Quantcast
Subscribe!

 

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

E-mail Steve
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio

    free counters

    Twitter Feed

    Entries in Technology (244)

    Thursday
    Apr302015

    Revealing Complexity

    Probably the most significant barrier to user adoption of new workplace technology is that users don't see the personal benefit of adopting these technologies. This is the classic 'What's in it for me?' conundrum. While that subject is important and worthy of exploration, I won't be hitting that specific problem today. Instead, let's talk about what is likely the second-most important barrier to employee adoption of workplace technology, namely, that most enterprise technologies have provided (relatively) poor user experience and/or are just too complex for them to use intuitively.

    While enterprise technology companies have talked about, and some have actually delivered, better, more compelling, more consumer-like technology user experiences, even the most modern, best-designed applications eventually run into a common problem in that enterprise tools often require LOTS of data be input into them.

    It could be a new sales prospect being recorded in a CRM, a new supplier that needs to be set up in Procurement, or even a relatively simple matter of entering a new hire in the HRIS, all of these use cases while impacting disparate systems and organizational departments, have much more in common than we usually think. Each of these transactions requires (usually), a whole bunch of data fields to be populated with a whole bunch of data. And even in 2015, for many organizations the bulk of these myriad data elements have to be manually typed into the respective system form fields the old fashioned way - manually.

    And so since the makers of CRM and Supply Chain and HR technologies understand this reality, and like to be able to sell to customers the things they need to run their business operations, even the most modern, slick, mobile responsive, and really amazing looking enterprise solutions often and still have these kind of busy, kind of ugly, kind of tired looking data input forms in order to support these kinds of transactions. And while we might be tempted to look at these kinds of forms, (and the processes that make these 37 field data input forms necessary), as relics from an older, less awesome age, they still have a place in most organizations and in most modern technology solutions.

    Not every interaction with an enterprise technology can (or should) be reduced to a graphic or chart on a tablet, or a glanceable notification on your new Apple Watch. Sometimes, the hard and necessary work of getting relevant data (and lots of it) about customers, vendors, and employees into the enterprise tools that organizations rely upon is, still, kind of boring, kind of repetitive, and even kind of monotonous.

    But that is entirely ok, and should not be considered some kind of an indictment of the technology solution provider that has not figured out a way to make inputting 32 fields about a customer into some kind of a gorgeous 'swipe left' and 'swipe right' kind of user experience.  

    User Experience and what is good User Experience is highly variable and highly personal. And what usually constitutes great User Experience for the sales exec who wants to look at the Q3 funnel on her tablet is much, much different than what makes up great UX for a payroll entry clerk. We can't confuse them with each other.

    The best designed enterprise systems, of course, support both UX's and both kinds of users. The key is, I think, to have the system only reveal its fundamental complexity, and the form with 37 input fields, only to those people who really need them, and care about them, and help them see the 'What's in it for me?' as well as treating them and their role with respect.

    Monday
    Apr272015

    VIDEO: The project is called 'Replacing humans with robots'

    Directing you to a super-interesting short (about 5 minutes or so) video produced by the New York Times as the first installment of a series they call 'Robotica'. In the video, we see more about the growth, challenges, and worker impact of the surge in adoption of industrial robots in Chinese manufacturing. Take a few minutes to watch the piece, (embedded below, Email and RSS subscribers will have to click through), and then some comments from me after the clip.

    Really interesting stuff I think, and for me, very instructive as in 5 minutes it hits many of the big picture issues associated with the increasing automation of work and the impacts this will have on human workers.

    1. At least in this Chinese province, the goals of this program are extremely clear - 'Replacing human workers with robots.' While the motivations for this stated goal might be specific to this region, I think it would be foolish to think that this phenomenon and executive attitude isn't much more common, and not just in China. CEOs everywhere are going to be intrigued and in pursuit of what increased automation promises - lower costs, increased consistency and quality, and a predictable labor supply.

    2. The video does a nice job of showing the likely mixed or divergent impact of increased automation on the front-line workers that are usually most effected. While one (hand-picked by the factory leaders) employee waxes happily about how the robots are making his job easier and happier, another talks frankly about his (and other's) inability to easily transition from manual, repetitive work that is replaced by robot workers, to higher value added or creative and 'human' work. Whether in China or in Indianapolis, no low skilled worker can suddenly become a high-skilled or creative worker overnight. 

