The theme of this year’s Unit4 Connect Conference is “Creating space”. This begs a number of questions; For whom? For what? How?
In my opinion this is a profound statement but to understand why we need to step back into the past.
When I started work, we had typing pools, teams of (usually) women whose sole role was to type up our hand written memos. The usual turn around for a document could be 24 hours, before one could review the typewritten note, sign it and post it in that days post. We would then write a diary reminder for a month later after which time we would follow it up if we had not had a reply.
Today we all write our own memos only now they are called, emails, texts, reports etc and expect a response the same day, sometimes within the hour whether in work time or not.
Implementations of Unit4 Business World have exploited technology to push more tasks to us through the self service interface. We have become data processors whose life is governed by ‘the system’. Raise this claim, complete that order, produce this budget, prepare a quarterly forecast, approve this expense or that time sheet. Administrative tasks previous done by ‘The Centre’ are now increasingly done by managers or their delegates in addition to those tasks and activities one would consider part of their role. We all end up administrators.
Now technology allows us to continue to work at home and even on the move using our smartphones. We work harder for longer and as a society we are suffering from data overload. Everyday we receive hundreds of bytes of information which we add to and send on down the line. We no longer have time to do things properly or take pride in our work, work which now also intrudes upon our private lives, time we should be spending with our families.
So the question, creating time for what and for whom is, I believe very pertinent.
If we are creating time without also looking at the way we work, then we will only be exaggerating the current situation. Many organisations have embarked upon or are thinking about Digital Transformation, yet this rarely if ever talks about our people and how this will effect them. These same organisations will usually have a statement about how they value their people, but how often is the effect of technological changes upon our people really considered? Will this really improve their working lives? Will it reduce the time spent working from home? Will they feel threatened by the changes and the introduction for new technology? Will their jobs be made redundant by AI?
We need to look at how technology can be deployed to make the lives of our people better, not simply save money. We need to look at our systems and processes and look to simplify and standardise them wherever possible. We need to ensure that our people are given the time to consider the tasks that they are responsible for and make sure that they receive job satisfaction, a social life and time to connect and interact with others. We need to deploy technology that takes away administrative chores and enables them to focus on the real work at hand. We need a fresh way of thinking. I believe the developments being made by Unit4 in this area are not only exciting but potentially revolutionary, we just need to ensure that we value the space created and not simply fill it with more administrative tasks.