Showing posts with label Efficiency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Efficiency. Show all posts

April 12, 2019

Gotta Love FANUC


I love FANUC industrial robots. 

They are made by a secretive company in Japan and they are #1 in workplace automation worldwide! 

They have over half a million installed industrial robots around the world.

Their robots are on assembly lines making everything from "cars and smartphones to beverages and drugs."  They also are in Tesla and Amazon...so you know they are pretty much everywhere. 

FANUC has customers in 108 countries supported by 263 service locations. 

Their robots are made by...that's right other robots...80% is automated

These robots are strong, fast, and precise, and they can do dangerous work. 

This company is the future of jobs, productivity, efficiency. 

But of course, people are still the brains behind the brawn.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 28, 2018

Technology and Human Capital--They Go Hand-In-Hand

So there are some mighty impressive places to work that really shine in terms of the technology they use and the constant desire to upgrade and improve their capabilities. 

Usually, these are also the places that value and respect their human capital because they view them as not just human pawns, but rather as strategic drivers of change. 

Then there are the places that are "so operationally focused" or just plain poorly run that they can't be bothered to think about technology much at all or the people that make up the organization and its fiber. 

In many cases, the wheel may be turning, but the hamster is dead: 

There is no real enterprise architecture to speak of. 

There are no IT strategic or operational plans. 

There are no enterprise or common solutions or platforms. 

There is no IT governance or project/portfolio management. 

Even where there are some IT projects, they go nowhere--they are notions or discussion pieces, but nothing ever rolls off the IT "assembly line."

How about buying an $800 software package to improve specific operations--that gets the thumbs down too. 

Many of these executives can't even spell t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-y!

It's scary when technology is such an incredible enabler that some can't see it for what it is. 

Rather to them, technology is a distraction, a threat, a burdensome cost, or something we don't have time for.

Are they scared of technology?

Do they just not understand its criticality or capability?

Are they just plain stupid? 

Anyway, organizations need to look at their leadership and ask what are they doing not only operationally, but also in terms of technology improvement to advance the organization and its mission. 

Look to the organizations that lead technologically, as well as that treat their people well, and those are ones to ogle at and model after.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 26, 2017

Supervisors vs. Team Leaders

Here is a comparison of the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and team leaders. 

Often there can be confusion over who is supposed to do what. 

This table should help clarify what supervisors and team leaders do in terms of strategic planning, work assignments, resource management, employee training, and performance management. 

I hope you find this a helpful resource, and that you can organize your staff more efficiently and productively ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 11, 2017

Amazon + Teva = A Marriage Made In Heaven


Amazon has upended so many industries--and you can basically buy almost anything there.

And yes, what you can't buy today, you will be able to buy tomorrow. 

What started as books and DVDs is now virtually synonymous with e-Commerce itself!
Next up for Amazon is pharmaceuticals!

Some people may think that Whole Foods gives Amazon the footprint it needs to sell these and dominate.

But what people aren't considering is that Amazon can sell the pharmaceuticals online.

Amazon can do what other online drug distributors can't.

Why?

Because Amazon has the most unbelievable distribution network in the world. 

Currently, people can order drugs through the mail, but these tend to be for regular reoccurring prescriptions that have lead time. 

However, Amazon can outdo these mail order pharma companies, because they can get you the drugs you need when and where you need it. 

- You don't feel well and can't make it to CVS, Amazon will deliver to your door. 

- Need same-day delivery, no problem. 

- Plus do all your shopping together in one fell timesaving swoop. 

My prediction: 
Amazon the low cost, efficient online seller of everything to everywhere is going to partner with Teva Pharmaceuticals, the #1 world leader in low cost generic drugs.

Teva already produces 120 billion tablets and capsules every year, operates in 80 countries, and currently fills 1 in 6 generic prescriptions in the U.S. 
Together, Amazon and Teva can make beautiful music, that is medicine + money!

Who needs CVS when pharmaceuticals perhaps soon can be gotten at Whole Foods or at your Trusty Amazon.com.  

