The first episode of Star Trek (the original series) aired in September of 1966. Though never widely popular during its initial three-year run, the science-fiction TV show has since given rise to four subsequent TV series, 13 major motion pictures, and a Saturday morning cartoon. Through it all, science-fiction technology has been prominent. As IT professionals, we thought we'd consider a few lessons taken from the use of Star Trek technology.
Here are five important things we recognized:
- The only worthwhile technology is that which helps you achieve your mission ... The imagination of writers, special-effects artists and prop-masters brought all sorts of tools, weapons and spacecraft to life for Star Trek fans. But while they may have fueled our own imaginations (and even inspired real-life scientists and inventors), Star Trek technology was only introduced to advance plots by helping fictional captains and crews carry out story-critical tasks. This is an important point to remember for small-to-midsized business (SMB) owners when investing in new technology. Though a new operating system, device or software program may seem dazzling, if it doesn't actually help you improve productivity, operate more efficiently, or better serve customers, there's no reason to bring it aboard.
- That said, second-rate technology can leave you at a competitive disadvantage. How many times have Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway ... et al found themselves confronting a belligerent and technologically more-advanced alien race? Whether dealing with Romulan cloaking devices or Borg Cubes, only fast-thinking and courage under fire have kept our heroes alive when facing better-equipped interstellar enemies. Fortunately, any SMB on planet Earth has pretty much the same access to the latest IT innovations as any other. So when careful cost-benefit analysis warrants the investment, don't hesitate to seek a technological advantage over the 'Klingons' in your market. And because we know all the available technology options can be a bit overwhelming, your friends at SynchroNet are always happy to offer impartial advice.
- Staff must be adequately trained to maximize the value of technology. The characters aboard the various Enterprises all had different posts: Sulu at navigation, Uhuru listening at communications, Worf at weapons ... and they were all proficient in using the technology their duties required. Yet with the possible exception of the android Data, crew members had no inherent ability to use the amazing devices at their disposal; they had to be trained. Technology is only as good as the people who use it. For SMB owners and managers to get the full benefit of IT systems and solutions, they must make sure staff is adequately prepared to use the tools provided to them.
- When systems are off-line, you're in a bad situation. If you've ever watched the Star Trek shows or movies, you know that the warp-engines, phasers, shields, or transporters will fail at some critical juncture. That's great for sci-fi entertainment, but business owners and managers could certainly do without the drama that accompanies IT-system breakdowns. And though you don't have to fear a warp-core breach, a crashed server can bring your operations to a screeching halt, costing you income that you may never recover. So what can you do? No one can stop a malevolent Q from wrecking your day. However, conscientious monitoring and management of your IT systems, business continuity protocols, and smart processes can greatly mitigate problems to keep your company up and running. (FYI, that's The SynchroNet Way!)
- You need a chief engineer. With doom impending, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott was constantly being asked to repair a disabled ship, get the transporter working, or coax extreme power from his engines. He knew his stuff, and Kirk could always count on Scotty to be a miracle-worker in the nick of time. In the real world, few small companies can afford the kind of on-staff technological expertise that the fictional Mr. Scott represents. But when unforeseen problems do arise (and despite all best efforts and precautions) there needs to be a go-to-expert who can quickly assess the situation, make trustworthy recommendations, and step in with the necessary solutions. Star Trek had its Scott, LaForge and O'Brien ... SMBs in western New York have SynchroNet.