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    Entries in Technology (399)

    Monday
    Feb052018

    Please don't follow this email advice

    I don't know why I still keep the Inc. site in my feed reader, (remember feed readers?), because about 80% of the articles are inane '5 Ways to Crush XYZ process' or 'Celebrity ABC in one sentence gave us a master class in leadership'. Awful. 

    So it was with a kind of hate read perspective that I clicked through my Feedly link to this latest gem from Inc. - A study of 386 million emails says this is a perfect time to send an email'. As I mentioned, I clicked ready to hate the piece, and hate it I did.

    Here are the four pieces of Email advice which drive increases in email open and reply rates that Inc. gleaned from a study of 386 million emails sent by the provider Yeswar. I will list each of the four, and because you demand no less, provide my thoughts one by one.

    1. Open with a short, direct informal greeting. 'Hey' seems to work best

    SMB - Short and informal seems fine to me. But I don't like 'Hey' unless it is with someone you have a fairly deep work history with. I know this is quibbling, but can we go with 'Hi' instead? And never, ever lead with 'Greetings'.

    2. End with gratitude. The three word phrase 'Thanks in advance' had the highest response rate.

    SMB - I am pretty sure 'Thanks' would do. I actually prefer the slightly more formal 'Thank you' as it also feels more personal at the same time. And the 'Advance' part also feels a little like you are trying to guilt me into doing something - responding, taking some action, etc. Again, I know I am quibbling here. But it is my blog, so so there.

    3. Save your important emails for the weekend, if possible, when there is less competition 

    SMB - Now you have gone and done it Inc. You have ticked me off. Your advice to get more attention and get noticed is to pile in to the days when most folks are taking a sanity break from the incessant demands of email. Sure, the data may tell you this is the right thing to do in order to get a few percentage points increase in open rates, but is that worth infringing on most people's days off? Does anyone really want to read even more email on the weekend?

    4. If you can swing it, send emails between 6AM and 7AM, or else around 8PM

    SMB - Assuming they still mean to send said emails on thw weekend, to me, it doesn't really matter what time on the weekend you hit 'send'. For most folks, weekend emails are just going to accumulate into a mass of 'unread' stuff that you have to wade through on Monday morning, (or I suppose, on Sunday night, if this data can be trusted). 

    A few year ago someone advised me to send 'important' work-related emails, at least to people who are tough to get to respond to messages, on Sunday nights, for the same kinds of reasons that were pointed out in the Inc. piece. While the advice, at least according to this data, might be good, I didn't follow it back then, and I am not following it now. 

    I just don't want to be the person who hits you up with an email.at 7PM on a Sunday night, a time where for most of us we are taking a little break, spending time with friends or family, working on our own projects, or even just zoning out with some Netflix. I just don't want to assume that my message is valuable enough to infringe upon 'your' time. Your Executive Time even.

    Ok, that's it, I am out. Time to have a look at the unread email that came in over the weekend. I will admit to not checking it over the weekend. Take that, Inc.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Feb022018

    New tech won't just replace workers, it will track them even more closely

    I won't do another run at the 'Robots are going to take all the jobs' gimmick today, there is plenty of that you can find pretty much everyday and everywhere. No, today I want to highlight two examples, from different perspectives and contexts, about how tech will not just replace some/most/all jobs one day, but along the way tech will continue to provide ways for employers to track/monitor/coach/guide/punish/reward employees even more closely.

    Example 1 - from our pals at Amazon (the most interesting company in the world) - Amazon could make a bracelet that tracks worker's movements and buzzes them if they move in the wrong direction.

    From the piece on Business Insider:

    Amazon may be looking to improve its workers' efficiency in new ways.

    As was spotted by Geekwire, the company was just awarded a patent for a device that would attach to its warehouse workers' wrists and track their movements using ultrasonic waves. In conjunction with a receiver unit, those ultrasonic waves could track where the worker's hand is in real time and guide it to pick out items, then pack them in boxes.

    If the worker's hand moves in the wrong direction, for example, a slight vibration in the wrist would let them know.

    The idea is to help reduce the time that Amazon warehouse workers spend looking for items, sorting through boxes and shelves, with the idea of helping them be more efficient at selecting the necessary items for a given order. But as the BI piece points out as well, this kind of technology could also be used to measure employee performance and improvement (or regression) down to the micro-level - the gesture.

    I had a summer job working in a perishable food distribution center a hundred years ago, and we were measured (back then), on one metric - how close we came each day to completing our orders in the estimated amount of time allotted for them. So if a given order was meant to be completed in 30 minutes, and it took me 40 minutes to actually turn in the order to the shipping dock, then I would be at 67% (10 minutes overage on a 30 minute order). Each week we had to be a certain percentage rate, (I think it was 85%) in order to stay in good standing. Too many weeks below 85% and you'd eventually get canned.

