Twenty-six years ago I started working at the BBC just as the corporation was entering into its first big phase of digital transformation. The world of broadcast media was changing as the production and distribution of television shifted from analogue to digital technologies.

Shifting from analogue tape to first digital tape and then hard drives had a huge impact on production methods. The changes have been continuing ever since, through various waves. Indeed, the pandemic marked another shift as broadcasters realised the convenience of video conferencing tools would outweigh some of the issues of quality that would have made them unacceptable for many uses before 2020.

Looking back, I sometimes fall into the trap that it all happened years ago. That it was quick. It didn’t, and it wasn’t.

It was gradual, with occasional large steps (in no particular order, digital transmission, non-destructive digital editing, on demand streaming for example), external shocks (Napster) and the occasional interim stage (digital audio tape, DVDs).

So as we approach nearly three decades of digital change in the media industry, a sector which was both early to be impacted and also that fosters many strange analogue laggards), we should take note of how long this stuff takes to make an impact. For example, it is only in the past year or so that end-to-end, internet-based streaming services have been offered by Sky to replace satellite and cable broadcast distribution.

This brings me to the world of office work. We’ve seen a significant shift in the past few years as the pandemic proved the case for how remote working at scale could work. But the work we are doing has barely changed in my thirty years of employment. Memos have been replaced by emails have been replaced by Teams messages. But our organisational structures and ways of working are fairly recognisable for someone from the 1990s. Recognisable in a way that Netflix wouldn’t be to 20-year-old Matt who worked in a video shop.

So what do we learn? For all the impatience, the digital transformation of office work is a long game. If you expect everything to become clear quickly, you’re in for much disappointment. The steps we’ve made into the remote virtual world aren’t going away, but they’re probably not “the future”. And strange vestiges of the old will stick around for ages. Like the fax machine did until all of a sudden it didn’t

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