|Exam Name||:||IBM SurePOS 700 Technical Mastery|
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|Updated On||:||February 21, 2019|
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IBM is the use of Kubernetes to aid unleash its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform to work throughout any cloud ambiance, including private, public, or hybrid multi-cloud environments. This expansion also comprises guide for cloud ecosystems powered by means of IBM opponents like Amazon web features (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
The stream will see Watson purposes like Watson Assistant and Watson OpenScale integrated with IBM’s Cloud deepest (ICP) for statistics and run as microservices the usage of Kubernetes. this could allow for those microservices to be moveable throughout the diverse infrastructure types and cloud ecosystems.
For IBM, the circulate makes it possible for it to broaden the reach of its Watson AI platform. it'll additionally permit organizations to use the Watson platform to aid analyze and control records throughout all of their data sources.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty all over a keynote at this week’s IBM believe event stated the circulation makes Watson “probably the most open, scalable AI for company on the earth.”
IBM launched its ICP platform in late 2017. It’s developed on a Kubernetes-based container architecture and solidified IBM’s envelopment of Kubernetes.
The vendor early final 12 months announced the ICP for facts extension. It enables organizations to glean perception from their information supplies on their technique to aiding enterprise AI features. IBM has due to the fact been slowly layering in diverse Watson AI capabilities onto the platform, including Watson Speech-to-textual content and Watson Assistant ultimate yr.
The Watson Assistant platform helps developers and non-technical users create conversational AI products, ranging from essential chatbots to complicated business-grade items for client service. Watson OpenScale is IBM’s open AI platform for managing dissimilar AI instances.
The flow might also raise IBM’s pleasing cloud positioning. A fresh Synergy analysis group file found that IBM had misplaced market share amongst cloud infrastructure carrier suppliers all through the fourth quarter of last year compared with the previous yr. This made IBM the simplest cloud issuer among the market’s 5 biggest suppliers to post this kind of loss.
besides the fact that children, John Dinsdale, chief analyst at SRG, noted that IBM has a a little bit diverse focal point than its opponents “as it is still the robust leader within the hosted private cloud services phase of the market.”
moreover increasing the reach of its Watson platform, IBM this week additionally introduced a 5-12 months, $seven hundred million deal with Banco Santander to support the enterprise replace its IT structure toward a hybrid cloud ambiance. The deal will see Santander use Watson to improve client carrier and worker construction.
Santander will work with IBM to enhance the financial institution’s recently created Cloud Competence middle. it'll also use IBM’s DevOps and API join systems to help increase, iterate, and launch new or upgraded applications.
IBM is working with a handful of banks on equivalent migrations, together with ICBC Argentina, Lloyds Banking group, and Royal financial institution of Canada.
IBM has long been a leader within the know-how industry, developing and manufacturing no longer handiest greatest computer systems however additionally element-of-sale technology. IBM introduces the SurePOS seven hundred aspect of sale gadget which is a high powered POS gadget for retail retailers and supermarkets, providing the maximum viable performance whereas conserving business charges low.
The SurePOS seven hundred is much more power efficient than their old 500/600 model, with as much as 30 % in energy discount rates. it truly is a pretty good improvement for any business which has to cope with excessive power expenses every month. each POS gadget models have a deep-sleep automation function, however what the SurePOS seven-hundred mannequin offers is faster scanning and bar code processing moreover minimizing expenses for groups. With faster scanning capability, retail stores can maximize the variety of items scanned per minute while the cashier tests out the customers. like the SurePOS 500/600 model, the brand new 700 POS device is IBM Retail Hardened, which capacity that it has been tested to face up to excessive temperatures, besides liquid spills, and radio waves. Being proof against spills makes this POS system excellent for use in eating places with no need to worry about destructive the gadget. carry-out eating places will locate the SurePOS seven hundred to their expertise, as will grocery stores and some other enterprise that relies upon food items for almost all of their gains.
The graceful, tool-free design of the SurePOS seven hundred has a removable entrance panel which enables for easy access to each component within the system. should any elements of the POS equipment need replacing, they can readily be put in via this panel. This excellent characteristic helps cut down on time spent on repairs. There are additionally safety patches accessible so one can stay away from the equipment from being hacked into. The POS system device has high-bandwidth Ethernet, fast automatic configuration so one can allow any business to set up in minimal time and eight distinctive SurePorts that enables USB connections to latest peripherals. With a POS device just like the SurePOS seven hundred, the newest utility functions will also be used with it, even if it is TouchSuite, Iridium, or IBM. additionally, this POS equipment is made from recycled plastics, making it a call that any environmentalist could be chuffed to invest in.
IBM has been in company considering that 1911 and is based mostly in Armonk, manhattan. founded via Thomas J. Watson, IBM became the effect of a merger of three corporations that presented state-of-the-paintings technology to places of work throughout the nation. The enterprise is likely one of the highest ranked global suppliers of expertise options through Fortune journal.
photograph Courtesy of IBM.
mobile functions movement Retail POS Out of the again workplace
POS application for E-Commerce retailers
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April 30, 2008 03:00 ET
ARMONK, new york--(Marketwire - April 30, 2008) - IBM (NYSE: IBM) these days introduced that it will work with StoreNext Retail technologies LLC, a subsidiary of Retalix Ltd. (NASDAQ: RTLX), to market pre-packaged retail options powered by using IBM factor-of-sale programs for unbiased and regional chain grocers.
StoreNext is the business's leading employer of retail expertise to impartial grocers, and it is the simplest retail IT company that focuses solely on meeting the wants of the wholesaler-served market of impartial grocers and regional chains.
StoreNext will now add IBM aspect-of-sale (POS) terminals to its options portfolio. Retalix and StoreNext software functions on effective IBM POS instruments will give valued clientele superior flexibility and choice to fulfill their IT requirements, and allow StoreNext with IBM to prolong its leadership to untapped markets in this space.
