5 June 2006

Anthropologists help IT focus on how employees really work [Computer World]

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Alexandra Mack and Jim Euchner of Pitney Bowes Inc.
The IT world has a bias that automation is always good. Technologists bring that bias to the drawing table when they design products, and it can sometimes blind them to the true needs of users. Enter anthropologists, who are trained to ask questions about how people work, how they relate to others, which tools they use and which ones they don’t. That kind of research allows anthropologists to see the world from users’ perspectives.

Although IT anthropologists are far from common, some companies and IT shops are hiring them to provide that insight, which in turn helps technologists develop applications and systems that best meet users’ needs. IBM computer scientist Eser Kandogan sums up the relationship like this: A technologist can make a tool usable; an anthropologist can make sure it’s used.

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Read side story on ROI of anthropologists in IT

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