Back in the 1990’s we had four big spiral notebooks on a table in the office. I’m talking huge, four-inch-wide, thick plastic covered, heavy-duty spiral notebooks. They contained our Inventory Sheets and tracked all the inventory in our store by vendor, item number, and price.
My dad created these sheets. Designed them himself and had them printed by the ream. There was a stack of blanks in the office right up until the day we closed.
These sheets were awesome for tracking purchase orders, receiving, and sales. If you wanted to place a new order, just do a quick physical inventory of that vendor, enter it onto the sheet and you could see what we had sold and needed to reorder.
Prior to the computer, this system was a godsend for us to keep track of 500 plus vendors and 30,000 skus. After the computer it was a relic.
When we switched to our second computer system in 1998, the inventory sheets were completely obsolete. My dad held onto them until he retired, but the computer streamlined the process so much that the sheets became a waste of time. In the old days it took my dad three days to write a Mattel order. With the computer I could do it in under an hour.
Sure, there was a learning curve to the computer. But the end result was a huge savings of time and resources. It was a major Upgrade.
I’m going through another form of Upgrade in my new job. Today I have been learning how to use Microsoft Teams. In my role I have to communicate with several people about several issues all day long. Often I have found myself sending out multiple texts and emails to try to stay in touch and get info. Teams is going to help me keep that organized and eliminate a lot of the time I spend tracking down old email threads, texts, and contact info.
Sure, there is a learning curve. But I can already see the end result being much better communication and less time spent tracking down information. Pretty soon it will be as natural to me as sending out a text or sharing something on Facebook.
Upgrades exist to make your life easier in the long run.
That is the important distinction. If you look beyond the short-term pain and see the long-term gain it is an Upgrade. If there is no gain, it isn’t an Upgrade, it is merely a Shift.
Shifts can be dangerous. They often are sold as Upgrades because of their newness. They sometimes masquerade as Upgrades because of new features they offer that you’ll never use.
Just like the Upgrade, they take up a lot of time and money at first, causing a lot of short-term pain. Unlike the Upgrade, they have no long-term gain. They only move your resources from one place to another.
You’ll see these Shifts most often in advertising. Online advertising, social media advertising, and mobile-marketing are all Shifts, not Upgrades.
The best way to avoid Shifts is to ask this most important question …
Will this shiny, new tool save me Time or Money?
If you cannot answer Yes, it is most likely a Shift, not an Upgrade, and probably not worth your limited resources. Now you know the difference.
PS Sometimes you have no choice but to make a Shift because the old way is obsolete and no longer available (think credit card chips). Hopefully you can find a new way that also brings you a benefit (like Apple Pay capabilities.) When someone pitches you a shiny, new tool, ask yourself if it is merely a Shift or truly an Upgrade. Always wait for the Upgrade.