"here's an exhilarating opportunity for us," spoke of John Gaydac, vice chairman, IBM Retail store answer earnings, Americas. "we're blissful to be working with a market leader like StoreNext and its broker network to extend our attain into the SMB market. StoreNext's grocery functions coupled with IBM hardware permit each corporations to improved serve this essential segment, and adding this new channel and answer to our existing ACE unbiased grocery offering offers unbiased grocers with the widest set of options possible."
"It was time to prolong the IBM-Retalix relationship via pairing StoreNext's application with IBM's terminal hardware," stated Ray Carlin, president and CEO of StoreNext. "The market is stressful hardware option, and this partnership will bring excellent cost and a powerful company to key market segments such as comfort outlets and independent grocers."
The agreement calls for StoreNext to market IBM SurePOS retail terminals with StoreNext ISS45™ and ScanMaster® grocery aspect-of-sale utility solutions. The company will also bundle the IBM structures with the Retalix StorePoint™ POS answer for the comfort-gasoline retail market.
The ScanMaster and ISS45 methods are completely built-in with IBM's SurePOS 300, SurePOS 500 and SurePOS 700 terminal lines. the brand new grocery packages can be found instantly from StoreNext's nationwide reseller network. methods combining Retalix StorePoint C-shop utility with the IBM hardware can be launched this summer time.
With this announcement Retalix/StoreNext turns into the first solution issuer to join the IBM Retail keep options industry Remarketer program, additionally introduced nowadays. The collaboration with IBM offers StoreNext dealers entry to the trade's leading aspect-of-sale know-how. It allows IBM to extend its reach into the impartial grocery phase through an intensive StoreNext network of native purchasers serving a range of customers, from the smallest independent keep operator to grocery chains of up to 100-plus retailers.
The announcement is part of a worldwide IBM campaign to create and deliver finest, cost-efficient, handy-to-put in force solutions for small to mid-sized organizations, one of the vital industry's quickest starting to be IT segments.
In January, IBM announced a joint initiative with Retalix, StoreNext's Israel-based mostly mum or dad enterprise, to supply built-in commercial enterprise management solutions based on the IBM remote management Agent and Retalix automatic utility to support grocery and convenience store shoppers centrally manipulate their point-of-sale techniques, applications and different points of their retail records facilities.
StoreNext Retail technologies LLC is the main employer of retail know-how to unbiased grocers and regional chains. based mostly in Dallas, Texas, StoreNext is a subsidiary of Retalix (NASDAQ: RTLX) and markets POS hardware, Retalix's ISS45 and ScanMaster POS application, Retalix shop and Retalix HQ, in addition to internet linked functions for managing shops by means of internet-enabled applications. StoreNext is the IT business it is committed to assembly the wants of this wholesaler-served market with packaged solutions that have been previously accessible, affordable or purposeful best for gigantic chains. For extra information, please consult with www.storenext.com
Retalix (NASDAQ: RTLX) is an unbiased issuer of utility options to retailers and distributors global. Retalix options serve the needs of grocery chains, convenience and gasoline marketers, meals and buyer items distributors and unbiased grocers. The company presents a portfolio of utility purposes that automate and synchronize primary retail and provide chain operations, encompassing retailers, headquarters and warehouses. The enterprise's overseas headquarters can be found in Ra'anana, Israel, and its American headquarters can be found in Dallas, Texas. For greater counsel about Retalix, please consult with www.retalix.com
For more information please talk over with www.ibm.com
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Rupert Murdoch owning the New York Daily News? A McCormick controlling the Chicago Tribune again? The L.A. Times pulling a Washington Post, aiming to run the industry’s underlying infrastructure? A lot of change is coming soon.
While it still requires some deal jiu-jitsu, Tronc looks to be on the brink of being broken up.
Will Wyatt’s new Donerail Group, several confidential sources tell me, has now gotten the financing in place to do a deal to buy Tronc. Donerail would purchase Tronc’s 10 daily newspaper properties, take the company private, and then most likely sell the papers off to individual buyers — some of whom it already has lined up.Tronc’s been in play, quietly, for much of the year, but several pieces of the deal puzzle have only just fallen into place. (Donerail’s interest was first reported in early August by Reuters.) But it’s now become clear, through multiple insider accounts, how such a deal may work. A completed deal would likely come in as a $640 million to $700 million transaction. That would value Tronc shares somewhere above the $18 to $19 range; they trade at $17 today.
On the surface, the latest drama to envelop Tronc looks fairly straightforward. “Alternative investment” fund sees chaos and cash in the unending decline of the daily newspaper business, thinks it can make a buck.
Tronc being Tronc, though, nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Unsurprisingly, the characters that have starred in the company’s two-year dramedy — most prominently moneyman Michael Ferro and now L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong — have assumed major roles, even if their parts have gone largely unreported.
If the Donerail deal goes through, it apparently requires Soon-Shiong throwing in with it. That means he would maintain his continuing 25 percent stake in Tronc — which he’s held onto throughout his long effort to buy the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune. Soon-Shiong’s retention of that stake makes Wyatt’s financing of the deal possible; he only needs enough borrowing to pay off the other 75 percent of shareholders.
The apparent quid pro quo: Soon-Shiong would extend to other Tronc, or Tronc-sold, properties, the suite of newspaper technology services he’s trying to rapidly build. (The L.A. Times declined comment on Soon-Shiong’s tech intentions.)
There are a lot of moving, and dependent, pieces there, but insiders say that’s the contour of the deal currently in detailed final discussions.
