No Time for Dinosaurs

Sweden is “lagging ahead” when it comes to the digital transformation of public organisations. This was the opening message from Expertgruppen för digitala investeringar at a seminar on Agile Transformation. According to recent statistics Sweden is not a leader in the field, something the Swedish Government wishes to change. While we wait for a new authority for Digitalization a special committee has been formed to support public organisations in the transformation. Much of this is done behind the scenes, but there are also open dissemination of best practices. Today’s event was one such occasion.

Anna Eriksson from Lantmäteriet, The Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority (I didn’t know that) talked about how the authority were transforming their IT-organisation to embrace agile practices. This was very much done via leading by example. The change project itself was run in the spirit of agile, early adopters were allowed to experiment and yearly hackatons encouraged mixed teams with both IT-developers and business people.

Martin Johansson, CIO at SEB and member of the committe, shared SEB:s long and ongoing digital transformation. Martin’s take home message can be summarized as agile takes time. Working in a large organization with legacy systems as well an established organizational culture agile does not happen overnight. One factor contributing to this was the fact that SEB.s project portfolio contained so many running waterfall projects. These had to be finished before the agile transformation could start to deliver. The dinosaurs had to go, as he said. There were many interesting points in Martins account but one important one was the need to unite the business side and the IT side of the organization. While SEB certainly transformed their IT structure, the importance of this collaboration was emphasized a number of times in his presentation. Judging from our own research experience that seems to be true for a number of other organisations as well.

Why this urgency for going agile? Well, as Anders Nyström–who moderated the seminar–said, the strategic projects are in general to slow for politics. With an average length of 30+ months it is difficult to see the effects of political initiatives. Perhaps even more importantly, both Anna Eriksson and Martin Johansson represent large, well established organisations, nevertheless the disruptions on the market calls for agile responses. Otherwise they might turn out to be  the dinosaurs.

The only thing I missed was the opportunity to ask a second question. I would have been really interested to learn more about their view on the user.

Halvdagskonferens: Stress, näthat och teknikstrul

Arbetsmiljölagen fyller 40 år i år. Det firas den 28 november med en halvdagskonferens på temat digital arbetsmiljö och “40-åring i behov av ett digitalt uppvaknande”, för att citera inbjudan. Konferensen har tre teman: det flexibla arbetslivet, inflytande, uppföljning och övervakning samt hot och trakasserier. Gerolf Nauwerck från HTO kommer att vara en av presentatörerna.

28 Nov 2017 13:00 – 28 Nov 2017 16:30
DIK, Bondegatan 21, Stockholm
Arrangör: Arenagruppen
Obligatorisk anmälan

How to Prevent bad IT

Badly implemented IT is a costly affair. According to reports from Unionen (a Swedish union), there are tens of millions of Euro to be saved, in Sweden alone. Many problems are also well known and there are ways to address them. Yet knowledge about both problems and solutions is limited. One actor trying to spread best practices is the Swedish health promoting agency Prevent (jointly owned and managed by the employer and employee organisations).

Prevent recently teamed up with a number of Swedish researchers in this field, including our own professor Bengt Sandblad to develop a solution to this. The solution (also mentioned in an earlier blog post here) is an online guide covering a number of stages and aspects relating to ICT requirements, development and implementation.

The guide was featured in local newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning (here and here) and the coverage indicates that there is an increasing awareness and understanding of the issues.

You can find the guide from Prevent here: www.prevent.se/it/

Singing Mice doing the Digital Transformation

Romantic mice actually do sing. This was but one message from the conference Gilla jobbet (“Enjoy Work”). The event is a joint venture including a number of central actors on the Swedish labour market, who focus on workers’ health and safety. The conference itself had four major tracks: health promotion, the digital work environment, assessment and retention. If you missed it, it will go on tour in spring 2018. (Edit: some seminars were video recorded and you can watch them here.)

