Built–In Automation Isn’t Always Better
The evolution of automation in the world of modern communications is well documented. Many of us who have been in the creative communications industry for more than 20 years can still remember early software applications that promised to make us faster, better and more creative. Often, those promises left us feeling more frustrated than fulfilled. And the speed at which improvements were made on these early applications was less than urgent. Recently, two major technological events were thrust onto our in-house creative group’s consciousness.
The first, a move to cloud-based updates to our creative suite of communication applications, promises to keep us ever up-to-date on the entire spectrum of design tools. The second promises to make us more efficient via process automation in the form of a traffic management application. These two events represent different stages of automation evolution. How your team successfully adapts to them depends on how well your team’s leaders balance technology and process.
Adobe Creative Cloud is the latest in a long continuum of advancements in the tools used to create nearly every aspect of modern communication. We really have no choice other than to accept how this suite of tools is accessed, that is, if you want to have the latest tools. For most of us who are managing designers and content creators, this poses an issue if our IT infrastructure is not ready for cloud-based applications. You can expect a lot of hand-wringing by IT teams worried about security. Nevertheless, there is a sense that this latest advancement will receive less scrutiny by those of us who use the tools. Why? Because there is a history of feedback that has produced a successful blending of technology and process. After decades of improvements, these tools are highly evolved for the end user.
The recent adoption of traffic management applications is forcing many early adopters to consider replacing traditional methods for tracking jobs, time and billing. This development is being met with much less acceptance—at least in my group. Automation always begins with the promise of enhanced efficiency. Our system is laden with automated alternatives for job assignments and communicating. In both of these examples, our team has questioned how the automation actually makes us better. We assign jobs based on specific experience and skill set. The application offers this task based on availability, which is a logical way to accomplish this if everyone had the same skill set. We have had to modify how we use the app to make it work for us. Likewise, the application has a few tools that provide ways to communicate to each other. So we all dutifully use these tools to do what we used to do face to face. The resulting need for continual follow-up and input makes us much less efficient. The fix is easy. Get up and have a conversation—being that we are all in one location, this is easy for us.
In the end, we in the industry need to provide the developers of these traffic and project management systems with feedback to let them know what works and what doesn’t, just as we’ve done for decades with design applications. Only then will they work with the same efficiency.