If it works, Wyatt — an accomplished “event-driven” investor — gets his deal done and aims to make money selling off Tronc, title by title, city by city. Soon-Shiong gets to magnify the impact of his planned news technology strategies, aiming to combine the substantial engineering resources of his Nantworks technologies with those of news publishing — in part potentially replacing The Washington Post’s Arc platform, which has been rolling out across Tronc newspapers.
Still playing out in this deal: the odd relationship between Soon-Shiong and Michael Ferro. For a very short time — banding together to fend off a hostile Gannett bid only two years ago, though it feels like an eon in Tronc time — the two were allies. Since then, it’s been a war between the two: hot, cold, and then lukewarm enough for Soon-Shiong to complete his purchase of the Times from Tronc in June.
But the tale of the two doesn’t stop there.
While #metoo allegations forced Ferro out of his formal chairman role in March, he’s kept a steady hand behind CEO Justin Dearborn’s tiller — among other things figuring out a new way to pocket a $7.5 million payoff from the company, a move just reported in federal filings this month and detailed below.Formally, Ferro still heads up Merrick Media, the group of Chicago-based investors that owns a quarter of Tronc. His investors, as I have noted, want out. So Ferro has been trying for months to swing some kind of deal to get that stake sold, and at an above-market price.
In April, he announced a deal with McCormick Media to cash out Merrick at a hefty premium, intended to net $208.7 million. But that deal fell through, prompting my satiric (and premature) Ferro obit.
In the months since, he’s been working another deal — to sell the whole company.
That’s where Donerail fits in. Its head, Will Wyatt, is no stranger to Ferro. In fact, his then-employer Starboard Value took a position in Tronc as it fended off Gannett in 2016, reports the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick. In his days at Starboard, the company became quite familiar with Tribune Publishing, Tribune Media (its then-broadcast sibling) and then Tronc. Wyatt himself played a role as a “consultant” to Tronc on the L.A. Times sale to Soon-Shiong, so he became well in touch with all the players.
That’s what led to the approach of keeping Soon-Shiong in the ownership group — and satisfying his strategic aims. Soon-Shiong could want to just cash out of his holdings, and has assessed the market for his quarter-share, say sources. Alternatively, he can look at his participation in a new ownership group as an opportunity to further his “100-year plan” to transform news media.
The Times’ technology transition, after the closing of the sale, continues to be problematic. Though a Transition Services Agreement — that long held up the closing of the Times sale, as I reported — is in place, the process has been arduous.
And that’s where part of the deal jiu-jitsu resides. Soon-Shiong, who recently hired technology talent back from Tronc, wants to reverse the proposition. He would like the new Times, say sources, to build out and own the kinds of technologies — including artificial intelligence-directed predictive analytics — and then provide them more widely to newspaper companies.
It’s a big vision. One issue: timing. While Soon-Shiong’s vision and financial capacity are clear, little is now built. If the Donerail deal should proceed, with Soon-Shiong’s technology services as part of a package sold to buyers of individual properties, what exactly would be available to them — and when?
Curiously, this deal could get done without clear answers to those questions.Buying Tronc: Where’s the value?
Tronc doesn’t seem like a big prize.
As public newspaper companies reported their second-quarter results, Tronc managed to turn in the worse revenue performance among all its peers. Tronc lost 11 percent, year-over-year, in Q2. No one did better than a 4.9 percent loss, which GateHouse recorded, but none of other groups dipped into double-digit downturn territory.
The company’s major news of the quarter: slashing the New York Daily News newsroom in half, in an effort to turn the Ferro-bought property from a big ongoing loss to break-even. Tronc maintains its 2018 profit forecast only by ramping up the cutting of expenses, including newsroom staff.
(The only good recent news? Today’s International Trade Commission ruling reversed the new tariffs on Canadian newsprint. Those tariff-related price increases had dinged Tronc earnings by $2.5 million in the second quarter alone. Newsprint pricing should now ease into the final quarter of the year, helping Tronc and newspaper budgets overall.)
At a price of $640 million to $700 million, Wyatt’s new group would pay a relatively high multiple for the company — about 5× its 2018 forecast EBITDA. At that hefty price, close financial observers in the news industry share a common (if not-for-attribution) view: Where’s the value?
Yes, eliminating Tronc’s corporate headquarters staff provides some financial rationale for a split-up, but that seems inadequate to justify the math. Those brokering the business of selling and buying newspapers scratch their heads at Donerail’s reported interest.
Common to an increasing number of buyers these days, Wyatt hasn’t talked publicly about his interest — or about what he intends to do with Tronc’s 10 papers if he lands them. (My efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.) In fact, as he’s acknowledged privately recently: “My background’s not in operating companies.” It’s in buying — and quickly selling.
Hence this emerging conventional wisdom: Donerail would split Tronc up, selling the parts.In this scenario, the likely strategy would be to find “hometown buyers like Patrick Soon-Shiong.” Translation: Find “civic buyers,” the kinds of wealthy individuals (or small groups of wealthy individuals) who still see value in the local newspaper brand and institution. (I called this small group the 50-50 men four years ago, as a few of them entered the business, an entry that has produced quite mixed results.) Then win an above-market price for each property, as Tronc did at selling the Times to Soon-Shiong for (effectively) $600 million.
“How many of those people are really out there still?” one newspaper CEO asked me this week. “Are there really people in Baltimore, Hartford, and Chicago ready to buy…I wouldn’t go ahead with any deal to buy Tronc unless I had agreements with buyers in at least some of those cities,” he said.
At least a couple of buyers may be in the wings, and it’s possible such “letters of intent” are out there.McCormick Media, led by Sargent McCormick, a distant relative of Colonel McCormick of Chicago Tribune lore, could re-enter the picture. While its first effort to buy Merrick Media’s shares fizzled, the group has maintained its interest. Now, sources say, McCormick Media could either become a Donerail partner in a wider Tronc buy, or buy the hometown Chicago Tribune itself out of such a deal. Sargent McCormick declined comment on the company’s next moves.
