I am a member and the secretary of a well-known international service organization. Our chapter, here in beautiful Athens, Texas, is large and active; we regularly attract new members. As secretary, it’s my job to add them to the national membership database. I hate it. Almost the worst part of the job. Not because it’s complicated or difficult, but because, sometimes, it’s a pain in the 🍑(PIA).
I recently spent an hour trying to add a new member to our roster. The task took far longer than it should have because the international headquarters program didn’t like the way the member wrote their address. The program even told me what address to use; I copied and pasted it in and it still didn’t work. Over and over I tried, feeling the onset of insanity. I believed that I was doing everything the right way, and repeatedly, the program told me I am wrong and wouldn’t let me proceed. I don’t even remember how I solved that particular problem, but I do remember the time spent and the frustration endured. And now, I hate to add members because I never know if it’s going to be (as the late Tina Turner would say) “nice and easy” or “nice and rough”!
Brings me back to the early days of agricultural technology. It’s easy, the software designers would say. But try that on the farm? Not so much. I remember a few farmers who would spend hours trying to make a gadget or program work. But most farmers would get frustrated and throw it away. Of course, not away away, but rather in that corner of the shed where things go that don’t work.
Is it the same today? Certainly, expectations have risen higher than ever. In days past, before Blackberry phones, everything was complicated. Now, in the days when we’re likely to see an iPhone 65, everything needs to be so intuitive; you’re not even thinking, you’re just doing.
I went to a presentation about generational expectations a while ago. The speaker said: “For boomers, we say ‘make it as simple as 1, 2, 3.’ For today’s generations, we say ‘make it as simple as 1.'”
I think consistency is also incredibly important. A given task has to be simple and repeatable every time. It has to account for a little nuance. Entering “Street” into a program database should be as acceptable as “St.,” a bugaboo and stalling-out place of my membership entry program.
I think the PIA factor is overlooked too often in creating technology, equipment, and products that farmers trust in and use regularly. Experts say things like “technology has to be easily incorporated into existing practices to be accepted widely.” That’s another way of saying, don’t make it a PIA. And salespeople? Don’t be a PIA. Products that sweep through agriculture and stay there have consistently good results and are PIA-free.
Let’s all do what we can do make farming a PIA-free zone.