One more time, I see some radical disruption--and this time it will bring you cheaper and more convenient drugs--make a l'chaim to your health. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

(Endnote: I am a big fan + investor in Teva, and of course, all opinions here are my own.)
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July 27, 2017

When You Need To BLUF

Most professional (and even personal) communications should start with...
________________________

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).

This means that you start with the ending--in mind, on paper, verbally, and in digital format. 

You provide the conclusion and/or recommendations right up front.

Rather than first wadding through all the details--context, analysis, considerations, assumptions, risks, etc. 

Let the reader know right away what it is you want. 

Generally, this is different than an abstract or summary that provides a synopsis and leading evidence for the argument put forward. 

Tell me what I need to know and get right to the point! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 14, 2017

I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 

That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.

It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.

Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  

So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently...

A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 

He says, "Good morning. Where you from?"

I smile and respond, "Washington, D.C.," and add proudly, "the nation's capital!"

He then asks, "What do you do there?"

Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, "Oh, cleaning up the swamp."

To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, "Yeah right!" 

There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.

Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:

- Change the status quo of big stumbling government

- Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money

- Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us

- Fairly and compassionately address the nation's priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being

- Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein

And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 17, 2016

Everyone Drinks

So this is a water fountain on steroids. 

Not 1, not 2, but 3 drinking spouts. 

Adults, children, and even pets can all get theirs.

And at the same time...no one goes thirsty!

So simple, yet why make people wait and take turns.

Drink everyone, drink to efficiency. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 15, 2015

Your Bowling Help Desk At Your Service

This was the sign in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Bowling Ally that I mentioned in a post yesterday.

[Note: I've removed the phone number so don't try calling.] 

Yeah, I've heard about a help desk for a lot of things, especially for Information Technology, but for bowling???

Thinking about calling a help desk for trouble with bowling [equipment], I couldn't help imaging how this may go and chuckling a little:

"Hello, this is the bowling help desk at your service--what is the nature of your bowling emergency?"

Or

"Press 1 if your bowling shoes are too tight.

Press 2 if you've dropped the bowling ball on your foot.

Press 3 if you've bowled 2 or more gutter balls in a row.

Press 4 if the bowling machine is in a frustratingly stuck position.

Press 5 if you've lost your bowling ball or need a replacement.

Press 6 if you need additional scoring sheets.

Press 7 if you're a lousey bowler and need bumpers to help your game. 

Press 8 if your fingers are caught in the ball and you can't get them out. 

Press 9 if you'd just rather be ice skating or going to the movies. 

Press the # key, if you need to speak to a bowling representative."

Lastly, I wonder if they open a help desk ticket for the bowling challenged and what their response time is. 

Yep, help is only a call away when you've got a bowling problem in the works. 

Now, if only they could fix the highly troubled DC Metro system--there should definitely be a robust help desk for that!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 14, 2015

Blame The SLOW Trains

So another tragic major train derailment in Philadelphia this week. 

Already 8 people killed and over 200 injured. 

All over the news, we see that the train was speeding by going just over 100 mph.

Yes, it was a curve, and maybe we need to build some straighter more stable lines (I believe that is partly what eminent domain used properly is for) and with the latest safety features. 

But does anyone ask how can other countries safely implement their trains at far faster speeds--that makes 106 mph look virtually like a mere snails pace in comparison.

Just last month, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the U.S. potentially upgrading to bullet trains that rountinely and safely go at far higher speeds:

Japan: 375 mph!

France: 199 mph.

China: 186 mph.

U.S.: 149 mph (even the Acela train has the potential to do at least this much, but for the most part they don't due to shared lines with commuter and freight trains and an aging infrastructure--uh, so where did all that money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act go exactly?)

In what now seems retrospectively almost mocking, Japan Railways, International Division Chief stated: "We have a track record of transporting a huge volume of passenger traffic with very few delays or accidents...Because the trains operate so accurately, travel can be made very efficiently [and safetly]." 

Do you think we the U.S. can catch up with our 21st century peers here?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Toshy Island Paddy)
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November 5, 2014

Luv Technology, Always

No reason for Sir/Madam technology here to feel down in the dumps.