Donerail would probably want to quickly dispatch the financially problematic New York Daily News. There, says one source, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the rival New York Post is set to pounce, paying $1 for the paper. (Aug. 30 update: “We have no interest whatsoever in the Daily News. We have not approached Tronc and will not be approaching Tronc.”)
Hearst remains a logical buyer for the Hartford Courant, given its Connecticut strength, though in the past has seemed uninterested in buying it.
In Baltimore, various civic names have been bandied about for years as potential buyers. It’s unclear which of them, or which new candidates, might now be interested. All of Tronc’s newspaper businesses have continued to shrink and weaken in the interim.
Then there’s likely GateHouse Media interest in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, adjacent to two significant properties it owns there, and perhaps Tronc’s Allentown and/or Virginia properties.
That would mean a new combination of insiders and outsiders replacing Tronc.
As newspaper industry people contemplate more “outsiders” entering their once-close fraternity, they’ve gotten lessons in vulture investing (via Alden Global Capital’s strategy). Now they can ponder “event-driven” buying.
As a principal at Starboard Value, and before that at Empyrean Capital and Magnetar Capital, Wyatt has specialized in “event-driven” investment. In plain language, that means seizing on an investment opportunity “after a corporate event, such as a bankruptcy, merger, acquisition, or spinoff,” at which point “the event-driven investor will purchase the stock of the company to be acquired, and sell it after the acquisition, when its price has risen to the acquisition price (or greater).”
Most plainly, Donerail sees opportunity in Tronc’s chaos.
Presumably, then, a Donerail buy would net this value investor a quick buck on a Tronc breakup.
The problem: Selling the individual properties at prices above that initial 5× multiple might prove difficult. Also, the properties generally share a low tax basis, meaning the seller would owe significant tax — one financial analyst estimates it at 20 to 25 percent — on sale proceeds.
Finally, there’s the reality that always comes with the unwinding of individual properties from a mothership chain: “dissynergies.” Anyone buying an individual newspaper has to add in the further cost and time of undoing and redoing fundamental operating functions — raising the effective price of any acquisition.Those are the woes a splitting newspaper company faces. All chains have greatly centralized every business function they can to achieve cost savings over the past five-plus years. That means any new owner of a newly solo daily must figure out everything from basic publishing systems to finance to HR to national ad sales. Remember it was such dissynergy — resulting in that torturous Transition Services Agreement — that held up Soon-Shiong’s buy; it’s also what has complicated such heroic separations as the Berkshire Eagle’s escape from Digital First Media ownership.
Though a much longer shot, Donerail — or a future owner — could decide to operate Tronc whole. Its balance sheet is an enviable one. Tronc paid down almost all its debt — a rare condition in the newspaper trade — when it sold the southern California properties. After it pays taxes of about $110 million on the transaction, it will still have more than $100 million in cash. So, another scenario: a buyer acquires Tronc, scoops up some of the cash, and ladles new debt on top. Those new debt payments, of course, would only further tighten newsroom and other budgets, but they could satisfy short-term investing objectives.Financial engineering to the fore
All in all, this episode of Tronc drama looks a lot like the previous ones. It is likely to be financial engineering that drives the future of Tronc’s papers from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale to Chicago — not any new model of digital product, content, or business model. The readers, the employees, and the large affected communities remain mere spectators.
Of course, Michael Ferro remains the man in the middle, ever brokering. Given his familiarity with would-be buyer Wyatt, one financial observer wondered if this would end up with “Ferro round-tripping” — noting Ferro’s uncanny abilities to make money on both ends of a deal, even as more traditional business people whisper that he loves to skate on thin legal or regulatory ice.Earlier this month, without fanfare or public notice, Ferro pocketed another $7.5 million in cash from the company. Tronc watchers will recall the consulting agreement he was granted by the Tronc board late last year, after it decided that paying him for its leased jet had gotten too complicated. That deal provided him $5 million a year, beginning in January 2018, in exchange for “certain management expertise and technical services.” Ferro got the first payment in January this year, just before the #metoo charges caused his exit.
Then, in June (and explained in an Aug. 10 SEC filing), the Tronc board decided to pay him money owed for 2019 and 2020, albeit at a “discount.” Ferro granted Tronc a 25 percent discount and took in an immediate payment of $7.5 million. Further, “the Company agreed to pay $0.3 million in legal fees incurred by Mr. Ferro while conducting the Company’s business.”
Even his most severe detractors marvel at Ferro’s continuing ability to come out on top in his business adventures, noting his mastery of timing. (In May, IBM announced layoffs at its new Watson Health division, built in part on the Merge Healthcare business it bought from Ferro and associates in 2015.)
Then there are the financial incentives built into the contracts of top Tronc executives. Those agreements accelerate their bonus and stock option compensation in case of a sale, assuming a legal “change of control” takes place. They amount to as much as $23.5 million in payments. More than $10 million of that, potentially, could go to Ross Levinsohn. Just last week, Levinsohn was able to exercise his first year of Tronc stock options even as the talk around L.A. is how little work Levinsohn seems to be doing now in his reconfigured job as head of Tribune Interactive, where he landed after Tronc removed him as Times publisher and then internally cleared him of his own #metoo allegations.
In short, much of what we know about Tronc’s structuring of compensation favors financial engineering over the betterment of the business — or journalism, or service to its communities — itself.A Tronc by any other name
How long will that name — Tronc — remain among us? If you’ll recall, many assumed the Tronc name would depart for Trivial Pursuit boards of the future; Tribune Media, its once-sister broadcast company, was finalizing its sale to Sinclair Media, which could have freed up the Tribune moniker. But, unexpectedly, that sale has blown up, and at least for now, Tribune Media remains an operating company. So, even if Tronc isn’t sold and broken up, the chances of it reclaiming its birthright brand anytime soon have shrunk.
