Posts Tagged ‘Productivity Strategies & Solutions’

Despite the fact that we implement some very cool technology solutions – or perhaps because we do – we are ever-sensitive to the impact that technology has on people.  When our company began 30 years ago, we knew we could make companies much more efficient – the same principle that drives us today.  And a more efficient company has a much greater likelihood of staying that way, and staying in existence.

Still, as we flash forward thirty years hence, it’s important to pay attention to some of the job implications of technology.  Automation is a huge boon to the world’s workers, but only if companies and governments can manage the disruption that is often created.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute estimate, as reported recently in The Wall Street Journal, 375 million workers worldwide will “need to find new occupations or lose their livelihood to automation by 2030.”

That astounding figure represents roughly one in every seven workers on the planet, and the time line is only about a dozen years if the McKinsey folks are right.  One of its principals, Susan Lund, remarked that “The question is, what are we going to do to manage the transition for the people who do lose their jobs?”

While those of us in the tech sector bear responsibility to varying degrees for that displacement, it comes down to the choices made by policy makers and business owners about how to support those displaced workers.  This can take many forms, including investments in continuing education, training, new job-creation and the infrastructure-type projects that can support them.

Adopting automation tools, adjusting wages and reconciling regulatory issues all have an effect.  Ultimately, those higher wages create even greater incentives for companies to automate and innovate.  The transitioning of the affected workers creates a lot of potential for unrest – and remember, this isn’t just a national issue, but a global one.

In a sign of looking at the future in a whole new way, some countries are already experimenting with universal basic incomes – cash grants that provide a fiscal foundation in workers’ lives.  The idea is to see if, given a subsistence income, the basic support infrastructure can be put in place to free up workers to aspire to newer, higher or more entrepreneurial heights.  Or whether they’ll simply lose work incentive and just drop out altogether.

Support for displaced workers, Ms. Lund points out, can include guidance, career and skills coaching, and providing things like transportation and child care.

McKinsey estimates that about 15% of all hours worked globally could be automated by 2030 by using technology that is currently available.  “60% of all occupations could be at least partially automated with current tools,” though only 5% are at risk of total automation, they add.

Machine learning… artificial intelligence… and other advanced forms of automation are real, and arriving now.  Like past waves of technological evolution, they have the power to create more jobs than they replace.  As we noted in a recent post, it’s already happening as we transition from fewer retail workers to even more warehouse and logistic jobs.  This, as we noted, is already delivering higher paying jobs than the ones replaced, and more of them, which benefits all classes and sectors as the indirect result of technology’s contribution to higher productivity.

That increased productivity is what job growth, job creation and the benefits of automation are all about.  It’s why thirty years ago we made “Productivity” the first word in our company name.  And why the message is as important now as it was then.



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Tomorrow, the company I started out of a spare bedroom in 1987 celebrates something of a milestone: 30 years in business.  We’ll spare you the “long, strange trip…” metaphors, but you have to admit: that’s a long time to do anything — let alone the same thing.  Yet, here we are.  Any business that makes it 30 years has some bumps and bruises, and a few stories to tell.  Here’s a bit of ours…

Starting out as one guy in a back room, I bootstrapped a little software firm that came to be known as “PMI.”  Within a few years we were adding customers in need of custom software, spreadsheets and accounting applications, while also adding a motley crew of smart, energetic people to satisfy those (very patient) customers.  We did good work and over the years won industry awards and business accolades – even the Small Business of the Year.  We earned national software awards like “Killer VAR” (we’re a Value-Added Reseller for accounting and manufacturing software solutions), “Technology Pacesetter” (many times), and a “Family Values in Business Award” (for being ‘a company that never refused an employee a day off for any reason’).

We grew for 20 years until one day I thought it might be time to move on – maybe even retire –when a case of misplaced trust and questionable judgment led me to turn the business over to a few key employees who proved utterly unfit to run it.  (You can read a quick synopsis of that story here, first published in 2009 in a post on ‘integrity’.)

The sale was a disaster, economically and emotionally.  Within a few months my successors had nearly destroyed the company and threw in the towel.  I came racing back from the Caribbean to pick up what pieces remained.  I still remember that first day back in April ’07 as I gathered together the handful of my earliest co-workers – the ones who had remained loyal and would meet with me that morning.  There were some glum faces in that room as I explained how we’d been bled and left for dead.  Over the next few months we started sifting through the wreckage to see what we could rescue of our little outfit.

But here’s where it gets good.  Out of the ashes of that disaster arose PMI’s successor “PSSI” (yes, we did briefly consider naming it “Phoenix Software”) which I’ve had the privilege to lead for the past 10 years – so, 30 altogether.  Of course, on the heels of that 2007 debacle came the Great Recession, when business mostly just froze up.  We worked hard scrambling around for enough work to keep our team afloat.  That rebuild – these last ten years – has really defined us.

Today, all those awards noted earlier don’t mean that much.  Don’t get me wrong – they were very cool to receive in their time.  We felt honored, and more than a little proud.  They were mileposts on the road to what became a pretty successful business.  The little idea that started in a back room of my house in 1987 turned into a nearly $3M enterprise with over 25 employees at its peak.  People did good work, they got rewarded for it (often handsomely) and we all felt a part of something that was growing fast, a leader in the tech sector.

But it’s those glum faces in that room ten years ago – the ones that stuck it out with me all these years – those guys are the reason we’re here today, and therein lies the deeper meaning of our thirtieth.

In that first month back, I told the team that I wasn’t even sure how I was going to make payroll at month-end.  They mostly nodded, shrugged it off and went about their business.  But here’s the thing: not one person, all that dark cold month, ever once asked about their paycheck.  Not once. They just did the work, trusted in our mission, and at the end of the month trusted the money would somehow be there.  It was.  After that, we just kept putting one foot forward after the other…  a day, a week, a month at a time.

That team is still with me today (you know who you are), and they’re the real reason we are able to celebrate 30 years in business today.  Like most small business owners, I owe everything to those employees and customers.

I guess in the end, sometimes you just persevere because, honestly, you don’t know what the hell else to do.

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