hate at least some of the technology that you use for work.

Let me explain why and how this merger of two companies you may never have heard of is affecting your anger. Bottom line: The most important quality of technology for business is whether a boss can be convinced to buy it, not whether you like it. It's bleak but true.

Let me take you back to when technology was mostly used by businesses, not the rest of us. Then technologies lived or died based on whether a guy in a suit and tie could be convinced that it was worth buying for his business.

An automaker bought software to track all of the parts for its cars. An insurance company bought software to issue invoices to customers. Once an email is received, your employer may have bought accounts for everyone. Probably no one has asked the people who use this technology whether it is useful and good. Above all, it was important whether the employer considered himself worthwhile.

That has changed – but only somehow.

One of the great ideas of technology over the past decade – a great idea that is only partially true – is that workers now have control over the technology we use.

Software coders can use Airtable to manage a project without telling their managers. A financial advisor may choose to exchange documents with customers through DocuSign. Some coworkers might choose to use Zoom Video for team meetings or Slack for instant messaging, and may later convince their employer to pay for more feature-packed versions.

If the workers, not the bosses, choose the technology, it is important that the technology is easy to use. These newer workplace technologies usually do not stink or stink less than older ones.

But. This ideal of the empowered worker is not exactly correct. I suspect your supervisors didn't ask if you liked the corporate spend or accounting software you used. Restaurant chefs are unlikely to have a say in the order entry systems they use, and healthcare workers typically don't choose the software that measures their hours or keeps patient records.

Technology may have changed, but one thing that has always been proven is that whether a suit and tie boss believes the technology is useful or easy to buy still really matters. (He's probably still a guy.)

This is a big reason why Salesforce, a company that sells tens of millions of types of software that are mostly bought by supervisors, agreed to pay $ 27.7 billion to buy Slack, one of the young Company based on the authorized worker half-truth. Giants like Salesforce can more easily sell software to suit and tie types, especially the largest companies that spend the most on technology.

In a way, this is a bummer. Slack, DocuSign, Airtable, and other young companies can make nice software that you like, but someone in a company generally still pays for it. For Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Workday, or other enterprise software markets, it's easier to sell employers with a collection of technologies that might go well together or be cheaper to buy in a package.

Slack was partly sold out because it was felt that it couldn't stand up to Microsoft, which offered similar workstation software that was part of a collection of technologies many companies had already bought. (My colleague David Streitfeld wrote about Salesforce dealing with Microsoft.)

Supermarkets like Microsoft and Salesforce can and sometimes make nice software, but employers' priorities often conflict with developing technology that is easy to use.

A lot has changed in the technologies we encounter at work. But the person who writes the checks is still the most important customer, and that probably means you'll hate the software you use at work.

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A broomstick is not a weapon: My colleague Davey Alba wrote in February about a New York school district that was one of the first in the country to adopt facial recognition technology. The aim was to detect unwanted visitors, prevent mass shootings and stop sexual predators. In a follow-up, Vice News wrote that the company behind the facial recognition software was not up-front about the technology used to misidentify black students. It also made serious mistakes at times, including identifying broomsticks as weapons.

The demanding mobile life of app employees: NPR followed couriers in Beijing who worked 12-hour days delivering packages for China's e-commerce delivery services. Each of their movements is tracked via the app and they live in fear of a mistake or a bad customer review that would lower their pay. My colleague Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura also wrote about the challenges faced by workers in restaurant delivery apps in New York.

A warning to vacation buyers: The Wall Street Journal reported that UPS has directed delivery couriers not to pick up some recent online purchases from a handful of major U.S. retailers like Macy's, suggesting delivery companies are having a hard time capturing our eagerness for online vacation shopping to get a grip. I wrote a newsletter back in October about these feared delays, dubbed "Shipaggedon," and how buyers could manage them.

May I recommend the burnt sienna pancreatic crayon? A New York hospital has created an anatomy coloring and activity book for children.

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