Why knowledge workers have to build their own solutions
by Jonathan Sapir, on
In the future of work, employees must be empowered to operate at their full potential, and this requires a workplace that has freed itself of unnecessary and debilitating boundaries. It is only then that companies can hope to meet the business challenges of the fast-changing global economy.
– Cognizant , Future of work enabler: Worker Empowerment
At the edges of the organization, where employees interact with customers, partners, contractors and suppliers, employees have to quickly find answers to questions and be agile in their ability to match the requirements of the market and its customers in the online globally competitive environment. Their success lies in their ability to coordinate many information feeds, harness personal connections, and process interactions. The ability to navigate this maze effectively and quickly is based on knowledge that is frequently not written down or readily available to others.
There are in fact many factors that make traditional application development ill-suited to meeting the needs of knowledge workers:
“One- size-fits-all” is not appropriate for knowledge workers. Knowledge workers have individual learning and communication styles; they need the ability to approach their activities in the way they feel most comfortable.
Knowledge workers need to respond quickly to constant change. The world of the knowledge worker is always in flux. Therefore, to adapt effectively, they need to be able to do things like modify rules without waiting for the IT department.
The world of the knowledge worker is not easily accessible to outsiders. In traditional application development, a significant transfer of knowledge between the user and the developer must take place. When a project is large enough and requires complex software development, there is no other choice. But for knowledge worker applications, there is simply not enough time for this transfer of knowledge. There is often no common structure and flow to the work, making it extremely difficult for IT to really understand what type of solutions workers need.
Knowledge workers don’t like to be told what to do. No one knows better than you do how to get your work done, so why should someone else be telling you how to do it? Knowledge workers are like artists. They want (and usually need) creativity and variation in their work, and often resent attempts to “streamline” or automate their work in any way—especially when imposed from the outside.
The world of the knowledge worker is full of exceptions. In the world of the knowledge worker, things are messy. This is a world very much disconnected from the world of transaction-based systems. In traditional IT-built systems like accounting, they can be handled manually with relative ease, by making use of totally automated systems, because exceptions are extremely rare. Knowledge worker systems are much messier. They need to be able to experiment and change things. Exceptions are a way of life and too numerous to be planned for in advance. This is not the type of environment in which traditional IT can flourish.
Users need to build their own solutions. In the knowledge workers world, there is usually no straight line of logic or process that leads to a perfect solution in these circumstances. Instead, there is a great deal of tinkering until you get something that works – for now. Users need to be able to experiment and iterate rapidly in ways that cost little to introduce a new application, and also generate quick feedback. This makes the cost of failure minimal and the upside potentially enormous.
The only way to address the day-to-day needs of customers is to give workers better tools so they can produce their own solutions, with as little involvement from IT as possible.
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