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A lot is being written these days about the interoperability trend. And much of it focuses on the benefits. And there are some. In a perfect world, if every technology communicated effectively with other technologies, we would achieve greater efficiencies and have far fewer headaches. Watching the improvements in healthcare, partially attributable to interoperability, illustrates these benefits. For example, electronic health records increasingly make it easier on patients who get sick on vacation or want to see other doctors. Providers can quickly get access to records in other places, sometimes. It’s not perfect.

We don’t live and work in a perfect world. In my experience as a patient, as beneficial as EHRs can be, the data aren’t always accurate. And they don’t take away the need for human beings to be involved and communicate with each other. We can’t simply aim for technologies to talk well with each other without helping humans do the same.

Let me first explain what interoperability means in very basic terms. It means that devices and software tools work seamlessly with other devices and tools. And on a broader basis, it means organizations can work together, i.e., inter-operate. In the world we live in, competition, fear, and money often drive decisions. Capitalism can be at odds with what is best for consumers or the planet.

And so, we have a world where companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google erect barriers to interoperability. For those who primarily live in one of these worlds, life works decently. If not, good luck.

If you are a gig worker, a consultant, or you simply don’t want all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, you may struggle. You might rely on companies like Zapier to ease your pain, but you still must identify your struggles and find a solution. And if you have a basic distrust of governments or businesses, that will further complicate your life. Here are the three reasons I’m struggling with the interoperability trend.

Having trouble adapting to the interoperability trend in tech? Here are three reasons why it can be beneficial despite the initial challenges. #interoperability #trends #software #technology #smartprojex Click To Tweet

1. Reliance on corporate strongholds

I recently embarked on a plan to remove Evernote from my tech stack mostly because the price has risen. It just isn’t performing as well as I’d like. Perhaps it’s my super large collection of notes but isn’t that the point of having a digital note organizer?

My biggest requirement was an extension that would allow me to excerpt articles and import them into my file. Because I clip from several different sources regularly, the more sophisticated extension that Evernote has beat out the others I tried. Another requirement was that the export/import process needed to work well.

I read or watched more product reviews than I can count. And I downloaded four or five different tools and imported some notes into each to see how they worked for me. I finally gave up and paid the money to stick with Evernote for another year. Maybe it will improve.

But the experience was indicative of how reliant we all are on the corporate strongholds that own the tools. They can change the terms and conditions, pricing, or the way the tool works without much notice, and it can wreak havoc. I’ve lost track of the amount of time that I have wasted because of bugs in other people’s software. And I can’t bill that time to a client in good conscious. Identifying bugs or trying to understand an interface change is never a part of the scope of my project.

The problem is particularly acute for content creators who rely on social media sites for revenues. An algorithm change can result in a major drop in revenues. And if the site shuts down or goes dark, the creator is left without recourse. Mailing lists can rarely be exported and seamlessly transferred elsewhere, and certainly not without effort.

2. Incompatibility and data security issues

The interoperability trend means that increasingly we are seeing tech companies design ways for different software and hardware tools to work together. The more that happens, the greater the benefits. But it opens the door for incompatibility and data security concerns to emerge. How many times have you had to shut down your laptop because several programs on your computer weren’t talking nicely to each other?

As mentioned, we are all reliant on corporate behemoths. How many of us read the terms when we download software? And yet, what are all these companies doing with our data?

And I just read that I’m not the only one starting to question this. Tech Brew reported that “Most CIOs say app sprawl is a problem. AI could make it worse.” The article points out the challenges of keeping up with all these apps, understanding risks and features, and the sheer time and money spent on this. And work management and AI tools are bursting forth by the day.

3. Technology can complicate your life

Most of my friends would say that I love technology. I was an early user of Quicken and an electronic checkbook that predated debit cards and allowed me to seamlessly download my checks into Quicken.

But I will be the first to tell you that technology often complicates my life much more than I would like. I spent an extra hour on my financial work because of a Quicken bug last week, which Quicken finally admitted was a known issue. My experience with Evernote consumed way too many hours of research and trials.

I went through six months of repair calls on a kitchen appliance before the seller acknowledged that I had a lemon. And after replacing it, I had to endure another service call because the installer tried to connect it to the Wi-Fi after being asked not to. And that meant, that this new kitchen appliance is now connected to my Wi-Fi.

I’ve put three washing machines and dryers in a landfill before finally buying an old-fashioned Speed Queen set – with no computer, and they are both going into year 11 with no problems. Let’s face it: computers do not like heat and moisture. But manufacturers keep putting them in kitchen appliances.

I’ve lost count of the number of technology problems with APIs that my teams have had to fix over the years. And I have wasted more time onboarding with a new client, with different tech stacks, than I want to count. And no, I don’t bill that time, just like I don’t bill for time wasted on a Word or Excel bug that delayed my work.

In closing, I continue to struggle with the interoperability trend because of my reliance on the corporations that own these technologies, compatibility issues, technology complexities, and time wasted on tech-related problems.  But I’m hopeful that AI may present opportunities to solve some of these challenges.

And as a project manager who has struggled with projects in companies with strained interoperability, I continue to actively explore building a team to build a new project or work management tool. And one of the key principles that I hold onto is the need for talking face-to-face. I often feel like I am swimming upstream, but I’m convinced that it’s the only way to improve our world. If you want to chat about this, reach out for a conversation.