    Back then we thought that was a harsh, 'Big Brother' type monitoring system. But at least it did allow for some slack, for having a bad shift or two, and for a little bit of gamesmanship. It didn't take too long to find the gaps and wiggle room in the system, and find ways to beat it. And since we were provided a real-time update on our percent completion rate after every order, you could also determine come Friday just how much you had to hustle (or slide), in order to maintain the 85% for the week. Looking back on it now, it seems pretty reasonable overall, to both the company and the workers. But if we thought aggregated performance measurement and targets were 'Big Brother' back in the day, I can't imagine what we (or anyone), would think about performance monitoring and measurement at the gesture level. Wild.

    Example 2 - From the world of sports, taken from an analysis of NBA player John Wall, and his case for being included on the NBA All-Star team this season. Here's ESPN's Zach Lowe providing a bit of data about Wall's performance this season:

    Wall is shooting 42 percent, his lowest mark since he was a rookie, and he just hasn't played with enough vigor on either end of the floor. One measure of that: He has spent 76.57 percent of floor time either standing still or walking, the largest such share among all rotation players, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum.

    Ball-dominant stars need to conserve energy. Some guys shift from walking to turbo mode without spending much time in between.

    But regardless: Wall should not be freaking last. He too often stands around when he doesn't have the ball, or when a shot is the air and he might be able to help on the glass. He switches constantly on defense to avoid chasing his guy around picks.

    That professional athletes have their performance measured and monitored to a greater degree than most other professions is not that surprising - after all metrics and statistics like points scored, rebounds, and assists have been a part of NBA box scores for decades. But what is new('ish) is the technology advances in both video capture and motion analysis that provide data on every step that an NBA player takes during a game. So now instead of just looking at how many points a player scored in a game, and judging his effectiveness based on a combination of things we can count, (like point), and an 'eye test' judgement of their effort level and hustle, NBA teams now can analyze and examine exactly what a player did every second he was on the court.

    Look again at the statistic mentioned above - Wall has been walking or standing exactly 76.57% of the time he has been on court this season. His activity is being measured to hundredths of a percent for crying out loud. Can you imagine working in a job where your management had access to your effort down to that level? Every second you are supposed to be at work? Also wild.

    These two examples (and I am sure there are lots more), point out that the impact of new technology on work and workplaces is not limited to total or direct replacement of workers and human roles. Technology also has the effect (or at least can have the effect) or driving ever closer measurement and control over workers and work performance. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - organizations and workers have to be able to understand their work, how to improve, and companies need to continue to get more efficient in order to compete. But, there needs to also be consideration of the balance between measurement, control, and workers' ability to exist as people, in a setting that may not be replacing them, can be seen as de-humanizing them. And until the robots are ready, your organization still needs these people.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Jan312018

    Creating a more human relationship with technology

    I have been thinking and writing about the early and potential future impact of voice-enabled digital assistant technologies (like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and others), pretty often in 2018, so much so that I had pretty much decided to lay off the topic for a bit, as it was getting kind of repetitive.

    But as keeps happening, over the weekend I read a really interesting article from the Think With Google team sharing some survey results on how people are using and perhaps more interestingly, feeling about their interactions, usage, and relationship with these digital assistants and platforms. There are two really interesting data points from the survey I wanted to share, as they both reveal something interesting and important as HR tech providers and HR practitioners and end users consider the development and application of voice enabled/driven assistants in workplace tech.

    One: People who own voice activated technologies like the Echo and the Google Home are quickly incorporating them into their daily lives and routines:

     

    Why that matters: Driving user adoption of workplace technologies has always been a challenge for technology developers and implementation teams. But these voice activated digital assistants are showing that new tech that is easy to access, provides value quickly and clearly, and provides a kind of fun and engaging experience while also providing value, will be readily adopted by most people.

     

    Two - The nature of the voice interface and activation is making the relationship between users and technology much more personal, even human. 

     

    Why that matters -  It seems like the nature of how these digital assistants are created, how we interact with them, (more or less conversationally), how they have names (Alexa, Siri), and how they even have some level of personality (ask Alexa to tell you a joke, or tell her 'I'm sorry' sometime), and the technology seems to become more a part of our overall way of experiencing the world, and not a separate thing or tool we have to learn how to use. The technology and capability continues to blend into the world and into the other kinds of tools and tech we use all the time - cars, thermostats, appliances, and computers. In the workplace, we need to start to think about making our HR and workplace tools and technologies ones that are just 'there' - embedded in other workplace systems, active in workplace settings like conference rooms, and accessible at all times with a simple voice command.

    I continue to find the entire voice activated / digital assistant space incredibly interesting. Hope you do as well. 

    The next project to work on is getting an HR Happy Hour Podcast skill/update on Alexa!