Old newspaper brands stir a lot of emotion — and grabbing. Insiders point to quite colorful skirmishes between executives as the Tribune Company split in two back in 2014, with TV stations going to Tribune Media and newspapers to Tribune Publishing. “We found people moving around expensive chairs with hours to go on the split. You know the rule: Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” one former exec remembered this week. In that fray, high-branded art — including Diebenkorns, Rockwells, and Picassos — saw action. Consider the L.A. Times’ Daniel Miller’s own colorful account of the disappearance/reappearance of five iconic Picassos — another layer of tarnish on what was once a great publishing name.
Then there’s the curious Donerail name. Given the gallows humor inherent in the post-Sam Zell travails of the once-staid Tribune Company, it might be tempting to think of the stealthy company — a mere single page to its website — as the Donner Company, ready to commit more cannibalism in the eat-or-be-eaten newspaper trade.
Yet Donerail ironically sees itself as an underdog. Donerail, horse-racing historians will tell you, was the biggest underdog to ever win the Kentucky Derby, way back in 1913. It was a 91-1 shot.
You can conjecture among yourselves what that might mean for Donerail’s own odds as it considers entering the daily newspaper business.
The idea of aligned incentives is kind of a holy grail. The goal is always the same: to align the interests of managers and employees with the owners of the business.Why do so many incentive plans fail?
We pay commissions to salespeople because we want them to get energized about selling things. We use profit-sharing and stock options to get people excited about increasing the value of the business. We try to align executive pay with incentives like earnings growth, revenue growth or stock prices.
But too often these attempts fail to get people to think and act like owners. Why?
Short-term thinking. Since we have to reward people within a reasonable timeframe, many incentives tend to focus on short-term measures. Optimizing incentives for short-term results discourages long-term thinking that may be necessary to ensure the survival of the company in the long run. For example, in the rush to earn commissions, salespeople make deals that the company can’t make a profit on, or push customers to buy more than they need, or offer too much because they want to squeeze in a deal at the end of the quarter. Their efforts increase sales in the short run but destroy value in the long run. And for executives, there are always ways to drive up the stock price or other measures in ways that look good in the short term but destroy value in the long term.
Too vague. Stock-option and profit-sharing plans reward employees when the company does well, but the larger the company, the more difficult it becomes for people to feel that their efforts have an impact on the stock price. Frontline workers often have a hard time believing that anything they do can affect stock prices or profits one way or another. Their impact is just too small relative to the actions of the company as a whole.
The industrial era was built on the kind of carrot-and-stick management that rewards some behaviors and punishes others. This has been successful in a world of predictability, where work can be broken down into routine tasks that can be done according to a prescribed formula. But it won’t serve us in the 21st century. In the coming years we will need to get the absolute best our people can offer. We will need their heads and hearts as well as their hands.
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Dan Pink cites research that indicates extrinsic rewards, such as sales commissions or other financial rewards, do work well under certain limited conditions: when a task simply requires people to follow a formula, such as Adam Smith’s famous pin factory. But for jobs that require complex or creative thinking, extrinsic rewards can be dangerous, because they tend to restrict people’s ability to notice things on the periphery and craft novel solutions.
Pink’s prescription is that in a world that increasingly requires people to think creatively, solve problems and remain flexible in uncertain environments, extrinsic incentives don’t work, and we should instead focus on the kinds of intrinsic motivation that drives artists, inventors and other creative professions: mastery, autonomy and purpose.
Certainly Pink’s point is an excellent one. Intrinsic motivation does indeed motivate people and drive creative success. But in business creative success is only part of the equation. In business we also need to make money. A quick look at the history of inventors and other creative people will confirm that, while creativity and invention may be necessary components of innovation, they are not sufficient if you want to achieve both innovation and business results.
The great innovators in business did not succeed on creativity alone; their success was a blend of creative thinking and business logic. There was no lack of creativity and invention in Xerox PARC, but Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were able to translate that creativity into a tangible product that people were willing to pay for. The great innovators in business – Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Sam Walton, Ted Turner and so on – blended creativity with business sense and a deep understanding of customers and market dynamics.
The challenge in aligning incentives is threefold: First, incentives must be real and tangible enough that people can see the impact they have on the business as a whole; second, they should balance long-term and short-term thinking; and third, they should balance rewards so they reward people for things that make the business as a whole healthier and more successful.
A good incentive system should reward people for thinking and acting like owners. So is it possible to get every worker to act as if they own the business?
It is possible. And the answer is actually quite simple. The way to get everyone to act as if they own the business is to give them a “business within the business.”The podular organization.
To make this work, you first have to understand that the most common template for large-scale modern business design, the multidivisional corporation, is not the only way to do it. The multidivisional form, first realized by General Motors in 1920, has become the standard form today. While phenomenally effective in some ways, the multidivisional form also has significant weaknesses when it comes to innovation.
There are things that seem “obvious” about organization design that are in fact not so obvious at all. Some things that we take for granted as fundamental are in fact only optional.
We tend to design organizations by splitting them into divisions. We divide the business, and the labor, in order to do work more efficiently. We put the software developers together so they can focus on software; we put the salespeople together so they can focus on selling and learn from each other, and so on. Sounds obvious, yes? And it’s very efficient. But as we move into a world where efficiency leads to commoditization, and where value will increasingly be driven by innovation, efficiency is no longer the overriding goal.
How can you divide the labor in your organization to optimize for innovation rather than efficiency? The answer is to supplement divisional thinking with another approach that I call podular thinking.
In a divisional organization, the kind we are all familiar with, you divide the labor into functions and specialties. As you continue to divide an organization in this way, you increase efficiency, but as a side effect you also disconnect the people from the overall purpose of the business. People in a functional group tend to identify with each other more than they identify with the purpose of the organization.