Yes, we love you technology.

And not just sometimes, but always! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 25, 2013

Less With Less

This was a funny picture of a "Complaint Jar".

"All complaints must be written on $1.00 bills or larger. Thank you."

Hey, if you're going to complain, put your money where you mouth is. 

The person on the receiving end isn't looking for more negativity and insults about the job they are doing--they want compliments and tips!

This is similar to a story I heard today about an executive where he and his team where stretched thin and stressed out.

So at one point, when he was once again asked to do more with less, he slams his fist on the table and says, "No, we are going to do less with less!"

It is interesting that nationally and in our organizations, we are constantly asked to increase productivity, but at the same tighten our belts. 

And in the short to intermediate term, we are able to shed "dead weight" and become more efficient.

However, over the longer-term, there does come a breaking point, where trying to do more with less results not in cutting fat, but in cutting bone--and the stress ends up in a fracture. 

Before you know it, fists are slamming on desks, absenteeism is going up, people are getting sick, fights--verbal and otherwise--are breaking out at work, poor decisions are being made, fighting for scarce resources become fierce, and collaboration becomes overt warfare, and perhaps, even someone commits suicide or "goes postal."

Cutting for efficiency can work up to a point, after that all bets are off and you cut at your own and your organization's risk--then even the complaint jar or suggestion box will be nothing but a broken marquee. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 13, 2013

At The Speed Of Innovation

Here are three perspectives on how we can speed up the innovation cycle and get great new ideas to market more quickly:

1) Coordinating R&D--While competition is a good thing in driving innovation, it can also be hinder progress when we are not sharing good ideas, findings, and methods in a timely manner--in a sense we are having to do the same things multiple times, by different entities, and in some more and other in less efficient ways wasting precious national resources. Forbes (10 February 2012) describes the staggering costs in pharmaceutical R&D such that despite about $800 billion invested in drug research between 2007-2011, only 139 new drugs came out the pipeline. Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 Nov 2012) notes that for "every 5,000 to 10,000 potential treatments discovered in the lab, only one makes it to market" and out of the pharmaceutical "valley of death." The medical research system is broken because "there ultimately no one in charge."  The result is that we are wasting time and money "funding disparate studies and waiting for researchers to publish results months or years later." If instead we work towards our goals collaboratively and share results immediately then we could potentially work together rather than at odds. The challenge in my mind is that you would need to devise a fair and profitable incentive model for both driving results and for sharing those with others--this is similar to a clear mandate of together we stand, divided we fall. 

2) "Rapid Fielding"--The military develops large and complex weapon systems and this can take too long for the warfighters who need to counter evolving daily threats on the battlefield. Federal Computer Week (19 July 2001) emphasizes this point when it states, "Faster acquisition methods are needed to counter an improvised explosive device that tends to evolve on a 30-day cycle or a seven-year process for replacing a Humvee." There according to the Wall Street Journal(11 December 2012) we need to move to a model that more quickly bring new innovative technologies to our forces.  The challenge is to do this with reliable solutions while at the same time fast tracking through the budgeting, acquisition, oversight, testing, and deployment phases. The question is can we apply agile development to military weapons systems and live with 70 to 80% solutions that we refine over time, rather than wait for perfection out of the gate.

3) Seeds and Standards--To get innovation out in the hands of consumers, there is a change management process that needs to occur. You are asking people to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (17 December 2012) on an article of how bar codes changed the world--it comes down to basics like simplicity and reliability of the product itself, but also seeding the market and creating standards for adoption to occur. Like with electric automobiles, you need to seed the market with tax incentives for making the initial purchases of hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles--to get things going as well as overset the initial development expense and get to mass development and cheaper production. Additionally, we need standards to ensure interoperability with existing infrastructure and other emerging technologies. In the case of the electric automobiles, charging stations need to be deployed across wide swathes of the country in convenient filling locations (near highways, shopping, and so on) and they need to be standards-based, so that the charger at any station can fit in any electronic vehicle, regardless of the make or model. 

