UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY
31272 Project Management and the Professional Assignment 1 – Autumn 2021
Marks: 30 marks (30%)
Submission Components: Softcopy Report
Submission Due: 6pm, 1 April 2021
Report Submission To: Canvas (softcopy)
Length: 2800- 3500 words (of report body)
Anticipated Commitment: 12 hours per student
Objectives/Graduate Attributes: 4 / B, E
This is an individual assignment
Technology is changing swiftly. In particular, advances in automation, surveillance and communications have allowed a wide range of options for tracking people’s activities. This has many potential applications from ensuring the safety of those at risk (especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic) through to monitoring of home-based work by employers.
While situational value might be obvious, sometimes the ethics behind exploiting certain technological advances is unclear. In fact, one could say that technology (and its potential for use/misuse) has been growing faster than either the law or ethics have been able to match.
In this assignment you will discuss the ethics of a real-life technology and a variety of situations to which it might be applied. In the current case, the topic regards the recent upsurge in organisation use of software automation to monitor employees working from home during the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a project management student who in future may help develop related equipment and software (or have privileged access to information provided by their use) such items could be quite relevant to your long-term roles and activities within the work sector.
Three short news articles regarding home/work monitoring automation are provided in Appendix A as initial samples for thought. However, in order to adequately respond to assignment requirements you are expected to do additional research and better inform yourself in regards this topic of home/work surveillance.
Tasks and Assessment
Prepare a report in three parts answering the questions in each section. You are expected to conceptualise the problem/issue, find relevant references for context, facts, theory and examples and come up with appropriate points of view. Your positions should be supported with argument and citations as appropriate. Marks will also be awarded for presentation and professionalism of the response.
1) Stakeholder Ethics (12 marks)
a) Determine and outline at least 3 ethical issues that may be associated with using employee home monitoring technology. Why do you believe that these are (or could be) ethical concerns?
b) For each ethical issue nominated in 1(a):
• Identify a different key stakeholder or stakeholder group. Why do you think they are a stakeholder?
• For each stakeholder identified, put yourself in their place and attempt to describe the issue from their viewpoint. Provide reasoning (as best you can) for them regarding each specific issue;
• For each stakeholder identified, select what you believe is the closest potential fit of their viewpoint to one of the seven ‘ethical principles’ given on slide 10 of the Ethics class (week 2). Briefly justify/explain why you attributed that ethical principle to them.
c) For each of the 3 ethical issues you nominated in 1(a):
• Discuss your own personal view in relation to each issue;
• Select what you believe is the closest potential fit of your viewpoint to one of the seven ‘ethical principles’ given on slide 10 of the Ethics class. Briefly explain why you chose that ethical principle for yourself.
d) Compare your views expressed in 1(c) to positions previously nominated for stakeholders in 1(b). Discuss any prominent differences/similarities between your own views and those that might be held by these others. Why do you think these differences/similarities exist? Who is most ‘right’?
2) International Codes of Conduct / Codes of Ethics (12 marks)
Research the Codes of Conduct and Codes of Ethics for Information Technology industry bodies representing Australia (i.e. Australian Computer Society (ACS)) plus two other national or international groups (e.g. Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), Project Management Institute (PMI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), British Computer Society (BCS), Computer Society of India (CSI), Institute of IT Professionals New Zealand (IITP), etc.).
Answer the following in detail:
a) In your opinion, and supplying reasoning, what evaluation would each Industry Code most likely give regarding the use of employee work monitoring technology by employer entities?
b) Examine and compare the Codes of Conduct/Ethics for the three industry bodies. What are the major differences and similarities between the codes you have examined in regard to the case study subject matter? Why do you believe that these differences, similarities or areas of conflict are present?
Justify answers with specific references to items within case study examples and the Codes themselves.
3) Report Professionalism and Communication (6 marks)
The report should be written as if meant for a professional audience and not just as an attempt to satisfy an academic course requirement. It should communicate clearly, exhibit attention to detail and present itself to a high standard, including:
• Good document presentation and structure including:
? Title page (student name/number, tutor name, tutorial number, title, submission date); ? Report introduction;
? Numbered headings for each section;
? Report conclusion;
? Reference list page;
? Additional appendices (if needed).
Report should be of appropriate length, have numbered pages and good English expression (including punctuation and spelling). FEIT cover sheet should be included at the front of the submission.
