This week we learned that local councils have found a new way to profit from persecuting the public they supposedly 'serve', by appointing henchmen to administer on the spot fines for littering. Not that they've cleaned up the streets in any way (Bromley is still awash with takeaway wrappers and vomit, according to one radio reporter) any more than the Krays offered local businesses protection.
They have managed to make themselves much richer and the poor much poorer though. Sadly, I have to report, technology is to blame. The culture of on-the-spot fines began with wheel clamping and car towing, and to my shame I worked in IT support for one of the contractors. As an insider, I can confirm your suspicions. It was all about the money that could be raised. When people stopped parking badly, the contractors thumped the table and asked for the goalposts to be moved. So millions of people were unfairly punished, just so some hatchet faced, jumped-up breakdown and recovery merchant could satisfy his growth targets. Thousands of people's lives are made miserable just to feed the delusions of grandeur of a few fat cats.
No, don't tell me to calm down, I'm hopping mad!
Somehow, I can't help feeling technology is delivering the opposite of its original purpose. It's supposed to save us time and yet how often do we see technology being used to make things far too complicated? How often have you pitched for a tender and found that the spec has been cut and paste from some previous template with no thought to its relevance. This happens because the minion involved is too insecure to devise their own questions, so they bulk up their document with questions they borrowed from a previous spec. If you're pitching for that work, you can't afford to ignore the stupid questions though – it's too risky. As a result, technology is used to make all the contractors jump through millions of pointless fiery hoops in the vain hope of clinching a tender that's probably already been allocated to the minion's mate.
Even techies agree with me. Timo Ahomak, CTO at Tecnotree (which makes management and billing software) says the technology is the easy bit in a system. “The business processes are much harder to change. There are more stakeholders and more unknowns,” says Ahomak. And this is a man who devises billing systems, and there's no man more dedicated to cutting to the chase than the one who works out your bill.
One solution might be to impose on-the-spot fines for people who use technology inappropriately. Whoever devised all the hundreds of meaningless fields for HMRC's online tax return site ought to be fined. Or billed for all the millions of self-assessment tax payer's hours that they pointlessly wasted.
Whoever it is that always makes you define your religions, sexuality and ethnicity in any online application, should be fined. Or sacked. If it's not relevant, why make us declare it?
Hopefully if my MP listens and a bill makes its way through Parliament, soon resellers will be able to impose on the spot fixed penalties for this sort of thing, or even impound technology from serial offenders. My goal is for this to create a massive amount of opportunity for the channel. But, I hear you ask, how will you spot potential targets for these fixed penalty notices?
"The word ‘disruptive’ is overused. The last thing that any business wants is more disruption."
Mark Seemann, Synety
Mark Seemann, the CEO of cloud telephony firm, Synety has some pointers. Target anyone using the word disruptive, for starters. “The word ‘disruptive’ is overused. The last thing that any business wants is more disruption. They want to do things smarter, quicker, cheaper: and they want it to be easy, without hassle, and certainly without disruption.”
Amen to that, says Richard Stone, CEO at ElasticHosts, who adds another phrase that should be punished with a fine. Look out for cloud computing wannabes who suddenly talk about calling the hosting provider or waiting 24 hours to scale up your capacity. “If you have to ask the provider to manually adjust capacity on your behalf, the offering is not a cloud, they are just hosting providers that have stuck the word ‘cloud’ on their marketing leaflets.”
It's quite common for hosts to dress up and try to pass themselves off as clouds, say IT relationship experts. Transvendors are quite fashionable in the IT industry. It's mostly harmless, unless it affects the poor users, who suddenly find all their data is lost and they have to key it all in again.
The cloud industry could provide a great hunting ground for on-the-spot fines targeted at those who misuse technology. Does anyone want to support Misuse of IT Bill (2013)? Answers on a tweet to @othisbloodypc.
Image credit: Flickr, the Highways Agency
This was first published in February 2013