Innovation is the lifeblood of our nation in keeping us safe, globally competitive, and employed.  Therefore, these three ideas for enhancing collaboration, developing and fielding incremental improvements through agile methodologies, and fostering change with market incentives and standards are important ideas to get us from pure exploration to colonization of the next great world idea. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 12, 2012

Cloud $ Confusion

It seems like never before has a technology platform brought so much confusion as the Cloud.


No, I am not talking about the definition of cloud (which dogged many for quite some time), but the cost-savings or the elusiveness of them related to cloud computing.

On one hand, we have the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, which estimated that 25% of the Federal IT Budget of $80 billion could move to the cloud and NextGov (Sept 2012) reported that the Federal CIO told a senate panel in May 2011 that with Cloud, the government would save a minimum of $5 billion annually.

Next we have bombastic estimates of cost savings from the likes of the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Exchange that estimates about $5.5 billion in savings so far annually (7% of the Federal IT budget) and that this could grow to $12 billion (or 15% of the IT budget) within 3 years, as quoted in an article in Forbes (April 2012) or as much as $16.6 billion annually as quoted in the NextGov article--more than triple the estimated savings that even OMB put out.

On the other hand, we have a raft of recent articles questioning the ability to get to these savings, federal managers and the private sector's belief in them, and even the ability to accurately calculate and report on them.

- Federal Computer Week (1 Feb 2012)--"Federal managers doubt cloud computing's cost-savings claims" and that "most respondents were also not sold on the promises of cloud computing as a long-term money saver."

  - Federal Times (8 October 2012)--"Is the cloud overhyped? predicted savings hard to verify" and a table included show projected cloud-saving goals of only about $16 million per year across 9 Federal agencies.

  - CIO Magazine (15 March 2012)--"Despite Predictions to the Contrary, Exchange Holds Off Gmail in D.C." cites how with a pilot of 300 users, they found Gmail didn't even pass the "as good or better" test.

- ComputerWorld (7 September 2012)--"GM to hire 10,000 IT pros as it 'insources' work" so majority of work is done by GM employees and enables the business.

Aside from the cost-savings and mission satisfaction with cloud services, there is still the issue of security, where according to the article in Forbes from this year, still "A majority of IT managers, 85%, say they are worried about the security implications of moving to their operations to the cloud," with most applications being moved being things like collaboration and conferencing tools, email, and administrative applications--this is not primarily the high value mission-driven systems of the organization.

Evidently, there continues to be a huge disconnect being the hype and the reality of cloud computing.


One thing is for sure--it's time to stop making up cost-saving numbers to score points inside one's agency or outside.

One way to promote more accurate reporting is to require documentation substantiating the cost-savings by showing the before and after costs, and oh yeah including the migration costs too and all the planning that goes into it. 

Another more drastic way is to take the claimed savings back to the Treasury and the taxpayer.

Only with accurate reporting and transparency can we make good business decisions about what the real cost-benefits are of moving to the cloud and therefore, what actually should be moved there. 

While there is an intuitiveness that we will reduce costs and achieve efficiencies by using shared services, leveraging service providers with core IT expertise, and by paying for only what we use, we still need to know the accurate numbers and risks to gauge the true net benefits of cloud. 

It's either know what you are actually getting or just go with what sounds good and try to pull out a cookie--how would you proceed? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 10, 2012

Robots, Coming to An Agency Near You Soon

There is an article today in the Wall Street Journal (10-11 March 2012) about how an Anybot Robot attended a wedding party in Paris dressed up as the man's 82-year old mother who logged on from her home in Las Vegas and by proxy of the robot moved and even danced around the party floor and conversed with guests--she was the hit of the party. 

While sort of humorous, this is also amazingly incredible--through robotics, IT and telecommunications, we are able to close the gap in time and space and "be there," even from a half a world away.

The QB Anybot robot is life size, rolls around on 2 wheels like a Segway, and has glowing blue eyes and a telescreen for a forehead on a long skinny cylindrical body that can be controlled remotely and costs only $9,700.

While this is the story of a robot "becoming the life of the party," I believe that we are at the cusp of when robots will be reporting for duty at our agencies and organizations. 
 