• Clarity and insight - suitable word count (not counting title page, reference list, etc.), deals properly with each topic without verbosity, shows a depth of analysis;
• Appropriate use of quotes, statistics and diagrams (where applicable) backed by properly cited sources. All references should be noted in the reference list at end of your report and employ correct APA style.
Note for Repeating Students
If you previously attempted 31272 in 2020 then you may re-use your assessed mark from that time in place of undertaking this assignment. If so, you MUST email the Subject Coordinator with your request by no later than 5pm, 21 March 2021. Return confirmation should be kept. Failure to obtain written approval by this time/date means this assignment is to be undertaken as normal.
Assignments are required to be submitted to Turnitin via the 'Assignments' tab of Canvas for grading and plagiarism checking. Assignments are expected to be assessed and graded by week 9.
Overdue assignments will attract a late penalty per the Subject Outline. Any special consideration for late submission must be arranged with the Subject Co-ordinator well before the deadline.
All material derived from other works must be acknowledged and referenced appropriately using the UTS APA Referencing Style. For more information see:
Originality of Submitted Work
Students are reminded of the principles laid down in the -Statement of Good Practice and Ethics in Informal Assessment- (in the Faculty Handbook). Unless otherwise stated in a specific handout, all assessment tasks in this subject should be your own original work. Any collaboration with another student (or group) should be limited to those matters described in -Acceptable Behaviour- section of the Handbook. For essay questions, students should pay particular attention to the recognition of -Plagiarism- as described in that section of the Handbook. Any infringement by a student will be considered a breach of discipline and will be dealt with in accordance with Rules and By-Laws of the University. Penalties such as zero marks for assignments or subjects may be imposed.
Improve Your Academic and English Language Skills
HELPS (Higher Education Language and Presentation Support) Service provides assistance with English proficiency and academic language. Students needing to develop their written and/or spoken English can make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS (www.ssu.uts.edu.au/helps). HELPS is located in Student Services on level 3 of building 1, City campus (phone 9514-2327).
The Faculty of Engineering and IT intranet (MyFEIT): http://my.feit.uts.edu.au/myfeit) and Faculty Student Guide: http://my.feit.uts.edu.au/modules/myfeit/downloads/StudentGuide_Online.pdf
provide information about services and support available to students within the Faculty.
Useful Hints for This Assignment
ACS code of professional conduct and summary of the code of ethics can be found at: https://www.acs.org.au/content/dam/acs/rules-and-regulations/Code-of-Professional-Conduct_v2.1.pdf https://www.acs.org.au/content/dam/acs/acs-documents/Code-of-Ethics.pdf
The UTS Library on-line Journal Database may help with your research. It is accessible from http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/databases/search_databases.py. You need to activate your UTS e-mail account (http://webmail.uts.edu.au/ ) in order access the resource.
Starting Sample References for Assignment 1
(with minor editing/formatting by G. Mooney)
Example 1: Employee monitoring software surges as companies send staff home
By Patrick Wood
(Posted Friday 22 May 2020 at 4:58am, updated Friday 22 May 2020 at 7:25am)
Lines have been blurred between the home and office this year.(Unsplash: Carl Heyerdahl)
Does your boss know you're reading this article right now? If you are one of the thousands of Australians who made a rapid shift to working from home this year and are currently logged on, shouldn't you be working? This is company time, after all.
For an increasing number of Australian workers, it is now the norm to have every movement tracked: what websites you visit; how long you spend on social media; how many keystrokes you do each minute and even when you go to the bathroom. Sales of software that monitors employees working remotely have surged since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, with some companies reporting a 300 per cent increase in customers in Australia in the last two months.
Tech and employment law experts are now sounding the warning, arguing it amounts to a -digital cage- and that Australian regulations are woefully out of date.
Would you be comfortable having your movement tracked? (Supplied: Pexels)
The rise and rise of employee monitoring
Employee monitoring software has emerged in recent years as faster tech collided with a desire for more flexible working arrangements. There are now dozens of companies offering software boasting a variety of tools to track the productivity of remote staff. It works like this: software is installed on the worker's computer and the data is fed back to the boss. Common features include:
• Recording when you clock in and out
• Recording how long you spend on a website or other program
• Taking screenshots of what you are viewing at regular intervals
• Tracking your location by installing a complementary app on your phone
• The ability to log in and view your computer live
• The ability to monitor emails and search for key words
Some programs then crunch this data to give a -productivity score- at the end of a shift. Many online reviews from bosses are glowing.
