Welcome the the DIY Generation

By Bob Larrivee posted 05-12-2010 15:41


The concept of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is not a new one in fact it has been around for many years. I can remember as a teenager working on my cars – of course that was my interpretation of what I drove – I would go to the local You-Fix-It garage to use their lifts and tools. In business we began to see this with the advent of word processing which made the corporate typing pool obsolete. There is a quote by Marshall McLuhan that comes to mind in relation to this topic, “As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.” How true this is and how more true it becomes.

Think about that for a moment. Today, with technology being what it is and capable of what it does, we are able and encouraged to “Do-It-Yourself” so much more with so much less human interaction on the parts of our suppliers and service providers. We no longer need bank personnel to process deposits and withdrawals of money we can do this at the local Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Of course why take cash when all you need is a Debit or Credit card, even Taxis take those now. Need to pay your bills? Go to your online banking account and pay them online or even better, they can be paid automatically if the amount and pay dates are recurring. (Of course you need to keep track of when it is actually paid off and stop the auto-pay services.) If we need a bank loan or mortgage, we can apply for it online. Need the car washed? 24 hour self serve automated car washes are ready and waiting. Why even those stores where we frequently stop to purchase goods like Home Depot and the Super Market now allow us to use the self-check lanes to scan the barcodes, bag and pay for the goods at the same price we would have paid in the full service lanes. What you gain is speed and convenience while the store gets higher profitability through decreased operating costs; a trade off many of us are willing to accept.

Another side of this automation story is the recent glitch in the stock trading systems, which as of the time of this writing, is still unclear exactly what caused the problem that drove the markets down last week. According to various news sources, it appears that the parameters set within the trading programs did what was expected in that the prices were driven automatically based on the averaging of market directions rather than adjustments based on the actual and individual stocks themselves. Automation and technology allow us to trade individually and independently of brokers using online technology which is great from a customer service perspective but at the same time too much reliance on automation in this case, allowed a problem to occur unexpectedly and with great impact to the financial world.

In my view, automation is not bad simply different and the notion of automation for expanding our information management capabilities to extend beyond the walls of an organization in ways that provide higher levels of customer service are indeed a direction we need to take. In this, businesses of all sizes and types now become global in nature with the ability to reach and service audiences once limited to the largest of corporations. The use of wikis, blogs and shared workspaces are rapidly becoming the norm for collaboration with internal and external stakeholders to determine directions and client needs. We are able to leverage search tools in ways that provide great benefit and time saving. We provide the parameters for a Search Agent that runs constantly in the background and sends the resulting information to us automatically avoiding the need for us to manually search on a regular basis for those things of interest to us regardless of where they reside or manifest.

The age of DIY is certainly here and while it is a good fit for many things, there should still be oversight by humans to ensure that what we automate will perform to expectation in a positive way. Just like we would in the manual world, there should be a constant effort to monitor, assess, refine and implement better forms of automation. As part of this we should also take a hard look at the potential risk associated with automation and conduct regular reviews that present variable situations like that in the trading sector to determine best courses of action when the unexpected happens. In many cases, it will involve us humans. So, as Marshall McLuhan predicted, “The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.” Not sure who Marshall McLuhan is? I could tell you but in the spirit of this article, Do-It-Yourself, look him up, and see what else he had to say.

What say you? What have you automated or do you have an automation story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? What is on your mind? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.

Email: Bob Larrivee – AIIM

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