“What we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things,” explained Dirk Gently, the eponymous holistic detective in Douglas Adam’s best-selling novel. “I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole.”
Dirk Gently typically investigated paranormal events, but today his philosophy of interconnectedness could equally equip him for a career in IT. Solving a technical issue these days can require you to be a kind of IT detective, investigating which of your apps, devices, networks or workflows is the genuine culprit when the obvious suspect turns out to be completely innocent.
We might think of the various bits of tech we use as separate tools for individual tasks. But no digital technology is standalone. Every device, app, gadget or whatever is reliant on a bunch of other tech to get things done – each sold separately. Our digital tools are really only components in a complex interconnected digital ecosystem.
It’s how everything works together that counts.
Digital marketers, particularly in social media, are used to working with a grab-bag of different apps, each focused on doing one thing well – and often a bunch of other related or tangential tasks slightly less well. How your various tools work together can be full of compromises and workarounds.
For example, I recently began using Zoom to record interviews, which automatically saves the audio to my computer as an .m4a file. But the app I use for audio editing doesn’t recognise .m4a files – something I always seem to forget until it smacks me with the error message. So, I have to use yet another app to convert the file to an .mp3 first.
It’s a workaround, and the end result is the same. But converting files takes time and effort that would be completely unnecessary if I worked with apps that were more compatible with each other. Which is why I’ve begun experimenting with other audio editing software that might be a better fit for my current workflows.
And that’s the thing. Picking devices or apps based on distinct tasks can mean your workflows have to be adjusted and compromised to fit the tools. Where possible, you should design your ideal workflows and then select the technologies which best suit the way you prefer to work.
When planning your workflows, consider what happens between tasks. How should data, files or projects move from one technology to the next. Look for opportunities to automate or simplify some of these in between steps.
Perhaps the CMS can integrate with the email marketing platform to automatically populate your newsletter with the latest articles, saving time and reducing the risk of manual errors.
You may be able to automate even more steps with Zapier – particularly when information needs to transfer between apps. For example, Zapier can automatically copy email attachments from your Gmail inbox to a Dropbox folder, or sync payment data from your PayPal account to a Google Sheet shared with your bookkeeper.
That last example is also a reminder to consider how your co-workers, clients and other stakeholders fit into things. Your workflows – and the tools to fit – need to be convenient for them as well.
Once you’ve mapped out your ideal workflows like this, many of your technology choices will become obvious because they support the necessary connections and integrations.
Like Dirk Gently, taking a holistic view of your digital environment, looking for the connections and patterns between things, can reveal the whole of your technology ecosystem is greater than the sum of its parts.
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