-The software gives me a peek into the day of a user that needs monitoring,- wrote one person from an oil and energy company. -It monitors for key website usage and will let you know if your personnel are looking for other jobs,- wrote another.
The user dashboard for a program called Controlio. (Supplied: Controlio)
Others say it's helpful to monitor the hours a freelance contractor spends on a project. And in some cases it is used to train staff. One review reads:
-For example, a user spends four hours working on 100 items. The user was not using a series of hot keys programmed into our software. We took the video and showed a before and after. After, the user worked 130 items in four hours.-
Many of the companies are based in the US and have told the ABC they are seeing a surge in interest in Australia this year. One company, Hubstaff, said trials in Australia were up an average of 200 per cent since March 15 to now sit at 429 clients. Data shows trials spiked on March 23 - the day National Cabinet implemented widespread stage 1 restrictions that limited size of gatherings and required businesses like pubs, cafes and cinemas to close.
Hubstaff data shows year-on-year growth in Australian customers. (Supplied: Hubstaff)
-We feel like these changes may be here for good,- a Hubstaff spokesperson said of the uptake. -Once a person can prove to their manager or boss that work can be done efficiently and effectively from home or remotely, it's hard to justify the expense of the office, the commute, and the effects these things have on the lives of employees.-
Another company, which offers a program called Controlio, said its uptake around the globe had tripled this year, while a group called Veriato said it had seen -dramatic adoption-.
-We see the same trend in Australia: 2-3 times more free trials, new account registrations, sales — everything.
Everything has risen,- Controlio product manager Alexander Makhanev said.
'All about discipline and domination'
Jathan Sadowski is a research fellow in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University and has a blunt assessment of this type of software.
-I don't want to mince words here — these are technologies of discipline and domination … they are ways of exerting power over employees,- he said. -A lot of the productivity tools, as they're called, have the ability to be installed secretly onto computers. Others are very upfront about it, because that's part of the disciplinary power, knowing that a screenshot is being taken, that you are being watched and tracked and recorded.-
Spend a lot of time on social media? That could be logged.(Unsplash)
The technology skews towards white-collar industries and grew in media and design workplaces, Dr Sadowski said, but he expected more administration, finance and university employers to adopt it soon. His key criticism is that the technology is designed and marketed with bosses in mind, and the rights and experiences of the worker are ignored. He said it stems from a demand for ever-greater profits, productivity and efficiency where employees are seen as assets, not people. And he doesn't give any credence to the idea that workers are on company time and therefore it's no different to being watched by a boss in an office.
-I don't think it holds up because we're talking about a difference in both degree and type,- he said. -Even the most intrusive over-the-shoulder manager is not literally there taking pictures of your screen, recording your keystrokes. That's exactly what these tools are, they're a way to turn that kind of white-collar office work into that kind of digital cage.-
Mr Makhanev from Controlio said he understood the concerns, but added that software like his allowed the employee to switch it off.
-So it has no issue with privacy because if you are doing something for your job you should start this program, just to prove that you're online … but you can start and stop manually,- he said.
'A strong need for law reform'
Philosophical differences aside, there remain concerns around how these programs are regulated — particularly given many companies are based overseas. Mr Makhanev said Controlio, which is based in New York, stored a user's data for six months and didn't sell the information to any third party. He added it was only accessible by the customer and not even Controlio staff could see it.
Yet Maurice Blackburn employment lawyer Kamal Farouque warns Australian employers to tread carefully.
-There's certainly Commonwealth laws which regulate the transfer and retention of private information in overseas locations, and so employers would have to be very cautious that they are complying with those requirements,- he said. -The use of that information might, in a practical sense, be beyond the oversight and regulation of Australian law.-
More broadly, he said Australian regulations hadn't kept pace with this sort of employee-monitoring technology.
-Categorically, definitely not,- he said. -There's a big gap in laws concerning the … preservation of employee privacy.- Mr Farouque said there was a -complicated web- of federal and state laws around employee monitoring and many were not specifically directed at this sort of software.
Mr Farouque urges employees to know their rights. (Unsplash: Thomas Drouault)
He added that employers should carefully consider the particular enterprise agreements of their staff before bringing in new tracking software.
-There is a really strong need for law reform in this area,- he said. -Particularly in a situation where now the line between work and home is being blurred. -That trend is likely to obviously continue even post COVID-19.-
Example 2: Employee surveillance software demand increased as workers transitioned to home working
As people hunkered down to work from home during COVID-19, companies turned to employee surveillance software to track their staff.
