Last week I illustrated how important it is, that while designing for the future we must continue to pay attention to improving our present operations. We often see that while something new is being introduced and while the new product or service is not yet fully worked out, tested and functional, the “old” product or service is suddenly dropped. The example of the annual vehicle inspection served to illustrate how a new system is introduced, without considering how best to continue present operations and services. While the answer to address such a situation is often found in working harder, we see that working harder alone does not solve the problem. We also need to work smarter. Surely, the new annual vehicle inspection system, and I repeat that it is good to upgrade the vehicle inspection system, could have been introduced gradually and in a way that would have caused little disruption. It could have been decided for example that vehicles older than 10 years or with more than 250,000Km on the clock, should be the first to be tested with the new equipment as they are the ones more likely to have problems. Allowing newer cars to be inspected, using the existing system in the meantime, would have helped to prevent the backlog we are witnessing now.
Another example of introducing new systems, without paying attention to improve present operations is found in the providing of Internet access. Our access to the Internet has never been up to the standard that users enjoy in other countries. Even in neighbouring countries these services are of a much higher standard, partly because of the competition that exists between service providers. Each provider has no option but to try and deliver good services against competitive prices, leaving the customer in the position to buy the best value for money. We find ourselves in a different situation though and have to do with what is offered by the sole service provider. To improve the services, an internationally renowned company has been contracted to manage telecommunications services, which was a welcomed move. Not surprisingly, the company began to work on introducing new systems, with the aim to provide more effective services. Soon we saw the introduction of the so called CMDA and EVDO, which promised to solve problems of connectivity in most locations and allows mobility of the user. While introducing the affordable dial up system, which most of us depended on until then, seemed to have been dropped simultaneously. Many users did not have access anymore and those who could afford went to purchase the CDMA or EVDO system. While the CDMA is the option with less capacity and thus cheaper, the EVDO is faster and a lot more expensive. The costs of EVDO are a standard Birr 500 per month plus extra charges, when use is in excess of the monthly basic bundle provided. When having to download files and documents frequently, the monthly costs can easily reach a few thousand Birr. The cheaper CDMA option should offer a solution here but it is so slow, it hardly works. In fact it is a waste of money. So without dial up and a very poorly functioning CDMA, internet access options are limited to the rather expensive EVDO and wireless broadband. So while the more expensive options are available only to those who can afford, the cheaper options only lead to frustration and the once slow but functioning dial up hardly exists anymore. By the way, whatever system the customer chooses, the services provided leave much to be desired as the Internet connection is interrupted frequently throughout the day. The question remains whether it is not possible that while new systems are being introduced and offered, is it not a must to continue to pay attention to improve present operations, until such a time that the new systems indeed works well and at an affordable price?
Doing business these days is unthinkable without Internet and if the business community is to play an effective role in our economic development, access to effective Internet services is very important indeed. You see, while we may be of the opinion that we are developing at a rather fast pace, in for example ICT, as long as the rest of the world is developing faster, and worldwide ICT is developing at a staggering pace, the gap between us and other countries only becomes wider.
The need to continue paying attention to our present operations, while designing our vision for the future, in fact is a principle that we should apply not only in doing business but also in our personal lives. While we may have a vision of what our future will look like and work hard day and night to build that dream house for example, we may overlook spending our days in a way that is enriching our family and social lives. Instead we have no time to maintain and further develop the relationship with our spouse and we are not available to spend quality time with our children and be there for them when they need us most. Just like our customers, by the time our new product or service is available, they may have left.