Digital transformations, the human element

The evolution of man being halted by a robot

As a child of the 70’s I’m no stranger to the stories of people losing their jobs to automation and industry. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s redundancies featured in the news as world changes and technology took their toll on mining and manufacture. Even in the early 2000’s at the BBC, archivers who put physical tapes on physical shelves fell victim to technology’s appetite for our jobs (or over zealousness to help).

In the digital interactive services business we eagerly strive to design new efficiencies… Often blindly as we reduce a human’s working day into a series of clicks on calculated prompts.

What do we do when we find ourselves looking someone in the eye, handing them a pad of post-its and dot stickers and asking them to tell us how to (potentially) put half of them out of work?

I had a conversation with a friend recently, imagining what it would be like to be a lawyer… Rather random. But we were talking about an ability to reason, argue, and do the right thing. My observations were around the abstractions of morality and law, that in this employment, Law is the requirement, not necessarily morality. Your job is to secure a fair trial for your client, everyone fights their corner, does their best… and trust the numbers. Regardless of your feelings (or suspicions) you’ve been employed to make an argument.

I feel the same about the work I do and service I provide in digital for clients. For every faux villain “money pinching” employer (sic), there’s potentially a workforce manually re-doing things that should never have been done twice – manually. That’s not how progress works.

So what’s the approach when making software that’s going to make someone’s working day “easier”? As designers we need co-operation; Workshopping the workflows, extracting the requirements and filtering out current process from actual problems to be solved.

Mostly people will be happy that you’re solving their problem. Just watch out for the people who cling to the current solution, who need that solution, because their entire raison d’etre is the intimate knowledge of that said solution.. And not actually delivering on the job that the problem exists for.

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