Tag Archives: digital devices

Digital and society – true love or an unhealthy obsession?

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

Reflections from a bursary winner

In his book ‘The Rise of the Humans’, Dave Coplin  expounds that technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply an amplifier of whatever we, as society and individuals, choose to use it for.

The media however certainly seem keen on amplifying the negative aspects of our relationship with technology, with often rather sensationalist reports of children as young as seven ‘sexting’ , a mental health “epidemic” in young people being directly attributed to social media usage, a decrease in the age and an increase in the severity of reported loneliness  an increase in divorces attributed to gaming addiction and claims of reducing memory and attention spans in young people and adults alike. Indeed it’s not just the media reporting these bad news stories. Numerous academics and researchers have produced literature reinforcing this rhetoric. I myself spent six months researching the impacts of digital technology and devices on ‘millennial’ learners and their ability to learn and retain information for my Master’s degree. Whilst my findings were not as negatively polarised as those of writers such as Nicholas Carr, Sherry Truckle and Susan Greenfield, I did conclude that there could be significant impacts on individuals and wider society if we fail to exercise caution, control and discipline when using digital technologies and if we fail to pass these skills onto new generations.
I feel I must defend myself a little at this point. I’m not anti-technology or anti-digital. I work in the field of IT, I have a passion for digital technology and I love the convenience of my digital devices and streaming services. I fully-support Coplin’s theory – it is our adoption and attitude towards and use of digital technology that is causing issues in society, not technology itself.
Positive applications of technology can save lives, help us to protect the planet, bring people together and introduce all manner of convenience and efficiency into our working, social and family lives. I don’t believe that we’re creating a new generation of zombie-like device-users incapable of building real life human relationships or employing critical thought. I have met twelve year olds that have astounded me with their common sense, intelligence, curiosity and yes, technical capabilities. The student who gave the opening and closing speech for Coplin’s lecture at Warwick School could have stood in front of any corporate board room and held his own.
I genuinely believe that today’s young people have as much talent, promise and potential as any other generation but that the technological advancements and the amount of information readily available to them, literally at their fingertips, gives them both advantages and disadvantages. Indeed Pew Research Centre concluded their in-depth 2012 research study into the future of technology with the somewhat inconclusively titled report “Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives“.
In my research, the evidence suggested that those who are able to efficiently use social media and other technologies and practice ‘multi-tasking’ when it is appropriate to do so, stand to do well in today’s digital society and workplaces. However, it is also apparent that if left unchecked and unmanaged, the issues we are seeing in society could continue and increase in prevelance and severity, creating negative knock-on impacts and detracting from the positive impacts.

I attended a talk by Adam Thilthorpe of the BCS at Business Analysis Europe 2018 in September courtesy of a UCISA bursary, in which he discussed what he termed the ‘unintended impacts’ of technology – those negative impacts discussed above. He raised the question of where the responsibility lies in pre-empting, identifying and mitigating against such impacts. When companies develop their media and communications platforms, I think we can fairly safely assume that they are not doing so with the intention that 11-year-olds will use them to send ‘sexts’; this is an unintended impact of the technology they have created. On the other hand, there are organisations who may exploit anxieties such as fear of missing out (FOMO), self-esteem issues and device addiction to market and sell products and services.
This raises a number of questions. Who should – or could – be responsible for identifying, pre-empting and mitigating against unintended and/or potentially unethical impacts of emerging technologies? Is it the responsibility of technology companies? Businesses? The Government? Educational Establishments? Parents? Individuals? Pressure groups? All of the above? And how do we begin to pre-empt such impacts when we are dealing with new, disruptive, previously-unseen technologies being released into an ever-changing society?
As a society we are experiencing an unprecedented rate of technological change. We are innovating incredibly quickly and have adopted digital technologies readily and intrinsically into our everyday lives. However, our legislation, regulation, educational systems and social and cultural norms are still changing at the same rate; comparatively slowly. It seems that we have been somewhat blindsided and as such have possibly not put in place measures to enable digital technologies to always be adopted and integrated into people’s lives in a productive, safe and useful manner. At the same time, we are so enamoured with our digital devices and applications and the convenience and opportunities that they bring, that we may not be pausing to consider the unintended and long-term impacts and effects of them.
In her 1979 book ‘Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love’, Dorothy Tennov coined the phrase ‘Limerence’, which she defined as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.” It’s that period of a relationship where your brain is producing a heady cocktail of Dopamine and Oxytocin and the object of your attention becomes your sole focus. It’s the stage where strange habits, bad behaviours and the wider impacts of focusing on one person to the exclusion of all else seem insignificant. That wonderful phase where their window-rattling snores seem adorable and your friends barely see you for six months.
It seems that as a society we are in a state of limerence with technology. We overlook the wider impacts, the bad habits, the potential problems, the metaphorical duvet-stealing, because we are hooked on those little hits of dopamine and oxytocin that are released every time we get a ‘like’ on a photo on Facebook or a connection request on LinkedIn – the exact same checmicals that are released during the limerance stage of a relationship. Indeed neuro-economist Adam Penenburg’s research centres on drawing parallels between the chemicals released when using social media and those released when falling in love. Interestingly, just like with limerence, there are also elements of addictive behaviour displayed when using digital platforms such as social media. Indeed Smartphone and gaming addiction are now recognised as distinct social issues with 73% of the 2016 OFCOM report’s 16-24 respondents professing to be ‘hooked’ on the device they use most to go online and ‘gaming disorder’ being recognised as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation.
The question this raises is what happens when we fall out of limerence with digital technology? When we come down from that heady chemical rush, will we still be in love and will the relationship still be sustainable?
The media spotlight on some of the social issues in recent years and the acknowledgement by health organisations of some of the health impacts of unhealthy technology suggests that we’re starting to edge out of limerence and into the stark reality of our ongoing relationship with digital technology. Perhaps we’re starting to want to reconnect with our old friends ‘Walk in the Countryside’ and ‘Conversations around the Dinner Table’ who we dropped in favour of the alluring blue glow of our smartphone screens in the late 2000s. Perhaps we’re starting to assert our independence a little, creating screen-free times, rather than being slaves to our devices 24/7. Perhaps we are thinking about how we can strike a balance between our online and offline lives.
As Stephanie Sarkis states: “Time heals the intense pleasure (and suffering) of limerence… in a long-term relationship, it’s when things start getting real.” It’s safe to say that this is a long-term relationship, a multi-generational one in fact. That’s why it’s so important that, as with any relationship, we work out what we want from it, how we can manage and balance it and how to ensure that it is a long, beneficial, happy and healthy partnership for everyone involved.
This article first appeared on Rachel’s blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Thinking outside the box with CPD

