IT Productivity Payoff

Writes David Kirkpatrick (Fortune):

What change in habits or business practices could unleash the power of computing to dramatically boost productivity?

I have a candidate–business process outsourcing. While its not something we immediately associate with computing and networks, its only after companies are automated and connected by a commonly accessible network (the Internet) that they can easily create links between themselves and their suppliers. Work can be passed seamlessly from worker to worker regardless of location.

Now the question is starting to arise: Where is work most efficiently done? Though the process is slow, because the implications for both societal and corporate organization are unsettling, more and more companies are beginning to understand that many jobs dont have to be done at the office. Weve seen a resulting increase in home-based work, and dispersal of back-office functions further from high-rent districts.

But the cost-savings grow really huge when companies exploit the big discrepancies in labor rates between the U.S. and still-developing countries like India, and outsource entire business processes to operators far away. International business process outsourcing, or BPO, started a few years ago with call centers, and its spreading to a wider variety of jobs. It may enable a quantum leap downward in labor costs. Ravi Aron, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, estimates that such outsourcing can save companies up to 60% on labor.

What We Do

From Amy Wohl (in the context of Microsoft’s OneNote):

When researchers asked, “What do office workers do now?” they got a somewhat different set of answers. The list includes going to meetings, reading and creating email (maybe they should have put deleting SPAM at the top of the list?), gathering information, and communicating (not just in email, but also in presentations and reports.

All of these functions are served to some extent today by personal productivity tools, but the tools are not optimized for the way people work – or perhaps, more precisely, for the way they would prefer to work.

Today’s tools are discrete and separate. Information gathered in one place must be retyped (or found and moved) to be useful in another place. Many note takers (like me) take their notes on paper because it’s so hard to copy diagrams, make annotations or show relationships in the very linear world of keyboarded text. Microsoft Research recently found that 91 percent of information workers surveyed regularly take notes; 26 percent of these note-takers transfer handwritten notes into e-mail, and 23 percent admitted they often can’t find the information they’re looking for. 36 percent said they were ready for a better note-taking system.

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From NYTimes:

Ms. Greiner and her co-founders, Colin Angle and Rodney Brooks, have spent 12 years introducing their robot prototypes into new environments and then working to make them better. Ms. Greiner envisions a world in which robots handle tasks that are too difficult, dangerous, or time-consuming for humans. She describes iRobot’s goal as “doing for robots what Apple did for computers, making them available to anyone who wants to use one.”

IRobot is perhaps the only company in the world that develops and sells robots to the military, researchers, large corporations, and consumers. Most robotics makers focus on just one segment, and 2002 has been a busy year for the company.

TECH TALK: The Best of Tech Talk 2002: A Personal Journey

For me, 2002 can be summed up in three words: Entrepreneuring, Emergic and Blogging.

At heart, I am an entrepreneur and have been one for the past decade. I have tried multiple things in my life developing object and multimedia database applications, trying to sell a fractal-based image compression application in India, doing outsourced software development, doing local software projects, creating an image processing application, launching Indias first Internet portal and a collection of a dozen allied vertical websites, developing and managing websites for many of Indias corporates, and offering messaging solutions. Some ideas have worked, other have failed. For me, the thrill and challenge lies in envisioning the future and working to build it ahead of others.

Entrepreneurship is about living life not with a map, but with a compass. It is about waking up every morning expectantly, fully prepared for the uncertainties that lie ahead. Entrepreneurship is about knowingly taking up challenges with the odds fully stacked against, and then working each day to reduce these odds. And, as Dan Bricklin says, “as you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to like the feeling.”

This is the spirit I tried to capture in my series on The Entrepreneurs Delights.

Emergic is the vision I want to implement next as an entrepreneur. Much of what I write about in Tech Talk are the ideas that I think of when imagining how we can create low-cost computing solutions to make technology a utility in the lives of the millions of users and small and medium enterprises in the worlds emerging markets.

Emergic is about creating a software platform which brings down costs of technology by a factor of 10, thus making it affordable for consumers and enterprises in the worlds emerging markets.

Emergic is going to become the computing platform for the next 500 million consumers and the worlds 25 million SMEs who have not been able to adopt technology because of its dollar-denominated pricing.

Emergic is targeted at the worlds emerging markets, because they are where technology has not yet penetrated deeply, and yet, for whom, technology offers perhaps the last opportunity to better integrate into the worlds value chain and improve the standard of living for their people.

I think of Emergic as the Amul (or Wal-Mart) of computing. It is about making it affordable to the bottom of the pyramid. It is about making the dream of a connected computer accessible to every employee and family a reality for those who live in the developing nations of the world.

In May, I started a weblog It is a mix of my thinking and links to articles I read and find interesting. Over the past few months, it has become an extended personal knowledge management system. More importantly, it has helped me, just like Tech Talk, clarify and share my thinking with you all.

Tomorrow: A Personal Journey (continued)

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