Monday, September 24, 2012

A ride in the Tardis...

If you are reading this from a Service Management perspective, looking for some insight, sorry, you are probably going to be disappointed. I am really not sure if there is going to be any service management message in today's post...definitely a technology related post, but possibly not so much service management involved, although I will see if I can tie it all together in the end!

I began my career as a journalist in 1982 at at small country newspaper called the Putaruru Press, this was a bi-weekly tabloid, no breaking news, no great political statements...more of the comings and goings of the local Women's Institute and the activities of the Borough Council.

But this isn't about the happenings of a small town newspaper...although there were some interesting events in my time there! It is all about the incredible speed of technological advancements and how that is impacting on today's workers and job seekers.

© Natis -
My first office contained a desk, an Imperial manual typewriter, a copy spike and a pile of A5 coloured paper. Each story was paragraph to a page, with a carbon copy, on the coloured paper, in landscape orientation, the first page had the word START in the top left corner, subsequent pages had the word cont. in the same position and 'MTF' (more to follow) in the bottom right, replaced on the final page with END. When the story was finished the carbon copy was 'spiked' and the top copy paper-clipped together, any corrections made with typesetting marks, and put in the editor's in tray.

After editing, the copy went to the typesetting room...this was the height of modern technology in 1982, a Quadritek typsetting machine that could use four font weights at the same time. Once the text was entered into the Quadritek the resulting strips of paper were developed and then hung to dry before going to the proofreaders who checked it against the original copy and looked for spelling errors introduced by the typesetters. Changes made, another copy of the text was developed and dried, it was then cut to size and pasted up, using wax, onto boards ready for the next stage of the process. If you think using programs like InDesign or Quark to create your pages is time consuming and fiddly, try using a knife and ruler to get the text to fit the page.

Being a small operation, you did have to be jack of all trades, so I often found myself doing paste-up, and I hated it... once the paste-up was done, my next role kicked into play...I was also the photographer and darkroom technician. I would be given the exact size that photos needed to be, and it would then be my job to develop and print to size so they could be added to the pasteup board. The board then went to the plate makers who would photograph it on to an aluminium sheet which was used on the printing press - I really never went too deeply into just how that worked,  my part of the job ended when the boards left the typesetting room.

If you are only in your twenties or thirties this is, I know, literally a lifetime ago...but really it is not that long! The speed with which technology has overrun the newspaper business is incredible and many journos have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into this new world.

My very first job, as a new graduate, was on the Radio New Zealand Rural Roundup lunchtime agricultural show. We would head out to rural NZ, with a tape recorder and microphone in hand, conduct the interviews and then drive back to Wellington and hand them over to be edited for inclusion in a later show. On the rare occasions that we needed a live report you would have to find a kindly farmer with a landline phone you could use or a public pay phone.

Sorry if this is sounding a bit like the proverbial "back in my day...." speech, it is not supposed to, but the incremental changes that have occurred in this, and the majority of other industries in the past 20-30 years are truly astounding. It was only when I sat down the other day and thought about how I used to work that I realised the speed, and impact, of the changes that have happened.

I took almost 14 years out of newspaper journalism to raise our family, just doing the odd freelance assignment during that time. When I headed back to the trenches in 1999 it was like I had been for a journey on the Tardis and had been fast forwarded into the future...many of the technical skills, actually probably ALL the technical skills, I had were obsolete. Nobody developed film any longer, manual typewriters were only found in museums, Quark, Pagemaker and InDesign had revolutionised the way newspapers were put together.

It was probably this that spurred my entry into the world of IT Service Management. I took it upon myself to find out as much as possible about the technological changes that had occurred while I had been otherwise occupied, ultimately that led me, after a few changes in direction and stops along the way, to where I am today.

When I started writing this I was really not sure where it was going, it was just a connection of thoughts that came to me over the past few days. I watched my four year old grandson instinctively navigate his way around the iPad, finding the YouTube app and typing in M I C K E Y so that he could watch his favourite video clips. I disagree with those who say that young children do not need technology, they need a balance of technology and old fashioned childhood rough and tumble fun. Just because we didn't have all these gadgets in "our day" doesn't mean our children and grandchildren don't need them now. In my grandparent's day there were no inside toilets, or running hot water...that doesn't mean that we should do without them now.

© Andrea Danti -
Used wisely technology can enhance our lives and it is more than important that we encourage today's children to use and be comfortable with the huge range of technology that is available freely to them. In 10 (actually probably more like two) years time freely available streaming data will probably be just as normal, and important to day- to-day life, as turning on a tap and having water come out. We would find it very difficult to function without running water, streaming data is the water of the future.

Social media, a couple of years ago, was a nice distraction, I would never have considered that managing social media could become a career...mind you 30 years ago who would have expected there to be a role in managing IT services organisations whose core business was not IT?

Well, having re-read what I have written, I am not too sure where I have got to with these musings from what must seem to be a very confused mind. But I think what I am trying to say is that our landscape is changing dramatically, almost every day. We must adapt our skills as service managers or we will become irrelevant, just as the experts in metal typesetting found themselves a few short years ago.

The services we are managing will become less and less IT focused as they become more and more IT centric. As I think I said in a previous post (maybe I am just saying the same thing in a different way here!) IT is starting to matter so much that is just doesn't matter.

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