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity, customer focus, and empathy, this article looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018: Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
As the first month of the year draws to a close, with the threat of freezing temperatures and snow, many of us may find our resolve to stick to a new year programme of healthy eating, more exercise and quitting our vices of choice tested. The desire to curl up in front of the fire with a drink and some comfort food may well become harder to resist as temptation knocks on the snow-laden window.
But not all resolutions are about quitting bad habits. Many of us will have started the year with goals to learn a new skill, gain a new qualification or simply to learn something new and certainly many of the speakers at last year’s Business Analysis Conference 2018 appeared to advocate this as a personal goal.

CPD outside the box

Indeed much of the focus of Sir Clive Woodward’s inspiring keynote talk on the morning of Day 2 was on ‘relentless learning’; a lifelong practice of curiosity, seeking out new knowledge and dedicating time and energy to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). However, Sir Clive advocated thinking outside of the box with your learning as skills and knowledge which may initially seem irrelevant to your role, may give you unexpected benefits. I believe that this is particularly true today, with an unprecedented rate of technological change and new entrants to almost every industry seeking to disrupt the status quo, it is difficult to predict what skills any job role will require in the future.
Further to my earlier blog on convergence, I find it quite exciting that twelve years ago, the job roles of ‘Digital Marketing Manager’ or ‘Social Media Content Producer’ didn’t really exist. Where traditionally marketing and IT were somewhat separate entities, technological developments and the adoption of web technologies and digital marketing, have caused the two to converge. Many marketing roles require more technological knowledge and business-facing IT roles require more of an understanding of customer behaviour than perhaps ever before.
Sir Clive’s example of developing skills outside of your immediate field, was his experience of managing the England rugby team. When he took over management of the team, he bought a laptop for each team member and insisted that they learned how to use it; an unusual ask perhaps in an era where device ownership was significantly less pervasive than it is today. Facing scepticism from the team and critics alike, Woodward argued that ‘those that win at technology, tend to win’ and he was proved right.
In due course, a sophisticated sports monitoring software package arrived on the market, enabling video playback of a match, overlaid with data and analytics which could provide insight into player behaviour, strategy and tactics from both teams. With their new-found IT skills, the entire team were able to analyse, learn and understand their – and the opposing team’s – gameplay and input recommendations for improvements to tactics and strategy based upon this. Had the team constrained their skills development to the core skillset needed for playing rugby, it is likely that they would not have been able to embrace this technology, leverage its capabilities and collectively gain so much benefit and competitive advantage from its use.

