The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Is there a clash between automation and human-centered design?

 

human centered automation.jpgI was in a discussion a few weeks ago when someone raised the point that all future designs should be human-centered. When I first heard this, it conflicted a bit with my perspective about automation and the need to separate normal from the unusual.

 

I then began to think about what they probably meant. They didn’t really mean that human’s need to be in the center of everything but instead: if human interaction is required then focus first on designing and delivering great user experiences.

 

My view is that the automation of the mundane is part of having a human-centered solution. Why would someone want to be there if they are not adding value? Automating out normal is really empathizing with the user’s needs and pain points.

 

When we’re doing a human-centered system, we should be assessing the need to engage user and maximize outcomes. Some say that in order to be human-centered, you need to develop an emotional connection. Since there are positive and negative emotions, I’d rather the solution be one where the user feels needed as opposed to along for the ride.

 

Using the understanding of the users, their skills, availability and connections provides the contextual understanding to facilitate interactions helping users find each other and build a community. So I don’t think there is a conflict at all, as long as we’re maximizing the value of the user’s time.

 

Value in an analog world

eceb166e-c589-11e3-88ed-12313d239d6c-large.jpegWas just part of an interesting discussion on the IT organizations of the future. One of the statements made was about the ‘digital enterprise’. It got me thinking “The whole world is analog – it’s just those in IT who don’t see it that way.”

 

Value is all about perspective. Will those implementing IT solutions ever have a full understanding of the implications, without an understanding of the assumptions and approximations that are inherent in a digital approach? We can only be so accurate with ones and zeros. I am not saying that’s bad – just a fact.

 

When we can move to considering our limitations and our potential to predict (based on business/domain knowledge), we can move beyond efforts based on a digital approximation from the past.

Why is the service research agenda important?

decisions.pngI continue to think about the characteristics that will make up jobs of the future and the kind of services research the NSF needs to define – and why??

 

During our discussions last week, we talked about measures of quality and risk for services, but primarily from the service provider and sometimes from the service consumer’s perspective. What about for an outside entity, like the government? They have expectations of services as well. If the government doesn’t define and encourage new jobs for its constituents, the tax base erodes and power is lost. If enough power is lost than a revolution takes place by people who will redefine the power base and power structure.

 

That is why the service research agenda is so fundamentally important. As the economy moves to be ever more service-oriented, we need to understand and shape what will be needed for stability. Not just of the services themselves but for the ecosystem that the services depend upon.

 

The context recognition that is the foundation for automation of knowledge work actually requires stability to function. If the system is chaotic, context becomes very rare. Having a viable research agenda is not nearly as altruistic as it first seems.

Bring Your Own Service – two years later…

BYOS.pngA couple of years ago I wrote about how bring your own service was part of the future we’ll need to understand. I just saw that Gartner put out a release saying that personal cloud will replace the personal computer as the center of user’s lives by 2014.

 

We’ve probably all seen how the specifics of the device are less important for the people (let alone organization) to worry about. A good example of this trend I came across recently is Aereo.

 

I was looking at Aereo as part of my personal cloud, enabling me to capture television broadcasts and watch them on almost every device (except it still didn’t work with my Xbox One) as long as I am within the stations coverage area. This kind of a centrally available approach to a leveraged TV service is likely to be disruptive.

 

The diversity of services being offered is expanding and based on the meeting I attended last week with the NSF talking about service innovation research, there are a number of industries that are going to be disrupted by this more service-oriented view of the world. Questions remain though about the risks and quality expectations as well as how to communicate the changes to all the affected parties.

Service Innovation Workshop with NSF

SaaS.pngJust finished up a very interesting couple of days at a workshop to develop a research agenda for service innovation. The objective was to define a roadmap for future service innovation research and education for the NSF as well as academic and industry partners.

 

This was a very diverse group of about 60 people that broke into working groups to look at service innovation from a number of angles. One thing that almost all the groups appeared to rally around was the thought that the service modeling techniques currently in use (and simulations) are not up to the task of bringing diverse groups to a consensus and (more importantly) action.

 

We tried to avoid the typical trap of spending the entire meeting defining ‘service innovation’ and instead focus on areas where NSF funded research would do the most good (e.g., automation, incorporating knowledge into service system design, skill definition and education for next-generation service innovation) -- generating value.

 

There was one area where I had a bit of concern: the goal of human-centered service systems. I don’t have too much of a problem where the humans determine the value and consume the result (focusing attention on the unique), but if humans are on the critical path of executing the service, there had better be a good reason since I still view that human attention is going to be scarce.

 

We did get into an interesting discussion of if it is attention or understanding intention that is scarce?!?

 

There was also an interesting idea coming from the DIY space that if you can be a consumer in the future you can be a producer in the future. We’re not there yet, but it does show the level of disruption that might need to be embraced.

 

One great outcome for me was the opportunity to meet a number of like-minded people who have problems where I and others at HP can help address.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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