Copy chaos

Last week Halley Suitt wrote about the decreasing need to backup her computer, now that many of her most frequent tasks are carried out online. By using Yahoo for her email and Blogger for her weblog, she no longer has many important documents on her own computer. As she explained, even producing paper copies is convenient and easy:

I’m in the habit too of looking for my most recent CV or copy of a story as an attachment to email that I may have sent someone and even the act of attaching and sending, is in a way, a form of back-up. Again, if I’m out and need to get a CV to someone, I can go into Kinko’s, use their computer, go to my Yahoo email, check my sent documents, get the attachment that was my most recent CV and print it.

On Thursday came news that Halley’s approach is causing serious problems for larger businesses: BBC News | Technology | Document deluge threatens firms.

Documents can be copied so easily that most workers spend lots of time finding the latest version of contract or proposal they are collaborating on…

“E-mail has become a kind of document repository by proxy,” said Mr Pearson [who commissioned the research], “a lot of people are spending a lot of time looking for the latest version of a document.”

Next week iSociety is publishing the results of its research on the use of technology by British companies (see iSociety seminar: getting by, not getting on), and it doesn’t sound good:

…the reports [sic] major conclusion [is] that many UK organisations suffer from a ‘low-tech equilibrium’, and could do more to make the most out of the technology they have. Unskilled staff, uninterested management and disconnected IT people characterise too many UK workplaces.

That last statement certainly corroborates my experience. The staff uses IT, but can’t change it; management doesn’t use IT and doesn’t understand how it can help; and the IT department eats, sleeps and breathes IT, but isn’t in the real world.