The Tech Life of a Manager, 2010 and Beyond

What will it be?

I started thinking about this as I skimmed over Michael Arrington’s “Fifth Annual List Of The Tech Products I Love And Use Every Day.” He writes:

The scope of the list has changed over time. In 2006 it was just about websites. Now the list includes other web services, some desktop software and even a few gadgets.

These aren’t necessarily newly launched products… This is a simple list of the tech products that are an integral part of my day ”“ work or play. Some have withstood the test of time and I just can’t live without. Others are newcomers that have captured my imagination.

I use most of them every day, or nearly every day, and I would not be as productive or happy without all of them. There are now 24 products on the list.

Far as I can see, Arrington’s habits are definitely not the every day world of most managers unless they’re somehow crammed into their limited off-hours. And he is the founder and editor of TechCrunch. But let’s not dismiss this too quickly.

There has been a long-standing management ‘rule of perception’ that you must be “on the floor” or otherwise in the thick of things “where the action is” and resist being a desk jockey as much as you possibly can. This rule is pervasive, and spans nearly all industries. Conventional wisdom says that good managers roll-up their sleeves, for you can’t reach customers, and get good and dirty in a business operation or within the managing and leading of people if you’re stuck behind a desk.

And aren’t tech products just the fancy new toys of the desk jockey?

Not necessarily.

Conventional desk resistance is wise in theory, for it’s meant to coach managers into working with people more and “pushing paper” less. But here is the important question (as any overwhelmed manager will quickly point out): What was on the paper, and can it be so easily dismissed? Isn’t “real work” much more complex than simply saying it is about being with your people and your customers?

I know that my own tech habits have changed dramatically since I was working in the corporate world full time and not coaching (I made the switch in 2003.) I still consider myself a manager, managing and leading a small team, and were I managing a larger one, not only am I very confident that many of my every day tech tools would be instantly integrated into my work, I am also sure I’d be adding more of them (such as Yammer, an internal version of Twitter, and everything offered by 37signals).

We talked about it a bit before in this post: The Digitally Savvy Workplace. My IT team would be techies who love to teach, and they would be instructed to give everyone in the company internet access (yes, EVERYONE), and get everything we do off hard drives and “into the cloud.” After decades opening Windows to the digital world, I am now learning to use a MacBook Pro, and I would expect my managers to be fluent in both platforms.

Just for fun, this was my own break-down of Arrington’s list, with a few additions of my own. At first I thought, “24! Is he kidding me?” but then I saw I am not that far off. What about you?

On my every day list: MacBookPro, Gmail, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, WordPress for blogging, Tumblr for aggregating, Twitter (Helped by HootSuite), and my iPhone (we won’t go into the apps…)

On my weekly/ often daily list: Skype, Digital Camera, Flickr, BlogLines, LinkedIn, Basecamp, TripIt, Delicious

Use it, but honestly not an everyday necessity: Pandora, Audible

Craving: Apple Magic Mouse, Kindle – which I was surprised Arrington did not include

Should be using it much more, must get with it: Ruzuku, Kodak Zi8

Want to learn, and soon: Animoto, Diigo (to replace Delicious), Google Voice, Skitch, Docstoc and Scribd

Would definitely use it if back in the corporate world: Yammer, all of 37signals, YouTube

Very curious, but doing fine without them: Dropbox, Evernote, Hulu

Not yet remotely interested: Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla, TechMeme

Have vehemently rejected as a time sink I cannot afford: Facebook

Greek to me, had to look them up: MOG, Spotify

As little as a year ago, I was very tolerant of managers telling me, “I don’t have time for tech” because I did see that they could survive relatively well without much of it. Today, I am much more assertive about tech learning being part of our managerial core competency.

The evidence is overwhelmingly clear to me that being more tech savvy helps you in three significant ways:

1. Tech tools CAN boost your productivity significantly when you choose the right tool for the right job, and not as a new “toy.” Match up tech features to work you do individually versus within a team. Their new “wow” factor is a dud if not aligned with the work you actually do (or want to do).

2. What the (two most-mainstream) forces of blogging and social media have brought to tech isn’t simply about digital programming (blog platforms) or ninja-networking outside your company (social media) though those two things are great fringe benefits.  Tech has enhanced the way we communicate, making every workplace a more mobile, and thus more nimble one.

3. Tech tools and their updates foster lifelong learning, making learning much more cool and sexy in today’s world. In the process, tech is helping us bridge generation gaps as well, changing that way we communicate and helping us to better share life experiences with each other.

So managers, don’t snub your nose at tech tools. Get with the program, and improve the quality and efficiency of your life and your work. Bring advances and progress to the workplace as a means of culture turbo-boosting.

And whatever we choose, don’t we all want this? Arrington says, “I would not be as productive or happy without all of them.” and I must say, I doubt I would be as happy without my tech stable of goodies either.

Photo Credit: midnight flickring by ugglan on Flickr
Yep, I’m still into red :)

More tech from the archives:


  1. Rosa Say says

    Nice posting by Simplerich :-) What tech can’t I do without?

