I read an article recently by Brien Posey – ‘Is IT Automation Unethical?’ as published in Redmond (07Apr2022) – asking the question that if an IT person writes some code to automate most of their role - such that they had very little to do each day - should they still get paid a full wage if they are sitting around? Should they be moved on to more productive work? Where do ethics come into this? It was an interesting article that made me think. The article looked at the specific situation above, however, the issue of ethics is a lot broader.
In this episode of the WineDown, Nick and I cover:
What is IT automation
Automation from a developer’s perspective
Automation from a Business Owner’s perspective
Advantages of automation
How automation has been used unethically
How automation isn’t unethical
The final verdict!
Let’s get stuck in!
There is the case of the Verizon employee in 2013 that was caught outsourcing their role to someone in China. That person would remotely connect to the employee’s computer each day and do their work for them. The employee collected a full wage and themselves paid the wage of the person overseas (which was substantially less than what they were paid). Aside from the obvious security issues, I think we can agree there are some questionable ethics at play in this situation.
However, I’m not talking about outsourcing - where you get someone else to do a process or job for you – usually at a much lower price. Outsourcing has been very popular with many organisations over the last decade – but that’s missing the point. In many cases, that’s just doing a current function cheaper.
There is an older job role in the IT industry called a database administrator, or DBA. It was usually performed by one or more people that would manually watch over / adjust / backup all the data an organisation’s applications use. This role became very repetitive – to the point where DBAs started writing scripts (or small applications) to do the necessary checks for them. Today, most operational DBA work is automated. Organisations still need access to skilled database people, although usually only to fix things when they go wrong (which is not very often).
Ethically, does that mean we have put someone out of a job? No.
It means we can utilise their knowledge for more productive things – other than doing the repetitive tasks they may have been doing before. Often these people have significant business knowledge that can be used to drive improvements across the business as a whole.
Their ability to understand the business, document processes, and then help automate those processes will deliver significant value – over and above the original role the person was doing.
If businesses are going to be successful in the future, they have to be more efficient / better / stronger / faster than their competitors. This can be hard – especially when dealing with overseas competitors where market conditions may be less restrictive than where the business currently operates. Being a ‘me too’ in the current market will not guarantee long term success. You need to differentiate. Be different.
Automating businesses can deliver significant benefits – often delivering faster production at a lower cost. This supports scale, allowing the business to grow quickly without the underlying increase in the cost base.
Continual improvement through education, development and training is a part of every role. It is what will make companies successful into the future.
So, what are you doing in your own business?
Talk to us today to find out how you can start automating your business!