Data, Data, and More Data: Exploding Information Processing Demands at Work
By MK Ward
Tech means big opportunity and money rewarded to some who work in the industry. From the outside, these resources are extremely attractive, but there is a balance and high resources can also mean high demands. We see this in some of the roles at one of Australia’s major telecommunications company.
MC is a customer technology strategist. He starts with the problem and then matches the problem to current technologies to build a system that will create a “full solution” for customers. The pace of development means MC needs to spend time reading online, in webinars, conferences or other means to stay up to date: “I keep up on things like augmented reality, AI, automation, internet of things, and more” he notes.
MC‘s job requires a huge amount of information processing. Fortunately MC has high motivation to learn, which means he enjoys the cognitive demands in his job. Beyond passively processing information, a high level of vigilance is required and some degree of proactivity in searching for the new.
“Data explosions in all of these developments also means data security is increasingly important. False positives are an issue, because there’s a dozen threats a minute but then there may be a more malicious and credible threat. Those must be noticed and responded to appropriately.”
Another example comes from M, an account manager in the same company. M manages the accounts for education clients such as universities and the Department of Education. M’s typical day begins with calls at 7am. He works with lots of people on the east coast of Australia, which is two to three hours ahead of time. M tries not to take any meetings before 6:30am. But the emails don’t go away:
“I’ll typically answer emails for an hour or two and then I’m in or out of meetings or on phone calls all day. I spend 75% of the time on the phone and the rest of the time in meetings or on my way to meetings. I get 300 emails a day.”
D, a Service Delivery Manager in the same company, ensures that technology solutions get delivered to clients. D gets a couple hundred emails a day on average.
In all of these jobs, technology has meant more information to process rather than less, suggesting modern technologies do not always “remove” work as is typically assumed. An example is the large amount of information that is now generated automatically, but still needs to be dealt with:
“In our world, we have a lot of automation. We have an automated workflow for internal processes, so a fair bit of our emails are automated alerts from the system sharing information about statuses of projects or information about other things that are happening, rather than from another co-worker or other human.”
In the context of all of these information processing demands, it is important to ensure that other demands in work are minimized. This seems not always to be the case. D observes the effect of poor processes on her work load:
“We’re not doing the job we’re meant to do because we’re putting out fires a lot…We have to spend sometimes 5 hours dealing with the complexities in our own organisation, and taking on tasks that should be done by other internal teams as a result. Sometimes we need to do other teams jobs in order to minimize turnaround time for the customer. It would be fine if we just needed to do what our job says we are meant to do.”
Some demand comes from role conflict, or having conflicting expectations from different people. Mike observes: “right now my job is split between pre-sales design and post-sales support, but I’m evaluated solely on pre-sales KPIs….I do spend a bit too much time on support and troubleshooting”.
If the amount of data in the world is doubling every two years, as some commentators have argued, information processing demands will become higher than ever in many jobs. Similarly, it will be more important than ever to ensure good processes and clear, compatible work roles.