Category: Technology

Embedding process in technology

Some time ago I was discussing the use of a centralised software system that had various configuration options (naturally), one of which would allow us to force employees to follow a certain process. The process was already company policy, so people should have been doing it, and it seemed natural to configure the system to make sure that was indeed happening. But one of the IT managers expressed a dislike of the idea. “Embedding a process in technology allows people to forget why the process was introduced in the first place,” he said.

This was a good point. We don’t just want people to follow rules or processes “because I said so”. There are (or should be) reasons behind those rules, and if people are convinced (rather than forced) to follow the rules then it’s more likely they will factor the reasons into other elements of their work. Or to put it another way, they will act in the spirit of the rule rather than merely to the letter of the rule.

Another reason to not embed a process or rule in technology is that, as long as the process is relatively lightweight, a technological solution will be much more difficult to adjust than a human, manual solution. Many people I know much prefer sticky notes to track their team’s work simply because it’s more flexible than any software. (Although that was before the days of enforced remote working due to Covid-19.) Often a spreadsheet is much easier than a custom database, even for fairly large volumes of work, because it’s just much easier to tweak.

Software is so-named because it can be changed. But very often a rougher, more rudimentary system allows us to do our jobs in a much more human manner.

Photo by Holger Zscheyge