One presentation in the health promotion track–by Frida Fossland and Sara Leijonqvist–related to work life balance. Frida Fossland’s message was that we need to be observant of the more subtle aspects of flexible work. Sure, hyper connectivity 24/7 can be a striking aspect, but flexible work also creates tensions between employer and employee that needs to be taken care of–as traditional modes of management by walking around no longer apply. To support this, Prevent (a Swedish health promoting agency) has developed Balansguiden (“The Work Life Balance Guide”). This is an online tool supporting both the employer and the employee with the ultimate goal of facilitating discussions in the workplace relating to policies and strategies for flexible work. It is quite an impressive product and it actually was awarded first prize at the International Media Festival for Prevention in 2017.

One of the main sessions was a joint presentation on the topic of digitalization and the work environment. Sweden’s digitalization champion Jan Gulliksen introduced the topic with an emphasis on the societal aspects of the digital transformation, though with many examples from everyday work. He also promoted a book on the subject that will be released just before Christmas, a book where our colleague Bengt  Sandblad is one of the co-authors.

This was followed by a presentation by Jonas Söderström, Sweden’s usability guru. He is the author of the book Jävla Skitsystem (Stupid **** system!) and is a key figure in establishing public awareness around the topic. He did a great presentation and the figures really brought home the message. Finally, Anna Pramborg from Sunt Arbetsliv ended the session with a preview of a new framework–aimed at municipalities and counties–also related to improving the digital work environment.

The main event at this session was nevertheless the presentation by Fredrik Beskow of the new online tool Inför rätt IT (“Do IT right”) from Prevent, aimed at supporting organisations during digital transformation. This tool in many ways represents Swedish state of the art in this respect, as the team behind it included among others aforementioned Jonas Söderström as well as our own Bengt Sandblad. Fredrik Beskow did stress that this was the first version and that the team were hoping to get lots of  feedback so that the tool could be developed furher.

The day ended with a brilliant piece of entertainment. Stand up comedian Måns Möller and stress researcher Dan Hansson (an Uppsala University alumni) successfully combined humor and science in their show Öka livet! (“More life!”). And yes, it was in this show that the singing mice were introduced. It turns out that mice actually court by singing and we got the opportunity to listen to a smal serenade.

All in all not a bad day at work

HCI in the Belly of the Beast

ECSCW 2017 proved to be a real boost. It is a small and welcoming community, and for whatever reason I felt really at home there. Perhaps it was that extra edge to the theoretical discussions, perhaps it was the engagement-perhaps it was just all the inspirational people; either way it was a great experience. The conference was held in the city of Sheffield, hosted by the Sheffield Hallam University in the Charles Street Building, strategically located near Tamper Coffee. (Quite sure I was their best customer over these few days.)

During the master classes David Randall shared his rich experiences and insights on qualitative methods and writing for publication and Kjeld Schmidt explored some central concepts literally starting with the old greeks. The main event for me and nine fellow PhD students was of course the full day Doctoral Colloquium, wonderfully chaired by Geraldine Fitzpatrick and her on-site colleagues Jacki O’Neill, Michael Muller and Nervo Verdezoto. Jesper Kjeldskov provided av real life example of CSCW as he had to join via Skype–a virtual tour de force.
I enjoyed the keynote by famous philosopher Gloria Origgi on reputation and reputation management. On this followed a number of presentations of which I will only hilight the ones that more directly touched upon my interests (see the conference site for a full debrief).

Manisha Patel presented a paper on deference to smart devices in hospitals and how it relates to authority–something I think could be relevant to our Disa Project. Michael Muller and Yuko Okubo each presented exploratory papers that related to office work and automation. Minha Lee introduced a moral perspective in her talk on bots as intermediaries in online communication.

The first panel session was a real treat. The topic was Changing Workplaces and Technology and had the discussion continued any longer, I would have had my thesis finished there and then. Now, I got a lot of valuable input instead, for which I’m really grateful.

