Delegate the Right Jobs to Software

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Delegate the Right Jobs to Software

Every industry is being transformed by a new staffing option for the “jobs to be done” and that staffing option is software. Your business needs to get stuff done—some of that stuff needs to be done by humans and a lot of that stuff needs to be done by software.

There are two kinds of work to be done in your print business: work that is best done by your people and work that is best done by your software. People and software are good at different things.


Unstructured problem-solving.

Your entire production staff just got food poisoning and you need to figure out how to keep the presses running.

Acquiring and processing new information.

Listening to a customer explain their pain points; deciding what is relevant (possible opportunities for you to solve). and disregarding what is not important.

Nonroutine physical work.

The craft that is running a press, executing on make-readys, color correction, monitoring the press performance, making adjustments during the run, etc.

Being Human.

Creating trusted bonds with co-workers, customers, suppliers—all the relationships necessary to run a business.


Keeping Track of Massive Amounts of Data.

Capturing and storing every single transaction your business has made with every single customer and vendor.

Performing Routine Tasks Accurately and Consistently

Sending an automated email out to customers when their job has shipped.

Doing Complex Math Fast.

Calculating the optimal imposition layout for a group of jobs.

Your print business probably runs too much on people and not enough on software right now. We are in a massive transition of moving “jobs to be done” from people to software. As Google CEO Eric Schmidt has put it, the key for humans who want to succeed in the future will be observing this “separation of powers” and collaborating with computers while specializing in what we do best. We should not fear software but embrace what it can do well and use it to free up our human resources to focus on what they do well. Look around your print business—where do you see your people doing jobs that are better suited for software?

I was interviewing the staff at a printer who had just completed a massive process change which truly optimized their use of both their new Print MIS and web-to-print system. In this transition, the jobs to be done by humans changed dramatically. I interviewed one individual and she said that the job she was hired for no longer exists. She had been hired to do the manual inputting of orders coming from an unconnected web-to-print solution into a Print MIS. When this new integrated system came in, she admitted to me that she was scared because it appeared to equate to her no longer being needed. The reality was something quite different. This individual is now customer-facing: she is collaborating with customers to solve their marketing challenges.

The transition was scary, but the best part of this story is the job satisfaction this individual has today. Not only is she not doing mind-numbing data entry anymore, but she is no longer overwhelmed and behind. The integrated software suite makes the job of supporting the customer so much easier that she feels she has more time to dedicate to the customer. In the beginning of the transition she was dedicated to a single large account; today, she can manage five accounts without feeling overwhelmed. She expressed to me that she thought it was funny that she was afraid of losing her old job when her new position is so much more fulfilling.

Many people hold onto jobs that should be done by software because they think of it as job security. It’s actually quite the opposite. A job that can be better done by software (e.g. calculate a complex imposition) doesn’t necessarily replace the human; rather, it can help the human gain valuable skills. Software doesn’t run itself, the operator of software then becomes the valuable resource who, when working in tandem with the software, can increase their production by many orders of magnitude. The tools help us work better; learning the tools makes us more valuable to the businesses we work for.

“With intelligence augmentation, the ultimate goal is not building machines that think like humans but designing machines that help humans think better.” —Deloitte Consulting, Cognitive Collaboration Why Humans and Computers Think Better Together.

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