Time and cost hacks for CPD

When it comes to finding ways to develop your skills, particularly when self-funding, it may seem that cost is prohibitive, but learning doesn’t need to be expensive. Platforms such as FutureLearn and the OU’s OpenLearn have a plethora of free, online courses at all levels, many of which are modules taken from current degree courses. There are also a number of free conferences and networking events for many industries and areas of interest. Jisc’s annual Digifest the Education sector is a personal favourite. Tools such as Eventbrite, Meetup or simply Google can all help you to find free events near you. Viewing videos on YouTube or TED can be another way of learning quickly and informally.
Time may be another factor that poses a barrier to CPD, but this is where digital technologies can really help. Many courses are now delivered digitally and can be consumed in bite-sized chunks at a time to suit you. This micro-learning is one of many trends towards digitisation and consumer-centred demand in learning technology and is brilliant for busy people to squeeze in some structured personal development throughout the course of the day. Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly through Facebook or LinkedIn? Why not switch one of those scrolling sessions to viewing a short training video? Better still if ‘spend less time on social media’ was one of your new year’s resolutions!
Learning doesn’t need to be structured either. The old adage ‘you learn something new every day’ is quite true, but often we don’t realise that we’re picking up new skills and learning new things. Putting aside a few minutes at the end of the day to consider what you’ve learnt and how you can apply it helps to identify these ‘on the job’ development opportunities. But what if you’re finding that you’re not learning anything new? Well, perhaps it’s time to start looking for new opportunities in or out of work to stretch, develop and grow yourself. Learning a new skill as a hobby can also open doors or show you new paths. You may enjoy your new sport, art or community hobby so much you may decide to make a career from it, or find a way to incorporate your new skillset learned from your hobby to enhance your job and career. For example, in my spare time, I perform as an actor in a theatre group. At work, I use the skills I’ve learned in my acting training when approaching public speaking or facilitating workshops. I also run training courses on this for my colleagues in order to share my somewhat unconventional skillset!
So to summarise, learning doesn’t necessarily need to be related to your day job. All new skills are valuable and as demonstrated by Sir Clive and the England rugby squad, you never know when you will use something that initially seems completely unrelated to your job. Take control of your own development by being mindful of opportunities when they present themselves to you and using digital platforms for free, quick micro learning that can fit into your life when and where it suits you.

Coming Soon…

We’re nearly at the end of my series of ‘Top Takeaways from the Business Analysis Conference 2018’, so thank you to everyone who has been following these blogs and commenting. For the final instalment on the theme of ‘Catastrophising’, I will be trying something a little different and not only creating my first vlog, but doing so from Death Valley in California and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada! Watch this space and all will become clear!
This blog first appeared on Rachel’s Linkedin blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of convergence

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
The 2018 event marked the conference’s tenth year and having been a business analyst for approaching fifteen years now, this conference has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have watched longingly as more senior colleagues, freelance peers and even co-workers nominated for ‘Business Analyst of the Year’, have departed for London for three days of sharing ideas, networking and learning and returned positively sparking with inspiration. This year, my turn came and I spent much of the week before preparing and planning, determined to gain the most I possibly could from this experience.
I returned, somewhat exhausted, but brimming with ideas, inspiration and a newfound pride in my profession. As a blogger, I also have inspiration for articles and blogs to keep me and my readers happy until Christmas! Over the space of the three days, I attended fifteen talks and workshops and left each one more enlightened that when I walked in, from gaining a new nugget of information, a shift in my attitude and approach towards the BA profession, to learning an entirely new technique.
More detail will follow over the coming weeks, but in this article I discuss the first of a number of key themes that seemed to permeate the conference: convergence.

Convergence

Many years ago I completed a lengthy application process for an industrial placement with a global corporation and on my application form I ticked ‘marketing’ and ‘IT’ as my two business areas of interest. In the interview stage, I was quizzed for some time on what the recruiters perceived as a most unusual juxtaposition; how could a person wanting to work in the technical discipline of IT also harbour an interest in the creative field of marketing?
Marketing has been a career-long interest for me. I chose to pursue a career in IT, but have often tended towards marketing in my personal development, attending the occasional CIM training session, self-studying related online courses and eventually undertaking a Masters which comprised at least 50% marketing modules. But why, if I had chosen a career in IT? Well, firstly because I find marketing theory and customer behaviour fascinating and secondly, perhaps because I approached IT from the field of web design and running my own business in the early 00s, I’ve always mentally linked marketing with IT.
Unfortunately, my industrial placement hirer’s attitude was not in isolation. Throughout my career, many potential employers have been perplexed and in some cases even turned off by my multi-disciplinary set of interests. Given this, it was a great reassurance to find that a significant proportion of the discussion, theory and techniques at Business Analysis Europe had roots in or strong connections to marketing.
Technological innovations and developments have disrupted almost every industry. The pervasive use of digital devices and social platforms by the majority of the populace, certainly in the Western world, has led to digital becoming a primary channel for many companies to engage with their customer base; pushing communications to them, engaging them in two-way conversations, facilitating digital communities of like-minded customers and of course ecommerce.
These digital marketing systems and platforms require IT professionals, just as with any other system and as with any other project, business analysts need to understand marketing theory and strategy if they are to design, build and successfully implement systems to support organisations’ marketing strategy.

I draw on marketing as it is an area of personal interest and because it was indeed a key area of focus at the conference, but the same applies for all areas of business; sales, operations, asset management, HR and certainly customer service and PR, as previously explored in my earlier blog article ‘Blurred Lines’.  As Mark Smalley (@MarkSmalley) stated in his The Digital BA session: “In the digital enterprise, business and IT are converging and we <as Business Analysts> need to consider the consequences of this”.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-rachel-drinkwater/.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.