    Also… thanks to the combination of Rich’s article and a chat with my good buddy @ktoddstorch yesterday morning, I have spent the weekend falling in love with Evernote – wow. Will be very useful for me, and can see why so many people say they use it daily, for I am sure I will too.

    Full-immersion all-in learning on a quiet weekend continues to be one of my favorite things!
    ‘Ike loa ~ the Hawaiian value of learning

  2. says

    Welcome to the cult of evernote! :) It’s one of those programs that before I used it I didn’t think I needed it but last night when I was in bed dozing off it dawned on my I have far fewer bookmarks/favorites any more because I use evernote to just save the webclips I want to find again. I don’t need to bookmark it and go back to it. I can bring the parts of the web I want to me and have them offline and at my finger tips.

    I still have bookmarked sites, but between RSS and evernote I would say my bookmarks are down to a 10th of what they were two years ago.
    .-= ´s last blog ..What tech can’t I do without? =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thinking about it while dozing off in bed?!? Is that what I have in store for me?

      Will admit I was getting carried away for a while, head swimming in all the possibilities” I get what you mean about bookmarks. I can be an obsessive tagger, and have been looking for a better Delicious alternative for a long time. Happy not to have the sharing/community component in Evernote (or if there is one I’m ignoring it) and for now am simply excited about having a searchable and sync-easy inventory that’s a personal filing cabinet of sorts. Being able to tag the iPhone grabs is golden.

  3. says

    And it winds up being useful in weird ways. For my food diary I snap a picture into evernote save with name of the meal Thurs Lunch and enter it later.

    Today at the gym I snapped name of the machine and named it 3×15@50 for 3 sets of 15 reps at 50lbs. It worked perfectly. When I got home I opened evernote on the laptop and there the information was to move into exercise journal. Phone, to web, to laptop and all seamlessly.

    I also love that it will scan the text IN a photo. Chest Press was one of the names of the exercises. I didn’t type it, it was on the photo I took of the machine. Now, if I type in the search box “Chest Press” it’ll bring up that picture and I can see how many reps I did on that day etc. The Optical Character Recognition on the signs etc in the pictures is pretty good too.
    .-= ´s last blog ..What tech can’t I do without? =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      I saw how that works when I took an iPhoto grab of the label on my MacBook Pro box just for fun and a test. Searched for “serial number” before I titled or tagged it, and it popped right up.

      So Rich, knowing how you manage other managers, I’ve got to ask: Do you use Evernote for work, and for any management tasks in particular?

  4. says

    It’s open constantly and is my capture device while I’m on the phone. I have a daily page that I use to generate action items while on the phone and when they’re done they just get deleted unless I need to move on it or follow up later in which case I put it onto my calendar (which syncs with my phone so I don’t lose track that way either.)

    I scan work memos, training materials, and any document I might need to look up in the future into Evernote, health insurance information packs, etc. Then if someone wants to know about it I can quickly search by keyword that may be in the document and print it out for them or just let them read it. Evernote’s not exactly social, but notebooks can be shared with either specific people or shared publicly. I share some work memo folders with specific managers and require Evernote login so just anybody can’t wander past and read our internals.

    Scanned memos are most helpful when someone wants to know what one said from six months ago I can search for a couple words in it and then read it to them. It has really enhanced my reputation as being very organized when I’m primarily a good tool user and search bar user. (It being able to search and index photos and pdfs never ceases to impress me.) As surprising as it sounds this has come up more than once where I’m only person who can put my hand on a memo sent out in December outlining the special/promo for January that will be paid out in mid-February and suddenly we get an e-mail asking “Were we paying 5% commission or commission based on beating goal by 5% anybody have the memo?” I wish I were kidding on that last one.
    .-= ´s last blog ..What tech can’t I do without? =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thanks so much Rich. My stats tell me we have had quite a few silent readers of this conversation already due to my twitter postings, and I am sure you are giving them some ideas!

      What I’m getting from your sharing is the ubiquitous capture being both searchable and quickly actionable.

      Going back to one of the items in this posting, I think it does help for managers to consider the different “streams” of their workflow. Individual work and teamwork can differ greatly, they can blend or overlap, and we can’t minimize the personal support we get (which positively affects our work effectiveness) when we know that we have a good handle on our own “business of life.” Even if you only use a tool like Evernote privately, the better organization of your non-work concerns can help you feel far less stress.

      Recently I had someone remind me to “let the experts do what they each are good at, and allow the partnership between them” when I lamented using two vendors for something instead of just one. It’s another way to look at productivity too, even when you are in a job, career, or Ho‘ohana where “it’s all personal.”

  5. says

    I should add I do have one hard and fast rule about Evernote for me and my managers. No personnel file information goes in it. I can’t be 100% sure on their security, and while I’m sure it’s great I would hate to be the person that lost their employees SSN’s etc due to accidentally sharing a file etc. It would be a HUGE help for me to use it that way… but out of an abundance of caution for their information I don’t.
    .-= ´s last blog ..What tech can’t I do without? =-.