The function of robots in workplace has been tested with them performing everything from menial office tasks (like bringing the coffee and donuts) to actually representing people at meetings and around the office floor--not only keeping an electric eye on things so to say, but actually skyping back and forth with the boss, for example. 

As robots become more dexterous, autonomous, and with better artificial intelligence, and abilities to communicate with natural language processing, we are going to see an explosion of these in the workplace--whether or not they end up looking like a Swiffer mop or something a little more iRobot-like. 

So while we are caught up in deficit-busting times and the calls for everything from "Cloud First" to "Share First" in order to consolidate, save, and shrink, maybe what we also need is a more balanced approach that takes into account not only efficiencies, but effectiveness through innovation in our workplaces--welcome to the party, Robots!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 2, 2011

Who Will Protect Those Who Protect Us?

This is a video that the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) sent to Congress to appeal to them not to cut funding to all the activities that our law enforcement officers do for us.

While the functions of government can always be more efficient--and we should constantly work to achieve these--federal law enforcement is incredibly important.

From the FBI to the Secret Service and from Border Patrol to DEA, we need to support all our federal law enforcement efforts.

These agents and officers risk their lives every day for all of us, and it's time that we stand by them to protect their mission and jobs.

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August 20, 2011

Cloud Second, Security First

Leadership is not about moving forward despite any and all costs, but about addressing issues head on.

Cloud computing holds tremendous promise for efficiency and cost-savings at a time when these issues are front and center of a national debate on our deficit of $14 trillion and growing.

Yet some prominent IT leaders have sought to downplay security concerns calling them "amplified...to preserve the status quo." (ComputerWorld, 8 August 2011)

Interestingly, this statement appeared in the press the same week that McAfee reported Operation Shady RAT--"the hacking of more than 70 corporations and government organizations," 49 of which were in the U.S., and included a dozen defense firms. (Washington Post, 2 August 2011)
The cyber spying took place over a period of 5 years and "led to a massive loss of information."(Fox News, 4 August 2011)

Moreover, this cyber security tragedy stands not alone, but atop a long list that recently includes prominent organizations in the IT community, such as Google that last year had it's networks broken into and valuable source code stolen, and EMC's RSA division this year that had their SecurID computer tokens compromised.

Perhaps, we should pay greater heed to our leading cyber security expert who just this last March stated: "our adversaries in cyberspace are highly capable. Our defenses--across dot-mil and the defense industrial base (DIB) are not." (NSA Director and head of Cyber Command General Keith Alexander).

We need to press forward with cloud computing, but be ever careful about protecting our critical infrastructure along the way.

One of the great things about our nation is our ability to share viewpoints, discuss and debate them, and use all information to improve decision-making along the way. We should never close our eyes to the the threats on the ground.

(Source Photo: here)

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July 22, 2011

When The Cheapest Task Is Too Expensive

TaskRabbit is a new way to get odd jobs done by simply posting them online for others to bid on and perform them.

Browsing the list of tasks out there now, I see everything from driver for a day to laundry, matching paint colors to organizing a library, picking up items from the store to installing a t.v.--I suppose if you need it (and it's legal), you can post it. :-)

The service is available in LA, San Francisco, Orange Country, Boston, and NY--so far.

Basically, the way it works:
  1. You, the "Sender", go online and name and describe the task, including when and where you want it done as well as the maximum you are willing to pay.
  2. "Runners" are alerted and bid the minimum that they are willing to accept to do the job.
  3. You review the bids and select one.
  4. The runner performs the work.
  5. You review, rate, and reimburse for the work.
Wired (August 2011) calls TaskRabbit the "eBay for real world labor," although there are other competitors out there such as AirRun and Zaarly.

In TaskRabbit, "Customers pay by credit card, and the runner's share gets deposited into a TaskRabbit account, with checks cut every Friday."

"TaskRabbit takes 12-30% cut of each transaction."

97% of tasks get a bid from at least one runner and 75% of tasks get completed.

If you want to become a Runner-- you apply through a 3-step process that includes an application form, video interview, and a federal criminal background check.

