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Computer Technology at Work

This is an important year in the world of computer software. Microsoft is releasing several versions of the long-awaited Vista operating system. On top of that, Office 2007 is also hitting store shelves.

Whenever Microsoft introduces major changes like this, just about every PC software maker is forced to respond with compatible new versions. The early word is that a lot of current software will require a substantial amount of rewriting before it can run on Vista. We should expect an endless stream of patches and fixes. In other words, dont migrate to Vista too quickly.

Most of us have had bad experiences implementing new software that left us banging our heads against the wall for weeks. How many times have we been stranded while waiting on hold for an hour or more for tech support? When the representative finally comes on the line, she responds by asking you to hold again while she checks her resources to locate an answer to your question. If she has to escalate your problem to the next support level (the brainy guys you are not allowed to speak with) you should plan on waiting for days before getting the right solution via e-mail.

Keep in mind that we are in the business of delivering electronics technology. Over the years, computer technology has gotten harder and harder. As professionals, if we experience this much difficulty today, the average home user of the future will be lost when attempting to diagnose virus problems, administrate e-mail servers, configure IP addresses, connect networks and routers, and manage HTML code needed for basic computer operations.

Lets consider the specific computer needs of our industry. In 2007 the challenge in managing computer technology for your installation business is in finding just the right tool for the jobthe tools that save you time, not waste your time.

Lets break down a sample computer and software setup a typical small installation firm might need. Start with two current desktop PCs for your office. These will need to run Windows XP or Vista as your operating system. Microsoft Office will let you do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations e-mailing, and some scheduling. Connect these two computers behind a wireless router and a high-speed cable modem or DSL. This gives both computers the ability to access the Internet and to share files across this ethernet network.

Your salesperson needs a great way to create proposals for your clients. Choosing the right software for this is very important to your success. The right proposal software speeds the process of writing proposals and helps salespeople stay focused on selling, not on computing. The wrong proposal software can overwhelm a salesperson and waste months of valuable time in a complicated effort to implement it. The right proposal system will go beyond Word, Excel, and QuickBooks in creating a powerful system solution for managing all of your products, pricing, and labor without the burden of hiring additional staff to operate the software. A basic drawing program like Visio can also be helpful for illustrations.

Install QuickBooks Pro on one of these desktops for your bookkeeping needs. Work with an accounting firm that also uses this software so that you can eliminate duplication of effort.

Lastly, your service and installation staff will need current laptops with built-in network and wi-fi connections so they can connect in the office and in the field. Load these laptops with the software needed to install and program your systems at your jobsites.

New wireless cards from Verizon and other cell phone companies are great because they offer go-anywhere high-speed Internet connectivity. This type of laptop hardware offers additional options of staying connected to your office systems even when traveling. In the future, mobility will be a key factor in helping sales, installation, and service staff on the go stay connected to important systems back in the office.

Rich Riehl ([email protected]) is a Los Angeles-based consultant to the CI business and creator of BidMagicAV.