If selecting productive technologies is an art form, then knowing when to shun them must be pure genius. The animal that is technology continues to grow new limbs and heads, too often without regard for the marketplace. The mass exodus of near-philanthropic investors in the last couple of years is sober second thought painted large. Tradeshow floors around the world are still rife with products and services that vendors pray will find even a niche market. Innovation is capable of giving a business plan legs, but it can also hobble the process despite our best intentions.  It is heresy in some circles to question that the fruits of technology innovation may not be a panacea for modern day business. But question we must. Does the world need a beer glass with an embedded transponder to signal a bartender when the grog is gone? Will end-users tolerate a cell phone with a computer keyboard so compact you have to type with a knitting needle? Will we buy a piano on the Internet without first feeling the action of the keys and steeping in its resonance?  There is little doubt that videoconferencing is a useful business communications tool, but sometimes it's more prudent to convene everyone under one roof. It can be counterproductive to suppress the subtle nuances of human communication, and videoconferencing can only conjure digital projections of customers and cohorts. It can spawn wooden actors who role-play from disparate movie sets when you need a cohesive troupe engaged in live theatre. It's the "distance of death," where creativity can crash in a communications vacuum.  Know when to schedule  The canny business manager, however, knows when to schedule a videoconference, and when to distribute the airline tickets. Another huge advantage of travel over video is the opportunity it provides to visit prospective customers, clients, suppliers or partners once you're out there. Shrewd business people rarely schedule a meeting in a far-off locale without also trying to break bread with someone who can advance the cause.  And of course, even a technology as well established as email can cause grief on the cube farm. We know that email can kill efficiency when harried employees forward fat attachments hither and yon to avoid future recrimination. Email slavery has transformed the notion of the "paperless office" into a cruel joke as employees print out the non-relevant for non-perusal at their non-leisure.  In the right hands, technology innovation is an essential operational component to business. Wal-Mart is legendary for its online ability to simultaneously transact a sale, deduct the item from the store's running inventory and provide shipping instructions for a replacement - all from the cash register. Systems integration is money in the bank when the sale of a garden gnome in one region triggers shipment of a clone gnome from the closest warehouse depot. Small wonder Wal-Mart's shelves and bottom line remain robust. Unwary suppliers who fail to fulfil requests for products that are out of stock might as well throw those would-be profits into a coke oven.  The impact of technology on e-business and e-government will be a moving target until suppliers get a handle on how we work. The federal government is in the throes of learning how to serve its constituency almost entirely online. One suspects that there will be so many layers on the e-government onion that navigation could be onerous. Then again, bringing the government to the people - instead of the other way 'round - is an admirable quest. Perhaps the only traffic we'll encounter as we head into government offices in the future will be on the other end of a mouse. But will they ask us first what we really want?  Brant Scott was editor of Network Letter from 1994 to 1999 before he was appointed chief writer/editor of telecom decisions at the CRTC. He is currently a communications and public relations consultant in Ottawa.