Archive for information workers

Harness the knowledge of your workers

Before a company thinks about redundancies, it is worth remembering this: a century ago, the most valuable US corporation was US Steel, whose primary assets were smokestack factories. Today’s most valuable corporation is Microsoft, whose most precious assets go home every night. Your organisation is the same – your key assets walk out that door every night.

Companies that want those assets to return every morning must pay attention to the workplace. To quote former GE CEO, Jack Welch, “We spend all our time on people – the day we screw up the people thing, it’s over”. 

A Delphi Group survey revealed 42 per cent of corporate knowledge was unmanaged – in other words, within employees’ heads – while the rest was spread across paper and electronic repositories.

Other estimates place this figure as high as 80 per cent.

Yet, no matter how high the percentage is within your company, odds are that it’s too high. This is simply because knowledge that’s only available to one person only benefits that one person. And if that person leaves the company, his or her knowledge benefits your competitors.

So, right now is a good time to review the process for managing information that is critical to your organisation.

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Boosting enterprise IQ

For a company to achieve competitive advantage, people are more important than ever.

A critical underpinning of internal intelligence is how the enterprise leads and manages people – and a significant part of the enterprise’s intellectual property is vested in the minds and commitment of its people.

People no longer ‘belong’ to an enterprise, though – they will attach themselves where they perceive their contribution is most valued. And ‘value’ is more than a simple compensation package – it includes a combination of rewards, responsibilities, work environment and life style arrangements. Increasingly, employers need to understand the unique and individual motivations of each employee if they wish to retain them.

Peter Drucker noted that knowledge workers are people who know more about what they are doing then their managers.  If that holds true, then the old models of leadership will simply not work.  So, what’s a leader’s role then?  To be a guide.  To share information.  And to know how to ask rather than how to tell.

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Faster, higher, stronger – Part 2

As the growth rates of emerging markets continue to accelerate and further expand beyond the current leaders – Brazil, Russia, India and China – the power of these regions in the global IT industry is becoming more pronounced.

Gartner estimates that IT spending in emerging markets will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.9 per cent to reach $1.3 trillion by 2011.  In comparison, mature markets will spend more overall ($2.5 trillion by 2011) but invest a smaller percentage (4.6 per cent).

And with the rapid rise in IT growth in emerging nations, analysts are predicting that the global ICT industry will be ‘borderless’ by 2015.  This means that organisations, including governments, will increasingly source their ICT from around the globe without regard to the ‘country of origin’ or ‘headquarters’ of the vendor supplying the solution, be it software, hardware, telecommunications, IT services, or people.

It’s fair to say that Australia will have more to worry about than simply how well our rowers and cyclists perform by the time London 2012 rolls around.

As organisations leverage low-cost, highly skilled labour sources, nations such as Australia will be at a significant competitive disadvantage unless we find a distinct value proposition. 

Functions which can be digitised or automated are most likely to be sent offshore, so building those skills which are valuable locally and less easy to replicate are crucial to underwrite Australia’s economic prosperity.

As the WEF report clearly demonstrates, those countries leading the world in ICT readiness have a coherent government vision of the importance of ICT, coupled with an early focus on education and innovation.

Australia possesses an abundantly-skilled, culturally and linguistically diverse workforce that excels in high value, creative problem-solving skills.  Our people have a reputation around the globe for their ability to develop integrated business solutions through applied ICT technology. 

But, just like the Aussie stars of the track and pool, our people need nurturing.  We have the capacity to develop world-beating ICT products and solutions – but we need support, investment and incentives to ensure we keep our place up the front of the pack.

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Faster, higher, stronger

As the Olympics circus packs up its tent for another four years, sports-mad Australians are left to contemplate a lighter medal haul than anticipated, alongside a sinking spot on the medal tally board.

While our less-than-impressive efforts at the velodrome and on the track have us shaking our heads, the British press are singing the praises of Old Blighty, pointing out that their athletes had shown “what can be achieved with dedication, good coaching and sensible funding”.

And there’s the rub.  Should we really be surprised when a massive financial investment in sport yields results?  And should we marvel when economic powerhouses such as China, with its huge population, and the US, with its combination of high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and population, top the medal table? 

A high population provides a strong base from which to draw talent – whether it’s athletes or technologists.  GDP is a good indicator of a country’s prosperity, with affluent countries more likely to have the spare cash to invest in elite sports systems (or technology infrastructure, as the case may be).

But my question is this: will Australians ever experience the same sense of bruised national pride as we slip further down the global technology leader board?

There are dozens of ways to measure the competitiveness of a country’s ICT capacity, but the Global Information Technology Report, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in April is a good yardstick. 

The Report uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), covering a total of 127 economies in 2007-2008, to measure each nation’s degree of preparation to participate in and benefit from ICT developments.  The NRI assesses the economy’s ICT environment, readiness of key stakeholders and ICT usage.

And, according to WEF, Australia is nowhere near medal contention.

Top of the league this year was Denmark – which won only two gold at Beijing, but grabbed the WEF gold for the second year in a row.  Close behind was Sweden (despite just four silver medals and a bronze in Beijing), Switzerland (two gold medals), the United States (runner up at the Olympics, with 36 gold medals) and Singapore (just one silver medal). Australia came in at number 14.

So, what’s more important for our future success?  Is it golden moments in the pool or world-beating high technology performances?

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Everyone’s an information worker

In an editorial written for BBC News late last year, Bill Gates argued that digital technology has transformed almost everyone into an information worker.

“That’s true for everyone from the retail store worker who uses a handheld scanner to track inventory to the chief executive who uses business intelligence software to analyse critical market trends,” he said.

This underscores a modern-day truism: a solid working knowledge of productivity software and other IT tools has become a basic foundation for success in virtually any career.

Gates also reminds us that a career in IT is not one where you are locked away in a dark room by yourself all day.  People skills are vital.

As Gates says “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.”

Perhaps the most telling thing about Gates’ article on the BBC website is the feedback from readers, who hailed from everywhere from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, and from Germany to New Delhi.  They universally applauded digital technology from every corner of the globe.

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