By Eileen Brown for Social Business
(Posted November 16, 2020 -- 17:11 GMT (04:11 AEDT) )
What does the rise of intrusive tools such as employee surveillance software mean for workers at home?
A new study shows that the demand for employee surveillance software was up 55% in June 2020 compared to the pre-pandemic average. From webcam access to random screenshot monitoring, these surveillance software products can record almost everything an employee does on their computer.
VPN review website Top10VPN used its global monitoring data to analyze over 200 terms related to employee surveillance software. It took into account both generic and brand-specific queries for its study which compared searches during March-May 2020 with internet searches in the preceding year. Global demand for employee monitoring software increased by 108% in April, and 70% in May 2020 compared with searches carried out the preceding year. Queries for -How to monitor employees working from home- increased by 1,705% in April and 652% in May 2020 compared with searches carried out the preceding year.
The surge in popularity of such an open-ended phrase like this reveals how unprepared many companies were for the abrupt shift to mass home-working.
The most popular surveillance tools are Time Doctor, Hubstaff, and FlexiSPY. The tools with the biggest increase in demand include Teramind, DeskTime, Kickidler, and Time Doctor, with interest for the latter tripling compared to the pre-pandemic levels. The top three tools account for almost 60% of global demand in surveillance software because of the range of features offered.
Of the most popular employee monitoring tools, 81% offer keystroke logging so that employers can see every click of the keyboard. Over three in five (61%) provide Instant Messaging monitoring so that private instant messages can be viewed. Employers could also monitor how employees' conversations are going at any point in time. Two in three (65%) can be configured to send User Action Alerts such as noticing when the keyboard has been idle for a set amount of time, and 38% are capable of remote control takeovers such as blocking access to websites, or remote installation of software. One package, NetVizor claims, operates -entirely in stealth; that is, it's nearly invisible to the consumer.-
The radical shift away from office-working has clearly made employers nervous about a reduction in productivity and its potential impact on their business. Greater surveillance, however, may actually reduce long-term productivity. Your boss watching your every move may make you less productive in the long run and could significantly impact your feelings about the company itself.
Example 3: Being monitored by your boss while working from home — necessary tradeoff or 'stupid' surveillance?
By Edwina Stott and Nick Wiggins for This Working Life
(Posted Friday 16 October 2020 at 7:00am, updated Friday 16 October 2020 at 9:46am)
Experts say employee tracking is about trust — but it goes both ways (Pexels: Cottonbro)
How's your boss keeping tabs on your work? Before the pandemic they might have popped their head over the partition or caught up over coffee. But with many people working from home, some companies are using time tracking software or surveillance technology to check in on what workers are doing.
How does it work?
Most of the software on the market can take screenshots of what's on a worker's computer (sometimes in real-time). Some also offer keystroke logging (what you type), and GPS tracking. Elizabeth Lyons, who studies technology and management at the University of California San Diego, says it's tracking pretty much anything an employee's doing in work hours.
-The things employers are really looking for is what websites are employees on, are these productive or unproductive websites, what apps are they using, how much time are they spending on their different tasks,- Dr Lyons tells ABC RN's This Working Life.
-Increasingly I've been seeing software that is using machine learning techniques to try to predict what types of activities are associated with higher productivity, what time of day employees are more productive, what kind of breaks might help employees become more productive.-
Some software captures a screenshot of an employee's computer every few minutes. (Pexels: Daria Shevtsova)
Jathan Sadowski, from Monash University's Emerging Technologies Research Lab, says tracking workers and their efficiency isn't new.
-But what we see right now is the technologies and the abilities are now available to really supercharge this kind of surveillance and discipline and monitoring to increasingly higher levels,- Dr Sadowski says.
'It doesn't capture the full picture'
Candice works as a digital marketer for a podcast supporting students undertaking English language tests. The team's spread out over different countries and the company uses tracking software. But she says she doesn't have a problem with it.
-I think you have to put a lot of trust in someone that is working remotely because [my boss] has no idea of what I'm doing all day long,- Candice says. -It also keeps me on track … I can see exactly how much time I've spent doing work, because it's so easy to decide to wake up at 10:00 in the morning and then by 2:00 in the afternoon you feel tired and you think, 'Oh well, I've done a lot today'.-
Her boss, Ben Worthington, says the technology isn't perfect.
