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Time and tides: time management in print

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By Laurel Brunner
16 June 2011

Don't let bad IT or UUS cloud your view

Is it just me or does all this digital jiggery-pokery create less, rather than more, time to get on with life? The idea of digital tools is to take excess time out of processes, so that we can do more of them and be more efficient at whatever it is we do, so that we don't have to redo stuff. Consider digital workflow efficiencies for instance. How often is it that PDFs need to be redone because they trash the RIP or the proof shows up some horrendous colour error? Actually not that often, which is the good news.

Such errors occur less and less frequently, because digital pre-press technology is so very sophisticated these days. This is also good news. Most digital file processing errors are likely to be the result of Useless User Syndrome (UUS), rather than the software. The things that get in the way of business and personal efficiency are much more mundane, the lowest common denominator stuff that IT drives, sometimes well but often not well. These are such things as booking train tickets or transferring funds from one bank account to another. It used to be that you could pootle down to the railway station or bank and ask for what you wanted with reasonable confidence that it would get done.

These days if you try to do stuff in person, you're very likely to get referred to a website and are told, often rather crossly, to do it yourself. This is perhaps the root of the problem: a ticket agent used to booking tickets or a banker who spends their days managing funds can execute these tasks blindfolded because it is their core job. The rest of us bumble about wrestling with diverse user interfaces and different expectations for how websites behave. We find ourselves getting thoroughly hot and bothered and often get reduced to throwing massive and expletive laden tantrums. We may even find ourselves collapsing into tears or rendered to a similarly pointless stupor, exhausted, frustrated, intimidated and generally undermined. It's not fair, etc.

So we should all step back from this do-it-yourself mentality and start demanding more of IT systems that try to make us miserable in the conduct of our daily lives. Sign and display producers should remember that their core business isn't banking or travel or retail or anything other than producing lovely print at competitive rates and keeping customers happy and the wheels of commerce turning. Using technology is all well and good so far as it goes, but don't let it distract you from the job you do best: producing gorgeous work and keeping your customers satisfied.

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