Gaming mechanics is used to rank top runners, display their experience level and average customer reviews, and provide them a progress bar to show points needed to get to the next level.

TaskRabbit fills an important niche in our society that is increasingly time-presured, convenience-oriented, and service-based and where more and more people hire themselves out as consultants, freelancers, and Guy/Gal Fridays.

While I can see the benefits to people who need to get work done and for people looking for work, there is something about this process where we bid out our labor by the individual task--like in the video where we need someone to pick up dog food--that it can get a little degrading and meaningless. No longer are we hiring people for their knowledge, skills and abilities for long-term contributions and growth prospects, but rather we are tasking out the smallest and most mundane of tasks to the lowest bidder.

Harvard Business Review (July-August 2011) in an article called "The Age of Hyperspecialization" wrote of the new social challenges with companies such as TopCoders that crowdsources out IT work to 300,000 freelance developers in more than 200 countries, such as: "the possibility of exploitation as work quickly finds the cheapest takers, and the opportunity for deception when workers can't see the larger purpose to which they are contributing."

Crowdsourcing or outsourcing these everyday tasks can bring speed and quality to what we are looking for, but the true cost comes in terms of "digital sweatshops" and potentially "dull and meaningless" work.

Is this level of economic efficiency going to cost us all more in the end?

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March 19, 2011

From Pocketbooks to Whirlybirds

From Inspector Gadget to Transformers--there is more than one purpose to everything and that is the type of flexibility that we need to be agile, competitive, and efficient.

Miche Bags is a new amazing example of a company that has "got it" in terms of architecting their products for re-use.
The bags work in 3 easy steps:

1) Consumers pick a bag base--big or small.

2) Then they choose the shell (design) on the outside that they like--and this can be changed out as often as desired.

3) Finally, there are plenty of accessories--organizers and straps to select from.

Viola, your own bag creation; tire of it--and choose something else and simply swap it out.

According to CNBC, the idea for the changeable bags came when to the owner when she spilled something on one of her bags and wished that she could just change it out.

Sure, sometimes, it's nice to have a whole new product--take my old smelly sneakers for an example--those have got to go! :-)

But at other times, it can just make more economical and environmental sense to just freshen up a product with a change or new look.

Cell phones and smartphones seemed to have gotten that idea in their changeable "skins" that let people snap on and off different colors, textures, and materials.

Another example is Crocs (shoes) that accessorize with Jibbitz or colorful charms that snap into the holes on the shoes--these range from sports team to Disney characters, flowers, flags, and more.

Of course, there's lots of other, more familiar examples--reversible belts and coats and removable comforter covers just to name a few.
In a dynamic and faced-paced world, where at the same time resources are more and more constrained, the ability to change out components and at the same time reuse basic elements is what is needed more than ever.


It's great to have the versatility to personalize and accessorize skins, but it's even better and more powerful to be able to change out components--like expanding the memory on our computers.


Like Inspector Gadget, you never know when a cap that changes to a "whirlybird propeller" that flies you out of harm's way will come in handy!


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March 7, 2010

A Turning Point for the Government Cloud

Los Angeles is moving to the cloud, according to Public CIO Magazine March 2010, and “they are the first government of its scale to chose Gmail for the enterprise.”

“It turned out that Washington D.C., was using Gmail for disaster recovery and giving employees the option to use it as their primary e-mail.” But LA is implementing Gmail for more than 30,000 city employees (including police and fire departments) as well as planning to move to Google Apps productivity suite for everything from “calendar, word processing, document collaboration, Web site support, video and chat capabilities, data archiving, disaster recovery and virus protection. “

CTO Randi Levin is leading the charge on the move to cloud computing, and is taking on concerns about cost, data rights, and security.

  • On Cost: “The city estimated $5.5 million in hard savings form the Google adoption, and an additional $20 million savings in soft costs due to factors like better productivity.”
  • On Data Rights: Nondisclosure agreement with Google includes that the data belong to the city “in perpetuity,” so “if the city wants to switch to another vendor after the contract ends, the city will be able to recall its archived data.”
  • On Security: “Google is building a segregated ‘government cloud,” which will be located on the continental U.S. and the exact location will remain unknown to those outside Google. The data will be “sharded”—“shredded into multiple pieces and stored on different servers. Finally, Google will be responsible for “unlimited” damages if there’s a breach of their servers.