I had to leave on the second day but managed to catch the second panel, on designer’ intentions. This of course struck a chord with by background in aesthetics, where intention in a central concept. Noteworthy was of course Michael Mullers insights directly from the belly of the beast, as he so nicely put it.

There were also presentations related to local development on various levels (which struck a chord with the human geographer in me). Jakita Thomas’ talk on African-American middle school girls designing games for social change made me think this might perhaps be something for my department to look into. Sebastian Weise applied institutional theory with some interesting results and Gaia Mosconi gave an great introduction to the Social Street and hybrid community engagement. I’ll just have to read up on all the interesting stuff I missed out on.

One thing I learnt though, is that there are ethnos walking the earth here and now, and if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. Hopefully I’ll see them again in Nancy next year – although I just missed the first deadline.

Finally: Joy at Work

Summer is over and Joy at Work is finally here. Well, at least that is the slogan for the Nordic Ergonomic Society’s yearly conference – NES 2017. This year it is three days of keynotes and presentation sessions in Lund, Sweden, at the Ingvar Kamprad Design Centre. As human-computer interaction ows some of its heritage to ergonomics, there are more than a few interesting presentations from our perspective. I notice that there are some presentations relating to eHealth which seem highly relevant to our DISA project, for instance.

On the whole, the conference sessions cover a lot of themes relating to ergonomics, its hard to identify any specific trends. On the contrary, I think the conference width is a good reminder of how complex working life actually is. Perhaps the inclusion of a special session for presentations relating to flexible workplaces is the strongest indicator of a hot new topics.

Monday ended with a tour of the lab facilities of the host, the division of Ergonomics and Aerosol Technology. This was a really pleasant surprise as the five stations in different labs revealed five very engaged researchers and some at times very hands on experiences of various equipment. I think a couple of the presenters could almost have persuaded me to change career. Science at its best.

Then there is also one presentation by myself on Tuesday afternoon, where I will discuss some of our experiences relating to the assessment of the Digital Work Environment in the wild. In a way, this presentation is just a teaser, as I will write more on this issue the coming months. For the very same reason I do hope I will get some input from the audience.

Some notes from EUNIS 2017

In the SISU project we study a major system implementation in a university context. This year we got accepted for the EUNIS 2017 Conference, which is an excellent opportunity to present our results outside the academic community (no pun intended).

My presentation was one of the last but we had a full seminar room and the response was positive. (The presentation will ba available from the EUNIS web site.) Many universities all over Europe are in the same stage, transitioning from old student information systems to new, so many shared the same concerns. One example was this year’s host Münster who presented their transition to a new student management system, a project which felt quite familiar to us studying Ladok.

Of course, for me it was really interesting to listen to the other presentations and to get a feel for what is important for the community and what is on the agenda.

The three largest conference tracks were e-learning, infrastructure and management respectivly. Reocurring themes were mobility and analytics. The new EU regulations on privacy were given special attention.

The conference ended with a brilliant presentation by Nikolas Guggenberger on trust in blockchains. Guggenberger discussed the relation between blockchain and law. He concluded by pointing out how reliance on blockchain will invert the field of data protection. Not by solving the problem but rather by switching focus from known individuals with secure transactions to anonymous users with open transactions. A main point was also how the lack of a central authority is misaligned with most jurisdiction as the idea of someone ultimately responsible is often critical.

To me, the keynote on open education by Sheila Macneill was nevertheless the most inspiering. Macneill is a long term advocate for open education and made a convincing case for openness being a core value of higher education. (Her presentation is available on her web site as a recording.)

Taking a somewhat longer perspective she also noted how hard it is to make reliable predictions. Just some years ago MOOCs were seen as the next big thing, ready to make all but a few HEIs obsolete. Now they are just a part of life but instead alternate facts are shaking the wery foundation of education. “That’s just an expert, what does s/he know?”. Sheila’s answer was a plea that universities must create their own strong narratives to remain relevant.

This year all but one member of the Ladok consortium were absent due to heavy workload. Pray next year’s conference will be dominated by lessons learnt from the Ladok project.