When its right to automate

Two things have come to mind of late due to two rather unpleasant events: a personal injury and an environmental disaster that struck the beautiful little Cornish resort of Boscastle in the UK.

It was a lovely sunny morning and I was on a mission to clean the house gutters. Ten minutes into my activity and I was lying in agony on the concrete footpath looking at my dislocated left arm. Within twenty minutes I was being attended to by two of the members of Charlies Angels: two female paramedics who must have driven like the wind to get to our relatively remote house. They did what they needed to do and got me into the ambulance and we were on our way to the hospital in no time: efficient, professional, and well organised.

During the following forty eight hours I underwent many experiences but the thing that sticks in my mind is how technology is worthless without a good management system (procedure) and good staff.

Let me clarify. My distraught wife was still giving the call centre instructions on how to locate our house as the ambulance arrived. The paramedics were sticking a line into me while my wife was attempting to tell the call centre that it was OK and that an ambulance had arrived. It was obviously not the operators fault. He just had to get all his boxes completed. The call centre had the technology and the paramedics had their experience, knowledge and ability to make decisions.

My second comment is about cynical advertising. In the wake of the flood disaster in Boscastle I received a press release suggesting that now is the time for smaller businesses to make sure they backed up their data and ensure that it was held off site. Wise words. But, please have a heart. Vendors should not be using situations like Boscastle to peddle their wares. It is right to help educate the user community to apply modern technology to avoid loss of business critical data; however, lets try to be sensitive otherwise how are we going to get their ear?

And, let us never lose sight of the fact that technology is an enabler: it enables greater efficiency but only if the application has already been well organised and that the humans involved have been well trained. And, lets not forget the IT management team; they really have to understand the function thoroughly and not just how the technology works and they must be happy to run it and adjust it once the vendors have left the building.

Data capture systems (whether they are ADC or document management solutions) however are rarely implemented under such conditions. It seems that the majority of case studies refer to user training as being important, which leaves nothing to chance. Perhaps its because of the amount of competition in the data capture market and the high level of professionalism you find among the channel. Anyone wish to comment? 

Iestyn Armstrong-Smith

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