In a podular organization, you divide labor into “businesses within the business,” each of which can function as a complete service in its own right. Since each pod functions as a small business, its focus remains outside the pod, on its customers. Those customers might be inside or outside the organization as a whole, but each pod delivers a complete service. A podular approach allows a large company to act as if it were a flock or swarm of small companies; it gives the whole a level of flexibility and adaptiveness that would never be possible in a divisional organization. A podular organization is a fractal organization: every pod is an autonomous fractal unit that represents, and can function on behalf of, the business as a whole.
Does this sound strange? How is this possible?
Let’s look at four examples from four different industries: A food processing company, a retailer, a software company and a conglomerate.Morning Star’s self-organizing marketplace.
Morning Star, a privately held company, was started in 1970 as a one-truck owner-operator hauling tomatoes. Today the company is the world’s largest tomato processor, with revenues of $700 million a year.
At Morning Star, workers manage themselves and report only to each other. The company provides a system and marketplace that allows workers to coordinate their activities. Every worker has suppliers and customers – and personal relationships – to consider as they go about their work.
Every employee writes a personal mission statement that describes how they will contribute to the company’s goal, and is also responsible for the training, resources and cooperation they need to achieve it. Every employee also creates a yearly Colleague Letter of Understanding (CLOU), describing their promises and expectations for the coming year, negotiated in face-to-face meetings with peers. All the agreements, taken together, describe about 3,000 peer-to-peer relationships that describe the activities of the entire organization. Each Morning Star business unit also negotiates agreements with other units in a similar way.
If a worker needs something, they can issue a purchase order. If someone needs help or identifies a new role that’s needed to do the job better, they can start the hiring process. The bigger the dollar amount, of course, the more important it is to lobby your peers and get their buy-in for the purchase, because the unit will sink or swim together. Over time, workers tend to move from simpler to more complex roles, hiring people to fill the roles they need to support them. There’s no competition for management jobs because there are no management jobs. To get ahead, workers must find better and more valuable ways to serve their peers.
The discipline at Morning Star comes from a strong sense of mutual accountability. Problems are settled through mediation. If mediation can’t settle it, a panel of peers is convened. If that doesn’t work, a dispute will go to the president for a final decision. If the problem is serious or sustained enough, the worker may be fired. But while people can be fired, nobody has a boss hovering over them. What they do have is customers.
Every two weeks, the company publishes detailed reports of finances and other measures, that are transparent and available to everyone.
Business units are ranked by performance, and those at the bottom of the list can expect a tough conversation. In yearly planning meeting, business units present their plans to the entire company and workers invest using a virtual currency which then informs the budgets for the year. Workers elect compensation committees who evaluate performance and set pay levels based on performance.
Morning Star is a marketplace, where every worker is a business within the business. You can read more about Morning Star on their website or in this excellent HBR article by Gary Hamel, First, Let’s Fire All the Managers.The Nordstrom way.
Nordstrom is a publicly traded high-end retailer, known for excellent service, with revenues of about $9 billion a year.
Nordstrom’s employee handbook is so short and simple it can fit on an index card. It states:
“Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no other rules.”
Nordstrom salespeople are free to make their own decisions, although Nordstrom’s strong culture of putting the customer first provides a guiding light for all to steer by.
That customer-service culture is at the core of Nordstrom’s success. The entire system is organized in order to support that salesperson on the Nordstrom floor to help them deliver the best possible customer service. If Nordstrom stocks something, they will make every effort to stock it in every size available – they don’t want to disappoint a customer by not having something in their size.
Salespeople aren’t chained to a department like they are in other stores. If a salesperson wants to walk through the whole store to help her customer pick out clothes, shoes, cologne, and anything else, she can do that. A Nordstrom salesperson might stay in touch with customers by Twitter, email, or whatever else is convenient. The message to customers is: however you want to buy it, however you want to interact with us, we can do it that way.
Customers are encouraged to take things home and try them, and bring them back at any time. If you ask, “How long can I bring it back?” the answer you will hear is “forever.” And they mean it.
One Nordstrom customer said “What I love about Nordstrom is that if I want to browse by myself that’s fine, and if I want help people are there and happy to assist me.”
As you can imagine, customers love it.
“Nordstrom has the faith and trust in its frontline people to push decision-making responsibilities down to the sales floor, the Nordstrom shopping experience is “as close to working with the owner of a small business as a customer can get,” said Harry Mullikin, chairman emeritus of Westin Hotels. Nordstrom salespeople “can make any decision that needs to be made. It’s like dealing with a one-person shop.” From The Nordstrom Way: The Insider Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Companyby Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy.
Nordstrom culture demands that the employee put the customer before company or profit in all decisions. Nordstrom provides a platform, the store, and each employee is treated as an entrepreneur who can set up a business on the platform. With commissions, Nordstrom salespeople can make six figures yearly on a base wage as low as $11 an hour. One worker stated:
“The way I saw it, the Nordstroms were taking all of the risks and providing all of the ingredients-the nice stores, the ambiance, the high-quality merchandise-to make it work. All I had to do was arrive every morning prepared to give an honest day’s work, and to value and honor the customer.”
Nordstrom employees can offer the best service in the industry because every Nordstrom salesperson operates a business within the business, backed by the full support and resources of a Fortune 500 company.Self-organizing teams at Rational Software.
Rational software was founded in 1981 to provide tools for software engineers. Rational was acquired by IBM for $2.1 billion in 2003. Since Rational has been acquired I will describe the company in the past tense, although it may operate similarly today as a group within IBM.
Rational’s goal was very transparent to everyone in the company: “Make customers successful.” Customers were served by small, autonomous pods known as field teams. Each field team operated as a fully functional, stand-alone unit, with technical and business experts working closely together. The same team who sold a product or project was also responsible for delivering it. Resources were distributed to teams based on their performance.