    3. The video alludes to the potential, one day, for robots to actually manufacture the robots themselves, even if that is not yet happening today. This notion, that automated technologies will largely build more of themselves is one of the key differences from modern, robotic-type automation than in previous technological breakthroughs. Henry Ford's Model A didn't drive itself, (or build itself). Telephones didn't make calls for you. Personal computers needed LOTS of people entering data into them in order to get anything useful back out from them. But robots building more robots to replace more people? That sounds a little scary.

    I will sign off here, take a look at the video if you can spare a few minutes today and let me know what you think in the comments below. Or have your robot assistant watch it for you.

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Mar302015

    UPDATE: The Microsoft Band and the Future of Wearables at Work

    Do you wear a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or a Jawbone? Or maybe you are planning to jump on the Apple Watch fanboy train in a few weeks and take advantage of that device's ability to track your activity. Lot's of folks are keeping closer track of their workouts and activity today.

    A few months back Microsoft launched its first entry into the wearables market with the Microsoft Band, a wearable tracker that possesses a variety of sensors including a microphone, a GPS location sensor, motion sensors, an optical sensor that measures heart rate, a sensor that tracks skin conductance, which can reveal levels of stress, and even a UV sensor to calculate sun exposure, delivered in a black bracelet with a rectangular touch screen.

    At that time, your humble blogger, (me), shared some thoughts about why this particular wearable smart device could be the one that has the greatest potential for near-term impact and relevance to work, workplaces, and employees. Namely, because Microsoft has such a choke hold on most organization's email, calendaring, and document management that it would be both natural and powerful for a Microsoft wearable to be integrated with these existing and traditional workplace tools.

    You can read my entire take here, but at the risk of getting too meta and quoting myself, below is the gist of my argument back in October 2014:

    I can think of a couple of really compelling use cases for this kind of integration right off the top. 

    One - how work itself effects employee health. Does someone's heart start racing in every staff meeting? Do they begin to get twitchy when called upon to present to a group? Does a certain interaction with a colleague result in three nights of poor sleep? And then what can organizations then do to better understand and potentially align individuals with projects and team members that can aid their ability to perform, while not making them crazy? How do schedules, (and in particular over scheduling), impact employee health and activity? Do we need to be more mindful of how overworked and over scheduled many of our people are?

    Two - Insights into who in the organization inspires, challenges, and lifts people up, and who serves as essentially the corporate buzzkill? Imaging a meeting with 10 people inside, all wearing the MS Band. One person dominates the meeting, maybe it is the boss, and immediately after the other 9 people begin to show signals of nervousness, irritability, or even lethargy. Maybe email and collaboration patterns in the team begin to show signs of changing as well. Perhaps some members of the team skip their normal workouts for a day or two in the aftermath. Maybe some folks don't even turn up the next day. 

    Clever stuff, right? Why bring that back up again today? Well, check the comments from a recent piece from a few days ago that was posted on the MIT Technology Review site - Microsoft's Wristband Would Like To BE Your Life Coach:

    During a recent interview at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters, Matt Barlow, general manager of marketing for new devices, said the company is investigating the kinds of insights it can share with users by matching up biometric data with other sources of information like their calendar or contacts to show things like which events or people may stress them out.

    In the coming months, the Microsoft Health app is poised to gain the ability to compare calendar or contact information with your physical state as measured by the band—your heart rate or skin conductance level, for instance—so the app could nudge you with detailed observations about how those things might relate. For instance, the app might send you an alert like, “I noticed you have a meeting with Susan tomorrow, and last time you met with her your heart rate went up 20 beats per minute and stayed elevated for an hour. How about trying this deep-breathing exercise that you can use with the Band?”

    Initially, these kinds of scenarios are expected to become possible through an integration with Microsoft Office services, though over time it may branch out to include other services as well.

    Hey - the Microsoft dude is essentially touting the same kinds of capability and interesting workplace data integrations that little old me talked about in October. But not to say I told you so...

    But the real point of resurfacing the old post and topic was just to remind you that even though wearables and fitness trackers have been around for a while now, we really are just still in the first inning of a long game. Trackers and biological/physiological sensors won't really start impacting the way work gets done until they actually are integrated with the tools of work - email, calendars, meetings, etc.

    Stay tuned...

