Technology

The problem-solvers and the rest of us

Patrick Stafford /

Given it’s bushfire season, and our fair country is being ravaged by flames in at least two different states, it seems an appropriate topic to discuss.

The latest heatwave is making things worse for people caught in fires, and especially those who are dedicating their time to getting the blazes under control. They deserve an enormous amount of respect – but equally interesting is the technology being used to help them in their efforts.

About 18 months ago, I spoke to the head of an IT support company whose business was focused on traditional IT services like infrastructure, and messaging. Part of the business involved experimenting with voice technology – all very interesting.

But the founder got an idea during the Black Saturday bushfires. He had some trouble finding out where all the bushfires were occurring, as it was all happening so fast. His company developed a system whereby automated calls warn groups of people that fires are coming their way. People would even receive automated calls when a total fire ban had been announced.

Now the company is experimenting with more ways to keep people informed of what’s going on with bushfires, and even expanded the technology to come up with new ways of using it – like informing parents if their children haven’t arrived at school. The business has even used the technology for a timesheet system.

It’s certainly not the first time a business has created a technology to solve a problem. After all, that’s what many entrepreneurs are told to do – identify a problem, and then sell the solution. This company represents a whole range problem-solvers that are getting to the sticky issues before you even know they’re an issue.

You may not be battling a bushfire. But to be sure, you’re probably dealing with various problems in your own workplace that could be dealt with by one piece of technology or another.

And you may not know a solution already exists.

I was recently speaking to the head of an IT department who shared a story. A worker who depended on the company’s wireless network was getting a poor signal. Without checking with the IT department, this worker moved his computer closer to the router in order to get a better connection.

He moved all his belongings to a new desk, halfway across a large room, away from his usual colleagues.

But had the worker actually spoken to the IT manager, he’d know that the company could have purchased equipment to extend the wireless signal and solve his problem.

These two stories represent different dynamics – the business which identified a problem, and then solved it. The other person identified a problem, and then succumbed to it.

Which is your business? For that matter, which are you? Are you the type of entrepreneur who identifies a problem and then gives up, or do you look for a solution? And if one exists, are you the type of person who tries to figure out a better answer?

Given we’re heading into a new year, in which technology will once again be more important than ever, it’d be best to find out.

You can follow Patrick Stafford on Twitter @pdstafford.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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