LA conducted an request for proposal for software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a hosted solution and received responses for 10 vendors including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Google was selected by an Intradepartmental group of IT managers and a five year contract issued for $17 million.

Currently (since January), LA is conducting a Gmail pilot with about 10% of its city employees, and implementation for the city is slated for mid-June.

Additionally, LA is looking into the possibility of either outsourcing or putting under public-private partnership the city’s servers.

And the interest in government cloud isn’t limited to LA; it is catching on with Google Apps pilots or implementations in places like Orlando, Florida and within 12 federal agencies.

Everyone is afraid to be the first in with a major cloud computing implementation, but LA is moving out and setting the standard that we will all soon be following. It’s not about Google per se, but about realizing the efficiencies and productivity enhancement that cloud computing provides.


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August 22, 2009

Technology, A Comfort to the Masses

Typically, as technologists, we like to point out the great things that technology is doing for us—making us more productive, facilitating more convenience, allowing us to perform feats that humans alone could not do, and enabling us to connect with others almost without regard to space and time. And truly, we are fortunate to live in a time in history with all these new unbelievable capabilities—our ancestors would be jealous in so many ways.

Yet, there is a flip side to technology—what some refer to as the 24x7 society—“always on”—that we are creating, in which life is a virtual non-stop deluge of emails, voicemails, videoconferencing, messaging, Friending, Linking-in, blogging, tweeting, YouTubing, and more.

We are becoming a society of people living in a Matrix-type virtual world, where we go around addicted to the online cyber world and yet in so many ways are unconscious to the real-world relationships that are suffering in neglect and silence.

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal, 22-23 August 2009 entitled, Not So Fast, by John Freeman states that “we need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships.”

Certainly, online communications and connections are valuable, and in many ways are meaningful to us. They can create wonderful opportunities to bond with those near and far, including those who would be normally beyond our reach geographically and temporally. For me it’s been great reconnecting with old friends from schools, jobs, and communities. And yes, who would think that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be but a FaceBook message away for me?

Yet while all the online interaction is fulfilling for us in so many ways—filling voids of all sorts in our lives—in reality the connections we make in the virtual world are but a tiny fraction of the real world human-to-human relationships we have in terms of their significance and impact.

The Journal article puts it this way: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?”

One of the biggest fears that people have is not their own mortality, but that of being left alone in the corporeal world—for each of us, while a world unto ourselves, are small in the vastness of all that is around us. Perhaps to feel less alone, people amass and encircle themselves with great amounts of familiar, comforting, and loving people and things. And while people have these, they are connected, grounded, loved, and they are comforted that they are not alone.

But the harsh reality is that no matter how much we have in our lives, people are beings onto themselves, and over time, unfortunately and extremely painfully, all worldly things are ultimately lost.

The Journal states: “We may rely heavily on the Internet , but we cannot touch it, taste it, or experience the indescribable feeling of togetherness that one gleans from face-to-face interaction.”

Connections are great. Virtual relationships can be satisfying and genuine. All the technology communication mechanisms are fast, efficient, and powerful in their ability to reach people anytime and anywhere. Yet, we must balance all these with the people we care about the most. We cannot sacrifice our deepest and most intimate relationships by sitting in front of a computer screen morning, noon, and night and walking around with the BlackBerry taking phone calls and emails at our kids' school play, on their graduation day, and during their wedding recital. We are missing the boat on what is really important. We have forgotten how to balance. We have gone to extremes. We are hurting the ones we truly love the most.

“We need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from efficiency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments, but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships.”

Finally, with all the technology, we are in a sense becoming less human and more mechanical—like the Borg, in Star Trek—with BlackBerrys and Netbooks as our implants. Let’s find some time to pull the plug on these technologies and rediscover the real from the virtual.


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