SMB Keeps IT Simple With 30-Second Rule

The COO of FedArb says if he can't explain a new technology or app to his users in 30 seconds, it fails. His users are retired federal judges.
On the ease-of-use front, Weil, who considers himself fairly technically savvy, is a one-man screening process. "If I can't figure it out in a couple of minutes without the manual, then sorry, it doesn't pass my test," Weil said. "From then on, I should be able to run it and explain it to people very, very quickly. If I can't, then it's too complicated. I've used that rule for a long time."

He also offers this advice on IT acquisitions in small-business environments: "Define what you need, rather than looking at what's available and [making] that fit what you're trying to do. Sometimes it's worth waiting a bit until the right solution is available rather than trying to shoehorn [one] that really is not designed to provide what you're looking for. Eventually, you'll suffer the consequences."

Weil's rigorous standards on ease of use have kept him in good stead. He doesn't hear the kinds of end-user grumbling that makes some IT pros claw their hair out. "I don't ever want to hear from a judge or anyone else, 'Jay, what are you trying to do to me? What is this?'" Weil said. He sees this as a matter of corporate culture; in FedArb's case, that culture mirrors the precision and transparency of the judges, who always make clear what they need and what they don't want from a technology standpoint.

"Our philosophy is very much quality of service and responsiveness, and ease of use is the key," Weil said. "We're not going to veer from that in any way. I think that's important. Smaller companies, especially, a lot of times [say]: 'Well, we'll let it go this time.' I've been around a long time, and those things come back to bite you."

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