The social-networking age

Superboss has little faith in Techie (our popular Computer expert) for the simple reason that he had joined the company before the ‘social networking age’. In our office, the advisor’s job for new age technologies is reserved for the youngest and preferably the newest member of the staff.

The advice of the ‘youngest member’ is generally impractical and is resented by the Tech department. Techie’s frequent objections to sundry ‘bright ideas’ has led Superboss to believe that Tech Deptt is anti-progress.

However, the matters took a serious turn when Soapy joined our office in the accounts department. Given his youthful looks, and an obvious lack of technical education, he was given the honorary post of Chief Advisor for new technologies. His flashy, multi-colored cell phone helped seal his credential as a ‘high-tech hot-shot’ firmly in the mind of Superboss.

Now, Soapy is not your average greenhorn. He is a go-getter – confident, brash and self-assured. What he lacks in experience, understanding and knowledge, he covers up with bluster and aggression. He bombards us all with email greetings virtually on a daily basis and his principle pass-time is listening to the jokes and anecdotes of the senior managers.

Mr A had approvingly remarked that Soapy has all the qualities to reach the top, fast. In fact, Superboss lovingly told us one day that Soapy reminded him of the days when he, the Superboss that is, had joined this office.

Soapy also had initiative. He volunteered to make a tech plan for the next five years for the organization. This meant that Soapy was not to do any of his routine accountancy-related work and Mr X, Soapy’s immediate boss, was told not to disturb him.

Soapy went about his business with a gusto that was impressive. He attended all the top meetings, taking careful notes, presumably to understand the nuances of the organization. He spent hours in the chamber of Superboss and other bosses, interviewing them. The only places he avoided during his research were the Tech Deptt and our lunch room.

Only Superboss was privy to the masterpiece in progress. About six months later, when most of us had even forgotten the grand pursuit, a meeting was called to unveil the plan. All were invited to ‘participate and contribute’.

The presentation began with the usual glitches of connectivity, where the Tech Dept initially failed to provide the input to the overhead projector from the gizmo on which the presentation was loaded. At the back of the conference room, some of the juniors recognized the gadget to be a ‘tablet’. Mr A and Mr X exchanged glances that exchanged the following data – “When did the office buy a tablet?” “Don’t know. Have you been given one?” “No. Have you?” “No.”

Tech Deptt’s lack of ability to connect a new gadget in matters of seconds was held up as another proof of its ‘outdatedness’. Techie’s protest that he should have been informed earlier was dismissed by Superboss as an irrelevant excuse.

Anyway, Soapy was introduced as the next big thing, and was asked to begin. He began, Steve Jobs style – with a bang. He brought to our notice the existing sad state of affairs in our office and praised Superboss for his vision. How he reconciled this contradiction was however not spelt out.

Next he moved to the generalizations – pointing out that it was an era of social networking, and that internet should be used more effectively if we are to survive the digital age. Everyone, except Techie, nodded. Techie seemed to be holding some grudge against social networking, and Superboss too noticed this.

Soapy then came to the more substantive part of unveiling the ‘vision’ of the Superboss with the following words- “To unlock the potential of the new tech, we will leave the old, discard the redundant and adopt, without further ado, the tools of modern technology. First to go will be paper – our office will become paperless in three months,” he announced grandly and paused for effect.

Superboss beamed, and everyone else looked blankly for the ‘eureka moment’, when it was to be revealed how we would discard our records of over 50 years related to our agents, clients, accounts, personal files, property and so on and so forth.

Soapy continued, “Next we will end our dependence on agents and market ourselves directly to the clients through the social networks. We will prune our HR department and use LinkedIn more efficiently. We will track all our processes through automated job processing software. We will have voice-recognition software and eliminate the need for office assistants. We will work on identifying processes that can be outsourced, and hire BPO agencies accordingly. We will stop using snail mail and save on the courier services. All external communication will be through emails and internal communications through SMSes. Not only will these steps raise efficiency, they will have a positive financial implication.” Then he went into details, department-wise.

It was soon clear that the organization can be run by a two-member team – of Superboss and Soapy – the rest seemed to be doing things that could be better handled either by technology, or by a BPO agency.

For most of the people in the room, the ‘eureka moment’ passed by unattended. After the presentation, there was little that came out by way of ‘participation and contribution’. Superboss glared at the Department Heads, clearly expecting them at least to sing paeans of praise, if not add to the grand plan. None came forward. Next Superboss looked towards Techie, and the latter had no excuse – he had to give his opinion, given the fact that he was the one who was supposed to implement the plan.

“Umm..errr…I have to breakdown the project into individual components and see the feasibility…” Techie began, trying to sound positive. But the response was clearly wide off the mark.

Superboss erupted, “That is what is wrong with this organization. No initiative. This is something you should have done long ago, and now that it is presented to you on a platter, you still want to dither and buy time. I cannot allow this.” And continued for some time along similar lines.

But then we had a stroke of luck. Mr X, no doubt with evil intentions, ‘contributed’. He suggested that such an important project, one that is likely to change the organization for ever, cannot be left with Tech Deptt only. “I propose that we make a committee of Departmental heads to oversee implementation, and this committee should be headed by Mr A,” he submitted.

For the first time there was a minor applause in the room. Even Superboss looked pleased with the idea. The only two persons who were not totally convinced of the ‘feasibility’ of this idea were Soapy and Mr A.

When we reached the office of Mr A, I asked him how he planned to go about the task of technological revamp. He looked at me curtly and replied, “David, that is a silly question to ask. The project will be handled as all projects are. Obviously.”

Techie, who was also in the room, sighed with relief. This was the first bit of good news for him in days. I looked proudly at the unruffled figure of my boss, Mr A, who had by now started a game of Scrabble on the social networking site, Facebook.

***

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About Abhishek

I will let the blog speak for itself...or, at times, for me. View all posts by Abhishek

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