-If one of my team members pulls away from the laptop and just starts jotting ideas down or whatever, then the software obviously doesn't capture that,- he says. -So it doesn't capture the full picture … but it gives you a good guideline.- He says maintaining a good relationship with his team — through things like weekly catch up meetings — can almost replace the tech. -[The software's] definitely useful but it's not the single tool for working remotely, there is quite a lot of other components.-
The performance of people who work in warehouses is often monitored.(Getty Images: Bloomberg)
'Machinelike, without human flaws'
It's not just desk-bound workers being tracked. When she's not studying Emma works in the warehouse of a clothing company. Everyone working in the warehouse is tracked. If they're falling behind a supervisor will review their stats with them.
-In order to get shifts we have to keep a certain average of productivity,- Emma says. She says she liked trying to improve on her performance and that the company would ask for ideas on how to become more efficient. Emma is shorter so more stepladders were added. Her bosses realised that people listening to music were faster because they didn't talk. So a new rule was added — everyone has to have headphones on, or not talk.
-It was all kind of: how can we make this the most machinelike, without human flaws,- Emma says.
Lauren Kate Kelly from the United Workers Union says people need to look past the technology and see what surveillance is doing to the power imbalance between companies and their staff.
-It's corrosive. Particularly in the context of insecure forms of work, which is where it really takes root.-
She says a person run off their feet and being tracked by a scanner in a warehouse probably doesn't have the job security to speak up and raise any issues.
-The most egregious forms of workplace surveillance and discipline of workers takes place in a context where people don't have a lot of power, where workers don't have basic rights and conditions that are associated with having a permanent or a secure job,- she says. -Some of this new tech, it's seen as being very shiny and a silver bullet that can fix all workplace problems. Fundamentally, firms they need to think about what creates value, and skilled workers and happy workers create value.-
Some fear that while this tracking technology has quickly advanced, the law has been left behind. There's no general right to privacy in Australia. Instead there's a complicated web of federal, state and territory laws. Patrick Turner from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers says those laws aren't consistent, and need to change.
-With people working from home due to COVID-19, certainly anecdotally there appears to be a great number of employers who are increasingly looking to use technology to scrutinise employees and to deploy surveillance which is reaching into the home,- he says. -There is a whole range of information that employers may be gathering on employees in an area of their life where otherwise their employer would not have any scrutiny. So we need to be really careful about making sure that people are protected in the home, but also in other facets of their life where their personal information is being gathered.-
Connections, trust & motivation
Paul Zac studies neuroeconomics — looking at how people think and how that affects business and economics. He says the idea that this technology is a trade-off for people who get to work from home is -stupid-.
-You're not hiring the right people, if you've got to do that kind of surveillance,- Dr Zac says. He says more important is having social and emotional check-ins with staff through regular chats and getting everyone onboard as a team. -It's not surveillance. It's really asking people if they'll put their passion, their energy into moving the organisation's goals forward. And to do that, you've got to be part of a trusted team.-
Tyler Sellhorn works for the tracking program Hubstaff, which offers GPS tracking, monitors websites employees visit, and can capture screenshots of their computers every few minutes. He says it's not surveillance.
-If you want to purchase a surveillance product, that's available to you, and Hubstaff isn't that,- he says. -The world is going to remote, so how can we do that in a way that does have an opportunity for people to 'move the sliders of trust' towards one another.-
Mr Sellhorn says the software enables both employers and employees to have the -transparency, access and control- needed for them to work without supervision. -The thing that I would encourage you to be thinking about is that it's going to amplify whatever kind of management you already have inside of your company.-
The right balance
Dr Lyons says with any worker monitoring, bosses need to be careful to strike the right balance. A study she conducted found people doing data collection work out of the office were more productive when they were made aware they were being monitored, compared to colleagues who weren't told they were being tracked.
-We think, based on survey measures, that this was because it increased worker satisfaction.- She believes workers who weren't told they were being tracked may have felt they were less important to their managers. -Where you're not having regular interaction with your manager, or even with your colleagues, some signal that your performance is integrated into the organisation seems important.- But she warns in other studies workers have interpreted too much monitoring as their boss not trusting them, while in others employees felt less motivated.
-They said, 'if the manager is going to watch everything I do, then I'm not going to do anything above and beyond what they expect of me',- she says. -Striking this balance seems really important and actually quite hard.-
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