I Inadvertently Replaced My Coworker With Software

A couple of years ago, I managed a project to replace an aging and much-loathed application at work. There were two application administrators, my coworker and myself. I wasn’t too familiar with the system and was learning how to use it on the job. My co-worker, on the other hand, was the power user. She knew almost everything about it since she helped to implement it years ago.

We also had a small number of users who did nothing but complain about the application. I had my fair share of frustrations with the application as well.  It was slow, unintuitive, and too time consuming to use. Simple tasks to update or delete information took too long and had too many steps. It felt the application held the users hostage and their time could have been spent better elsewhere.

I stuck with it as long as I could before letting upper management know that we needed to look for alternatives. However, my coworker was against the idea of replacing it, since it was her baby.  Eventually, my coworker left for an opportunity elsewhere, and I became the sole administrator of the system. The transition felt like a seasoned race car driver handing the keys over to a go-kart enthusiast. I spoke with upper management about my frustrations yet again. There was no resistance the second time around I received the green light to search for a replacement.

After months of testing potential replacements, I found one that was much easier to use, integrated with data from other systems, and cost a fraction of the price. During this time, a replacement was hired to backfill the vacant position.

It took almost half a year to implement the new system, and my new coworker helped with a portion of it. Once the application launched, the busy work drastically reduced. Tasks that used to take hours took seconds or minutes to complete. I even set up a nightly process that would automatically update data in the system from another one. With most of the busy work eliminated, I was able to focus more on running the day-to-day operations.

However, there was an unintended consequence of implementing the new system. My previous co-worker (the one who left), spent a large portion of her day administering the system. After all, she was the subject matter expert who made the backend modifications and changes. Well, that all went away with the new system because it was much more streamlined and easy to use. My new coworker didn’t have to do what his predecessor did, which meant, he had a lot of free time. Perhaps so much, that management eventually realized his full-time position was more of a part-time one. He was laid off, and I absorbed his responsibilities, which to be honest, wasn’t that much. On one occasion, he casually joked that the new application replaced him.

While trying to be efficient and help the department reduce cost, I never thought it would lead to the elimination of a position. After all, the position had been around for over ten years. It’s no surprise we utilize technology to work more efficiently while trying to reduce cost and save time. That is the reason companies utilize self-service kiosks, robots, and artificial intelligence to replace human counterparts. I never once sat back to think about the ramifications of improving efficiencies through simplification and automation, until I realized the new system caused the elimination of a job position.

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