by Aaron Lazenby and Margaret Terry Lindquist; additional editing by Marta Bright, May 2007
Joshua Greenbaum has 20 years of experience in the technology industry as a computer programmer, systems analyst, author, and consultant. Prior to starting his own firm, Enterprise Applications Consulting, he was one of the first industry analysts to focus exclusively on the enterprise software space, and he has followed Oracle since the mid-1980s. Profit spoke with him to get his insight into how technology has affected all businesses.
PROFIT: What has surprised you about the state of technology today?
GREENBAUM: I'm surprised at how infused business has become with technology and also how much more headroom there is for innovation and technology in business communications and business relations. Every frontier that gets conquered only exposes a new frontier.
PROFIT: If someone from 30 years ago was transported to today, what would be the biggest surprise to that person about how technology has impacted our business lives?
GREENBAUM: Somebody jumping 30 years into the future would be both impressed and underwhelmed. I remember as a kid watching The Jetsons—we figured we would all have our own jet packs and rocket ships, and that didn't happen. I also think we tend to regard technology as a panacea, but the world has only gotten more complicated, despite all this new technology. That said, I believe that the empowerment of the individual—and, therefore, the corporation or the enterprise—that technology has enabled is just tremendously impressive.
PROFIT: What might surprise somebody from today who gets bumped into the future by 30 years?
GREENBAUM: When I see where we're going with the blending of personal communications, personal productivity, and business productivity, I think there is going to be a very impressive capacity for the individual to act in ways that are impossible today.
PROFIT: What's the biggest benefit that technology has given to society so far? And what's the worst effect?
GREENBAUM: Regarding a benefit, if I had to pick one word, I would say communications. Communications in terms of what we need as buyers and sellers, as providers of services, as consumers of services, as managers and workers. Being able to communicate requirements, communicate when there are exceptions, and communicate the solutions to these exceptions will tie us all together into a hopefully efficient and at times, unfortunately, complex web of interactions.
I think the worst effect is that this increased level of communications left us with much more complicated lives than we ever imagined. We now have the ability to work 24/7 in a global office, communicating as much as we possibly can, and that doesn't necessarily make our lives easier or better. It certainly makes them richer, but that's a trade-off that isn't necessarily all positive.