Enterprise Software

Technology is not always the answer

The real skill with using technology is to know when to rely on it and when to use the good old-fashioned human brain.

I'm going to be attacked for daring to suggest that our technologies aren't always the best solution for every scenario. What the systems can do is process the dull stuff quickly and accurately. They can't do the kind of processes that a newborn baby can do, yet they are taking over in the workplace. Most of the time they do a perfectly good job, but from time to time we have to take over when the wrong decisions are made for the right reasons.


As we all know, there are two kinds of logic: the kind that sentient beings produce and the hard-line, rigorous logic that our machines adhere to — where gut instinct, common sense, and an awareness of the real world are not part of the program. This shortcoming was brought home to me recently when the call logging system sent a call to me for a totally different part of the country. It was apparent that I would not be able to attend the call within the LTA, and I called into the office to query the assignment, to advise that I would not be there in six hours, and to request authority for two night's hotel accommodation.

Our assignment manager works by scanning the list of engineers who are available for work at the time the call comes in, selects the default engineer for the postcode, and then checks that the equipment concerned is covered by that person's skill profile. If the area engineer is not available, either because he or she is sick, on leave, or in training, the call is passed to the next closest engineer with the appropriate skill set.

At the time this particular call came in, the area person was not trained on the product, and the next nearest was attending a team meeting. In the next region to him, the engineer was on holiday, and this chain of coincidence extended until it reached me. Subsequent inquiries revealed that had it been logged five minutes later, it would have been sent to an engineer who was only a couple of miles away, but at the time he was still in his meeting.

I think this shows that an automated system cannot think for itself; it merely follows a series of IF-THEN commands and comes to its answer for all the right reasons, as far as it can. Sadly I didn't get my three-day trip to North Yorkshire, where I could have enjoyed some of the world's finest beers, but I stayed in the warm and sunny south and enjoyed an ice-cream cone on the beach. Human-ness took over, and the call was passed manually to the correct person, saving about 20 gallons of diesel and a hotel bill.

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