Business Trip “to do list” item #18: Technology back-up plan
In order to be productive while overseas, you need to be prepared, and not be lulled into thinking you’ll be immune from inconvenient computer challenges. In fact, effectively managing technology is now a regular, strategic planning item for me, as there is no longer a one size fits all, analog telephone type solution.
I’ve been traveling internationally for over 20 years. Many of those trips involve China, where I often visit multiple times per year. With every subsequent trip, I find doing business there becomes steadily easier. The positive, “can do” attitudes, and tenacity, of my Chinese hosts are a huge help making things go smoothly, as a team approach is helpful when doing nearly anything in business.
Yet, regardless of my planned destination, or positive travel history with any country, every time I go online in my hotel room or client’s offices, I still always feel like a first-time arrival. Previously accessible services are suddenly non-existent, while others mysteriously morph back to life. This has nothing to do with China per se, as mobile access, Internet speed and connectivity are still moving targets in nearly every country I regularly visit.
Despite the many blogs and mainstream media, which remind you to regularly back-up your personal data, few of us still only do so in a cursory fashion, unless we have past hard drive meltdown battle scars. These days you not only need to pack in your (electronic) suitcase an IT back-up plan, but also ensure you have technological redundancy when traveling overseas.
Data is critically important to preserve, but if you can’t access it, the redundancy is moot. I never realized how much I took technological conduits for granted, until they were temporarily unavailable—in spite of advanced warning, and extensive worst-case scenario testing, before boarding the plane. Sometimes, unexpected IT stuff just happens.
Begrudgingly also accept that patience is still a virtue. I’m fortunate to speak Chinese, but the terms “remote access” and “bandwidth” don’t scream from my weekly vocabulary sheets. Even if I am understood, technological expectations will be different in every country, anyway, so your pleas might fall on deaf ears (in spite of the local language). You can also count on your hosts smiling broadly and telling you to get over yourself, calmly noting: “You’ll only be here for a week, anyway.”
Sometimes we’ll even need to give homage to a phrase from Plato’s Republic: “necessity is the mother of invention.” At times, I’ve been forced into writing Op Ed’s like this using the notes section of my phone, not knowing if I’ll have a continuous wifi signal.
In any country, and depending on your hotel or office’s IT infrastructure, email or 3rd party apps might be blocked, select web sites might be inaccessible, or your corporate email system might stop working. It might even take 10 minutes to send or receive a single message, despite using a personal mail account. When all else fails: electronically grid and bear it.
Greg Stoller is a lecturer involved in building entrepreneurship and international MBA business programs at Boston College. Check out his blog at www.bclob.com.