IT Solutions: Opportunity or Threat?

02 Jan 2014

When computers were first becoming popular and were still the size of large rooms, many feared that the continued (and accelerating) evolution of technology would mean the end for their jobs. Decades later, this has yet to pan out, despite our phones being more powerful than the large room-sized computers were. However, there are still those among us who fear that improving technological capabilities will threaten their jobs. Why is that the case?

Different people have different perspectives on their jobs

Some people very clearly do their jobs from the perspective of making a difference in the lives of the people they work with, the world, the environment, etc. For many, this perspective is less obvious, but most people still recognize that there are tedious or time-consuming aspects of their job that detracts from their ability to fully perform the core duties of their job. FOr instance, nearly all charity work involves some administrative effort. It's not the core duties of the job, but it needs to be done. Essentially, it's overhead. In these cases, technology is usually seen as an opportunity to decrease the amount of time spent on overhead and increase the amount of time building relationships or getting the word out.

On the flip side, some people blur the line between the duties they perform and the broader goals of the job. Most of us eventually settle into a routine (regardless of job) and the way we do things quickly becomes "the way we've always done things". Initially, this is a good thing, as it makes us more productive. However, eventually we streamline the process so much that technology can easily replicate it (and, it turns out, the more a set of duties has become a consistently repeatable routine, the more overhead can be reduced by automating them). When an employee's perspective on their job is that it consists solely of the duties they've always done, technology seems increasingly like a threat to their employment.

Technology is not the end, but a means

A problem facing IT departments is the (unfortunately, probably correct) perception that tech people see technology as the solution: when a business unit approaches IT with business goals, IT delivers a software solution. In reality, business problems can't be solved by software alone. If it weren't for the people involved, there wouldn't be anyone to use the software, make sure it worked, provide the inputs, or recieve the outputs. At the end of the day, software satisfies some business need. It's this business need that is the end; the technology to provide it is only the means.

(As an aside, this also means that sometimes a business need apparently calling for a technology solution may not actually need technology. If approached from the perspective of customer satisfaction, a customer will always be more satisfied if you solve the actual problem, even if it means not building something they initially ask for.)

Focus on the people

If the technology is secondary to the business goals, then the most important aspect of any project must be the people who are ultimately responsible for carrying out the business goals. While for some it may be a touchy subject to introduce technology, as long as everyone recognizes that people are the most valuable part of the process and works to build technology that complements and eases the process rather than replacing it, technology projects can proceed smoothly. While some people may still perceive technology to be a threat, there are good ways and bad ways to bring up the topic of technology change, and embracing the value of an employee to the organization could potentially turn a skeptic into an advocate.

Your Turn

Do you encounter this at your job? How does IT handle this sort of situation? Have you been skeptical of technology and later found it to increase your ability to focus on your core business goals? Let us know in the comments!