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Digital advances continue to shape the learning curve

I always have my iPhone in my purse if not glued to my hand. It has become an extension of my brain. I can’t seem to function without it. Often I have my iPad with me, too, which provides most of the same services as my iPhone, but at a size I can read without squinting.

 There are many business people out there who operate the same way, though I still see the occasional suit sporting a paper calendar. You have to do what works for you, and that used to be me. Let me explain why my non-digital brain is now making a huge effort to ride the digital wave.

 The past several years have brought dramatic changes to my business life. Gone are the multiple Post-It notes, scratch papers, and reminder emails to myself. Now I use two basic programs to track everything I need, from appointments to contacts, emails, projects, and tasks, and all include deadlines, priorities, and descriptions.

 My generation was not born into the digital age. We were approaching our late teens and early adulthood as information technology hit. Unlike current generations who are born knowing how to use an iPhone (like my 2½ year-old daughter who can navigate it almost better than I can), I had to learn the skills after high school. It was not easy. I’m sure there are classes available now, not to mention Google and YouTube links for any how-to you can imagine. At the time it took trial and error to learn.

It’s a slower learning curve for my less-analytical, less-digital yet more-creative brain, because I didn’t grow-up with it. That doesn’t prevent me from seeking advanced solutions, or getting excited about opportunities the digital era brings to business.

I see potential gains, even if I don’t understand how it all works. 

  The BBB’s focus this year has been external: Showing what the BBB is about and why we’ve been a community asset  for the past 100 years – and why we will continue to be so for the next century. This is a moving target. There are so many elements that go into a strategic plan. How do you keep track of all the projects, assignments, goals, strategies, tracking, scoring, etc? There are so many options. 

 We found the perfect solution by way of an Excel-like, Web-based program that allows us to set up spreadsheets in whatever format we want to track outcomes. Every user can access it, anywhere, at anytime. You can share certain sheets with certain people, receive automatic emails when sheets are updated, and even create a ticket tracking system for open issues. How did I survive before this?

 The technology allows us to collaborate across the country without requiring shared servers, or multiple versions of saved documents, or everyone having to purchase and download the same, latest versions of software. What a time and money saver. 

At the BBB, it’s helped us streamline and prioritize so that our immediate needs are met and good ideas are not lost. We hold monthly meetings just to review our “Initiative List” to give status updates, add new projects, cross off completed projects, and re-prioritize the list. It has resulted in more collaboration, completing more initiatives and tracking progress so that we’re always moving forward. That’s worth the digital effort.

 I challenge each of you to perform a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) on your business. What slows you down? Where are your strengths? What would make them even stronger? Where do you want to be at the end of the year and what’s preventing you from getting there? Now take that list and find the appropriate tools to make life easier.

 There will be a learning curve, as always, when you stretch your comfort zone. In the end you should come out with a smoother, more streamlined and ultimately more productive process for hitting your strategic goals.