In my LinkedIn profile I mention under “Experience” for the period 2002 to 2016 :
Although this might create a vision of a knight in shining white armour in some people’s head, the reality is rather more mundane. It meant that I basically wrote my own job description and decided which jobs were worth taking on. I may have had a generic job description as a member of the PEGS, Technology or Operational Research team, but that had precious little to do with my actual day-to-day activities.
So on what grounds did I decide whether a job was worthwhile ? First of all, the request had to come from someone who I had decided was trustworthy not to waste my time with frivolous requests, e.g. a request for an entry system that is never used. Obviously, any first-time user would be given the benefit of the doubt, but if I noticed that you made me do work that was in essence wasted, you would go down a peg on my list of things to do.
Secondly, since there were always more requests than I could possibly handle, I would have to rank them into a list of importance for the business, whilst at the same time making sure that smaller jobs that could be done in a few hours didn’t have to wait forever until the bigger jobs had got out of the way – the latter could otherwise well never happen.
But most of all I was attracted to jobs that would free up people’s time from manually collecting data and creating Excel-based reports. To me there’s no greater horror than seeing someone spend two days a week on producing a weekly report to fulfill a request for information from higher up. To me that’s a waste of 40% of a person’s working life, time that could be spent more fruitfully by doing something about a problem rather than finding out exactly what the problem is, or whether there really is a problem.
The best sort of job is when you have a fruitful relationship with someone who may not understand the ins and outs of IT, but who realises the potential of using web-based systems, not only to free up people’s time, but to achieve things that paper- or spreadsheet-based information systems can never achieve without a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
The traffic light systems that set me off on this labour of love was only the start of such a system, but it gave the flavour of the type of job I decided was worthwhile pursuing for the rest of my career. But that’s the subject for a future blog.