Rational’s team-based approach permeated the culture at all levels. “If you weren’t team oriented, you wouldn’t survive” says Jerry Rudisin, Rational’s VP of Marketing from 1991 to 1999. Rational put team orientation first even when it hurt the bottom line in the short term. “When I was a district manager, I fired the top sales rep more than once” says Kevin Kernan, who worked at Rational in a variety of roles for 17 years. “We had zero tolerance for people who didn’t exhibit team behavior – that was just poisonous to our culture.”
The cross-functional teams at Rational were a great way to build entrepreneurial skills within the company, because every team member understood every aspect of the business. Team members worked closely together and learned from each other constantly. As the company grew, many technologists grew into new careers in sales, fielding their own teams in new territories. Many went on to start companies of their own.
Rational management focused on managing the teams as if they were a portfolio of companies. Teams were evaluated on five things: First and foremost, customer success: Did the team help customers succeed in achieving their goals? Revenue: Did the team make or beat its revenue targets? Team development: Was the team optimizing for the career growth of each team member as well as the team? Territory growth: Was the team growing in reach as well as revenue? Business basics: Did the team play well with other teams? Did they spend money as if it was their own?
“You could have a team that did poorly in their overall ranking even though they made their revenue target, because their customers weren’t successful in achieving their goals” says Kernan. One year a new sales rep in a 7-person team was fired because he didn’t treat his team well and had filed some paperwork that was misleading, even though the deals he made with customers were all solid and his sales accounted for 25% of the company’s revenue.
Top-down intervention in team dynamics was rarely necessary. When a team member wasn’t performing, the greatest pressure for improvement came from the team itself. “When I was a district manager I had 25 direct reports, but I rarely intervened. The teams basically managed themselves” says Kernan.
Teams made their own hiring decisions, and hired outside consultants or traded resources with other teams when necessary. “You had to be careful when you brought on a new member,” says Ray LaDriere, who worked in one of the Rational sales pods. “If you hired someone and they didn’t pull their weight, the deal was that we had to carry them for a full year.” Since one poor performer could hurt the performance of the whole team, people were very careful in their hiring decisions.
“It was an amazing experience for 17 years, and I would be surprised if you found anyone who worked at Rational for any significant period of time that didn’t feel the same way” says Kernan. “Our goal was to change the world by changing the way people design, build, and deploy software. And we did it.Democratic management at Semco.
Semco is a Brazilian conglomerate that specializes in complex technologies and services like manufacturing liquids, powders and pastes for a variety of industries; refrigeration; logistics, and information processing systems; real estate, inventory and asset management; and biofuels. Semco’s revenues are around $200 million a year.
Semco is a self-managed company. There is no HR department. Workers at Semco choose what they do as well as where and when they do it. They even choose their own salaries. Subordinates review their supervisors and elect corporate leadership. They also initiate moves into new businesses and out of old ones. The company is run like a democracy.
Says CEO Ricardo Semler: “I’m often asked: How do you control a system like this? Answer: I don’t. I let the system work for itself.”
Semco is organized around the belief that employees who can participate in a company’s important decisions will be more motivated and make better choices than people receiving orders from bosses. Workers in each business unit are represented by an elected committee that meets with top managers regularly to discuss any and all workplace issues, and on important decisions, such as plant relocations, every employee gets a vote.
Workers at Semco choose their own hours. CEO Semler recalls that when he first proposed the idea, managers were convinced this wouldn’t work, especially when it came to factory work. But Semler was confident. “Don’t you think they know how to manage their own work?” he asked. Turns out they did, and they do.
Semler says simply, “if you want people to act like adults you need to treat them like adults.”
Things do take longer than they do in a traditional, hierarchically-managed company. Semler elaborates in his book Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace:
“Dissent and democracy go hand in hand. It’s also good management technique. What traditional executives don’t consider is that decisions arising from debate are implemented much more quickly because explanations, alternatives, objections, and uncertainties have already been aired.”
One of the principles underlying Semco’s success is the idea that every business should be small enough that each worker can comprehend it as a whole system. If a business grows to more than 150 people, Semco will split it into two.
Another principle is transparency and trust.
“The only source of power in an organization is information, and withholding, filtering, or retaining information only serves those who want to accumulate power through hoarding,” says Semler.
Once a month Semco holds open meetings for the employees of each unit, where all the numbers in the business are presented for open examination and debate. The company also offers courses to help employees better understand financial reports such as balance sheets, Profit-and-loss reports, and cash flow statements.
What about profits?
“Profit is highly important to us at Semco, and we’re as avid about it as a general is about his supplies. If provisions run out, his soldiers will die. If a company ceases to make money, it too will die. But armies are not created to feed soldiers, just as companies don’t generate income just so they can hire more employees. Food fuels the soldiers and keeps them going. Yet to serve as more than mere gun fodder, they must have a higher purpose, a reason for going through boot camp and charging the enemy in battle… This is where profit and purpose meet and, unfortunately for most organizations, it’s a head-on Humvee wreck.” ~ Ricardo Semler, The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works.
Nearly a quarter of Semco’s profits go to employees, but the company doesn’t decide how to distribute it. Each quarter, the profit contribution of each unit is calculated, and 23% of profits go to that unit’s employees, who can distribute it however they wish. So far, they have always decided to distribute that money evenly to everyone.
Employees who are particularly confident can choose to put up to 25% of their pay “at risk.” If the company does well, they get a bonus raising their compensation to 150% of normal; if the company does poorly, they are stuck with 75% of their pay.
Does it work? Semco’s growth from $4 million in 1980 to more than $200 million today seems to point in that direction.Can your company go podular?
