On service providers and technology

It isn’t rocket science that if a service provider prioritizes personal agendas above user agendas, one that prioritizes the user’s will take their place.

Whether tech is used is irrelevant. The principle is maintaining relevance is determined by whose agenda gets the most attention.

If service providers using tech have more resources for user research and responsiveness, protesting tech is a waste of time, energy, and political capital that could be invested better understanding user needs. Plus, prioritizing user needs could lead to win/win partnerships.

Tech companies can’t do everything, and are even quite terrible at some things. The question service providers must ask is “if we’re honest and put personal agendas aside, what can tech do better than us, and what is our unique role in this new environment users expect?”

Much of this revolves around personal motivations for joining an organization. When storms come — whether economic, social or political — it becomes clear who joined because they are passionate about the org’s agenda, versus who joined as a last resort or to promote their own.

In the Information Age, few jobs would be possible without tech. There’s no shortage of examples of tech making lives and jobs easier, along with tech causing irreversible harm. Leadership is demonstrated by being inflexible on the org mission and active in shaping tech’s impact.

This could take place through participating in R&D initiatives, writing policy, governance and position statements to help educate constituents, becoming early adopters to develop use cases, and more. But it all begins with creating a constant feedback loop with users and fostering environments for honest dialog around alignment of mission and methods.

Founder & CEO at Skilltype. Inaugural EIR at Boston University Libraries. Board emeritus at Rooted School. Native New Orleanian.

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