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Mar232015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 207 - CHRO Corner: Laurie Zaucha, Paychex

    HR Happy Hour 207 - The CHRO Corner with Laurie Zaucha, Paychex

    Recorded Friday March 20, 2015

    LISTEN HERE

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Laurie ZauchaPaychex

    This week on the show, the HR Happy Hour launched a new series, the CHRO Corner, that will feature the most interesting and influential leaders in Human Resources today. Our first guest in this new series is Laurie Zaucha, VP of HR and Organizational Development at Paychex, a leading provider of HR software solutions and services having over 500K customers and upwards of 13,000 employees.

    On the show, Laurie shared her insights on the role of technology in the modern HR organization, what HR leaders should be considering when evaluating technology, how Paychex has adopted several innovative and collaborative programs for candidate attraction as well as internal employee engagement, and finally some thoughts on what are some of the most important focus areas for the HR leaders of the future. Laurie is one of the most progressive HR leaders in the industry, and she shared some amazing insights on leading HR in the modern organization.

    Additionally, Laurie talked about moving and shaping the culture of an organization, Steve tried to sound (reasonably) intelligent interviewing his former boss Laurie, and we all realized once again the benefits of post-production editing.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio
     

     

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    This was a fun and interesting show with one of the most innovative HR leaders in the technology industry. 

    Thanks to Laurie and everyone at Paychex for being part of the HR Happy Hour fun!

    Monday
    Mar092015

    Team PowerPoint vs. Team Excel

    What would you say is the preferred tool or mechanism for creating, sharing, and socializing information in your organization that is used to generate discussion and ultimately, decisions?

    While many of us (sadly) would probably default to 'Email' as the technology of choice, even heavy email cultures rely on 'real' office productivity applications for work products and communicating information. Excel and PowerPoint, assuredly, are two of the most common applications in use across organizations of all types. But which one of these two applications tends to dominate how business information and data are documented and shared can reveal plenty about how decisions are made and what kind of organizational culture prevails.

    Check the below excerpt from a recent piece on Digitopoly, a review of research into how competing teams at NASA (Team PowerPoint and Team Excel), created and shared data and information on robot technology used for experiments on space projects:

    On Team Excel, the robot has a number of instruments but separate teams manage and have property rights over those instruments. The structure is hierarchical and the various assignments the instruments are given are mapped out in Excel. By contrast on Team PowerPoint, no one team owns an instrument. Instead, all decisions regarding, say, where to position the robot are made collectively in a meeting. The meetings are centered around PowerPoint presentations that focus on qualitative trade-offs from making one decision rather than another. Then decisions are taken using a consensus approach — literally checking if everyone is “happy.”

    What is fascinating about this is that the type of data collected by each team is very different. On Team Excel where each instrument is controlled and specialised to its task, the data from them is very complete and comprehensive on that specific thing — say, light readings, infrared etc. On Team PowerPoint, there are big data gaps for each instrument but there appear to be more comprehensive deep analyses of particular phenomenon where all of the instruments can oriented towards the measurement of a common thing. This is a classic trade-off between specialised knowledge and deep knowledge. What is extraordinary is that they bake the trade-off into their organisational structure and also decision-making tools — literally emphasizing different apps in Microsoft Office.

    We probably don't consciously think too much about how the technology and tools choices we make can effect how the organization actually functions, what particular approaches and skills tend to dominate, and even what gets recognized and rewarded. In the example from the Digitopoly piece, an argument is made that both of these approaches, Team Excel with its focus on individual accountability and control, and Team PowerPoint that relied much more on shared accountability and the 'big picture', are needed and have value.

    Where we get into trouble, I think, is when one type of technology, say PowerPoint, becomes dominant or the de facto method in an organization for communicating information and as a decision support tool. It is by its nature, shallow, and it assumes that viewers and readers understand the details and deeper contexts about the subject matter that is typically just about impossible to convey in a slide deck.

    Similar arguments can be made on cultures where 95% of communication is over email, or tied up in impossibly complex Excel workbooks. 

    We often choose the easy or expected technology solution out of habit, or out of a kind of cultural allegiance. It is fascinating how these technology choices can impact much more than we think.

    Team Excel. Team PowerPoint. That really shouldn't be the choice. Team 'Right tool for the job' is. Choose wisely.

    Have a great week!