At high school it became a yearly tradition (to my mother’s happiness) that I received the pastoral award for my contribution towards caring for fellow students. When asked the popular question, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ my answer, though vague, always included the statement ‘to work with people.’ I do therefore often wonder how I have ended up in an Informatics department; the objective to develop technology rather than people. How would previous skill sets and strengths even fit into this world shaped by Business Intelligence, data management and technical architecture?
Clarity and purpose in this environment can be gained when I start to join the dots. Humanity cannot be taken out of any part of life; technology is not an exception. Information Systems do not exist merely to exist but to serve ‘fans’ as my CIO encourages us to name them. Data is derived from human activity and used by humans to evaluate and improve. You may see this somewhat obvious picture without having to complete the ‘dot to dot’, but what have you done with it? We often miss the application and get ourselves into a black hole. We consider how technology and people relate and then manage them separately.
Management of people and technology is the not the same however; the main difference being you can never switch the former off. Yet again another one of my obvious observations but what is the implication? Could defined stakeholder tasks in Project Management (important though they are) unhelpfully convince us we manage people adequately? What about the way we manage, liaise and communicate with people outside of the plan? Consider your daily interaction with colleagues in the office. There is no such thing as a job which does not involve people. Try working in a way that is not people orientated and I am certain that you will not be successful.
Where people are concerned, communication is key. One of the barriers to people engagement in the world of IT or any specialism is language. Language is integral to understanding; if you do not know the language you will struggle to keep up. However if someone communicates that knowledge to you in your own language and it is transferred successfully this equals understanding. Investment in people within IT who can communicate technical items in engaging and relevant ways is paramount to its survival and evolution. The Analogies Project, which Richard advocates, is a great example of how the human affinity with stories can be drawn upon to bridge the gap between the techy and the phobic.
In my ‘ah ha’ moments when I congratulate myself for understanding a technical area of our work, there is often also a revelation that what makes the technology extraordinary is just as much the ordinary as the extra. The idea/need is often ‘ordinary’ – common sense, the solution technical, providing the users with the ‘extra’. One example of this is the CRN Reference and Terminology Service (RTS), deemed to be complex and out of reach for most of us to grasp. But take another perspective and it is relevant and even (dare I say) interesting: a single source of information, up to date, consistent, organised and shared across multiple users. Not rocket science. Okay so, yes, the scripting is complex and no hablo esas lenguas but I can understand the ‘why’ without having to know the detail of the ‘how.’ The ‘why’ inherently relates to human behaviour.
In this technical environment I may not have a people to care for but I can put people on the agenda by #keepingitreal.