    Monday
    Jan222018

    The market for enterprise tech is huge - and growing

    The market research company Gartner recently released their projections for Enterprise IT spending (think how much and for what types of technology upon which companies and organizations will spend their IT budgets), and what the Gartner data suggests is really telling and interesting for the HR and HR Technology space. Here's the data from the Gartner press release, then some comments from me after the chart:

    A few notes and observations from this data, and one thing to think about if you are an HR leader and a consumer/shopper for new HR technology in 2018:

    1. The enterprise IT market is massive - fast approaching $4 trillion (yes, that is with a T) in the US in the coming years. This is the manifestation of the old mantra the 'every company is a technology company'. No matter what your are business for, chances are in 2018 or 2019, you will be investing in more and better technology across the board in order to increase efficiency, expand market share, better serve customers, innovate on new products and services, and improve and enhance your human capital. Said differently, if your organization has not/will not be investing in technology you certainly risk falling behind competitors who are making those investments.

    2. The enterprise shift to cloud-based, SaaS solutions is by and large complete. Look at the growth rate for the Data Center Systems category in the Gartner data. Organizational investment in their own data centers is expected to be about flat in 2018, and to decline in 2019. Most organizations, even larger, global ones, simply do not want to be in the business of building and maintaining their own data centers. Best to leave that to the Amazons, Googles, Microsofts, and Oracles of the world. From an HR tech perspective, if you are an HR leader at an organization who still utilizes on-premise HR solutions, 2018 could be the year that your CIO finally has a discussion with you about migrating off of your own data centers and into an HR tech provider's cloud.

    3. And take a look at the growth rate Gartner estimates for Enterprise Software - the category that includes HCM solutions. They estimate 9.5% growth in spend for enterprise tech in 2018 and over 8% in 2019 - making this category the fastest growing by a large margin in all of enterprise IT. This tells us a couple of things. One, like I mentioned above, Enterprise Software is the IT category that offers the best opportunity to help drive competitive advantage for the organization. Whether it is tech that improves the supply chain performance, provides data to better market and target customers, or enables the organization to hire, develop, and retain the best talent - this is how/where technology spend can make a real difference in business performance.

    And two, a growing and robust market for enterprise tech, (and HR Tech), is good news for you, the customer. You should see more and better solutions come to market, increased innovation from your current and established HR tech providers, and improved opportunities to implement HR and HCM tools to enhance your overall employee and candidate experience. The next few years appear to be a great time for HR organizations who are ready and willing to take advantage of this vibrant market for HR technology.

    Happy Monday - have a great week!

    Tuesday
    Jan092018

    What comes after the smartphone?

    Today, January 9, 2018, marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of the original iPhone, when back on January 9, 2007 the late Steve Jobs introduced the world to the gadget that would change personal, workplace, and social technology profoundly.

    Even a decade plus later, the smartphone remains the dominant personal tech innovation of its time, with legions of users lining up on new model launch days to get their hands on the latest versions of their favorite new phone. Data below from IDC estimates over 460M new smartphones were shipped worldwide in 2016, (the latest full year data I could locate in 4 minutes of exhaustive research).

    But just like any other successful technology, the smartphone can't (probably) remain the dominant device for personal technology, communication, and productivity forever, right?

    Think about it - we don't carry around Palm Pilot PDAs, pagers, or Blackberry devices any more, (sorry Canadidan readers). There was a time, believe it or not, when those devices (and others), seemed just as important, even essential to our daily lives and our work.

    So it is likely to be the case with the smartphone too.

    Something will come next and while this something may not (at least right away) replace the smartphone, it is likely, based on the history of technology, that this 'next' thing will start to chip away at the foothold that smartphone has over lives.

    The annual Consumer Electronics Show has been going on this week in Las Vegas - the event where all the biggest providers of all forms of consumer technology (phones, appliances, robots, even cars at this stage), showcase their latest product innovations, make new product launch announcements, and generally share their vision of where consumer technology is going.

    If we are looking for insight what might come after the smartphone, CES presents a decent place to begin that research. And what has been the dominant theme of this year's CES so far (and what have I written about here at least twice already this year?)

    Here's a quote from Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Reserch for the Consumer Technology Association:

    "Coming out of CES, we're going to clearly have established that voice is going to be the go-to user interface," said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association. "Wherever we go or whatever we're doing, we're going to have some form of digital assistant at our side ready to help us."

    Amazon, Google, and pretty much every technology supplier that matters is thinking about what comes next and is chasing the next breakthrough innovation that will be as disruptive as the smartphone. If I had to bet right now, I would say the always-on, ubiquitous, and mostly voice-activated digital assistant and the ecosystem behind that assistant seems like the best bet to become that breakthrough.

    It will be interesting to watch for sure.