It’s all about “the needful”, as in “tell me what’s required and I’ll do the needful”. The first time we heard the expression, in an email from an India-based client, we took it for one individual’s idiosyncratic use of language.
It turned out that in Indian English, it’s an everyday expression. It means “all you required to achieve what you want”. When it comes to spending your tech bucks, focusing on your needful is a top priority.
Take Dresden Optics, the start-up that’s won the hearts of investment bankers Investec and its new Emerging Companies Australia Fund. It provides customers with custom-made glasses with the bare minimum in tech extravagance.
The only real technology at front of house is one benchtop device that reads optical prescriptions from existing spectacles, and another that grinds new lenses in a few minutes, on the spot.
Thanks to that set-up, you can walk in wearing your current specs and depart with a classy new pair 25 minutes later, for less than $50. Every retailer knows the first sale is the hardest to win, and Dresden uses its tech to make that buying decision easy.
Buy what you need
The needful is usually the best guide when you’re making a tough tech choice. With Apple releasing a new iPad Pro and now an upgraded MacBook Air, we admit we’re conflicted. The 2018 iPad Pro is as close to a notebook replacement as an iPad has ever been, and we’d love to treat ourselves to the upgrade.
But for all the web-surfing, video recording and editing, movie-watching and note-taking we do on the road, our personal needful is word processing.
The high value activity we undertake in cafes and railroad cars, at client offices and the back seats of Ubers, is document production and editing. That means a great keyboard, genuine mouse or trackpad control and the ability to run full-strength versions of Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Writer.
So, on the basis of a dispassionate assessment of our requirements, a MacBook it will be.
As cool as they are, the iPads don’t support mice, their keyboards aren’t snappy enough and the flagship word processors won’t run on them.
It’s said that one of the main reasons why enterprise IT projects fail is for lack of clear definition of requirements. If you aren’t sure what you want, you probably won’t get it. It’s the same in our personal technology choices.
Famously, at least for long-time readers of this column, we abandoned Word as our everyday word processor years ago. We’ll work in Word if required, but LibreOffice remains our weapon of choice, and that’s driven by three key needs.
- The documents we create typically feature extensive automated numbering, cross-referencing and indexes. We need a product that handles those rock solid, and Word has long been fragile and unstable in the document outlining department.
- We use document mark up day-in and day-out, and our word processor must handle it as cleanly as possible. Word’s deeply distracting habit of marking up re-numbered paragraphs as deletion of the old number and insertion of the new one makes it awful for the task in legal documents.
- We move between Mac and PC environments, so we need a word mill that works as nearly as possible identically on both platforms. In many ways, we like Word for Mac more than Word for Windows, but we resent that the two are so different.
All other things being equal, we’d opt for LibreOffice because of its superiority in those three areas. It does what we need.
In the workplace, how often do businesses consider what they really need from their tech, and focus on getting it?
When was the last time your team was asked what would make a word processor, or a laptop, or a task management solution work for them? Are you giving the needful the focus it deserves?
Peter Moon is a technology lawyer with Cooper Mills. firstname.lastname@example.org