Although each company has done it differently, Morning Star, Nordstrom, Rational and Semco have all found success by organizing along podular lines. This kind of design won’t make sense for every situation, or for every division. But no company can afford to ignore its innovation efforts. To ensure its long-term viability, every company needs to find a balance between their efficiency and innovation efforts.
The podular organization may be unusual, but it’s not a theory. It’s a fact. It can work in retail, it can work in manufacturing, it can work in technology, and it can work for a conglomerate. It can work for private as well as publicly-traded companies. It can work for a Fortune 500 company. Can it work for you? You can only find out if you’re willing to give it a chance.
You might start by reorganizing a single unit, like an innovation unit, a single store or location, or an R&D group. Look inside any R&D department or fast-growing web services company and you are likely to see a form of organization that’s more podular than hierarchical.
Podular organizations need to do a few things in radically different ways: First, they require information to be transparent and readable by everyone; second, they require principles, platforms and culture to guide individual decisions and give cohesion to the company as a whole; third, they require people who are not territorial, who are capable of open discussion and who will hold themselves and others accountable; and fourth; they require owners and managers who are capable of trusting people and teams to make good decisions and manage their “business within the business.”
When you give people a business within your business, you are aligning their incentives with owners and management. Everyone is a business owner, and everyone is a manager. Rewards are real and tangible, short-term and long-term benefits are in balance, and workers are rewarded when they are good stewards of the business.
If you want to unleash innovation, get closer to customers, and manage complexity, pods are worth a look.
Excerpted from The Connected Company.
Dave Gray is the Founder of XPLANE and author of Selling to the VP of NO, The Connected Company and Gamestorming.
THE NEW WORKER ELITE Technicians are taking on a bigger role and commanding new respect as the core employees of the Information Age.
By Louis S. Richman
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Chances are pretty good that Beth Malloy will play a major role in making a scientific discovery that may one day save your life. A laboratory technician on the cardiovascular research team at Genentech, the biotechnology company in South San Francisco, Malloy, 35, isolates and analyzes rare proteins found in plasma, the substances that when cloned form the building blocks of biotech drugs. A decade ago the mastery of such esoteric procedures was the province of Nobel laureates. Now, Malloy, a chemist with a master's degree from San Francisco State University, and many of Genentech's 369 other science technologists perform these miracles routinely. She and her colleagues are but a small part of the large and rapidly growing population of technicians -- a new worker elite who are transforming the American labor force and potentially every organization that employs them. As the farm hand was to the agrarian economy of a century ago and the machine operator was to the electromechanical industrial era of recent decades, the technician is becoming the core employee of the digital Information Age. The trend reflects what Stephen R. Barley, an ethnographer at Stanford University's school of engineering, describes as the "technization" of American labor. The sheer growth in the number of technicians and the diversity of occupations they hold bespeak a profound change in their importance to companies that hope to survive and thrive in an era of epochal change. Since 1950 the number of technical workers has increased nearly 300% -- triple the growth rate for the work force as a whole -- to some 20 million. With one out of every four new jobs going to a technical worker, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that this army of techno-competents -- already the largest broad occupational category in the U.S. -- will represent a fifth of total employment within a decade (see chart). The convergence of two large forces are giving technicians new importance. First, increasingly powerful, versatile, and user-friendly new technologies -- from the software that electronics technicians use to test printed circuitboards to the automated protein analyzers Beth Malloy programs to run experiments -- are eliminating the need for workers to perform many time- consuming routine tasks, the donkey work of the advanced industrial age. Thus they are freed to tackle more challenging activities that require judgment and skills. Second, as more companies rely on technology to help eliminate quality defects, speed up product development, and improve customer service, technicians become the front-line workers they depend on. So thoroughly has technology suffused the workplace that technical workers are beginning to emerge from the virtually invisible middling stratum they've traditionally occupied. No longer are they mere subordinates to managers and just a notch above the less-skilled blue- and pink-collar masses. As corporate hierarchies collapse and the boundaries between organizations dissolve, employers are beginning to gain a new appreciation for the work technicians do -- and their insights into how it should be done. In the new economy, says Michael Arthur, a management professor at Suffolk University in Boston, it is competence rather than a place in a hierarchical pecking order that defines an employee's value: "Technical occupations are becoming the new anchor for people's careers." Who better for the smart employer to enlist in the effort to gain a competitive edge than those who actually man the equipment that will carry us into the future? Technical workers help design, manufacture, and service the wondrous medical devices that allow hospital technologists to peer into the body's tissue. Engineering technicians test the integrity of materials used in the construction of bridges, buildings, and dams. They are the developers and caretakers of the computer and telecommunications networks that keep your business running, and they produce the dazzling computer-graphic presentations that help your sales force land new customers. Technicians bring varying levels of formal education and credentials to their work. Many enter technical fields with no more than a high school diploma and a splash of training acquired on the job. Since the smaller armed forces of today no longer turn out technicians in the numbers they did during the Cold War years, more aspiring technical workers are coming to these careers from a trade school or a community college. And an ever-increasing number of them have a four-year university education or advanced degrees. According to projections made by BLS economist Kristina J. Shelley, the number of college graduates who take jobs in technical fields will grow by 75%, to 2.2 million, over the coming decade. To profit fully from the expanded opportunities open to them in the new economy requires that technical workers -- and the companies that employ them -- adopt a new mindset. Because many technicians enter the labor force as hourly employees, they too often view the work they do as a job instead of as the foundation of a career. The distinction is growing more critical. Jobholders, Suffolk University's Arthur explains, perform a limited range of tasks within the context of a specific organization. Careerists, by contrast, define themselves by the cluster of skills they bring to their work -- competencies that are transferable from employer to employer and which they can expand over the course of their working lives. They're ever on the prowl for the next exciting project to work on. And companies that would harness their talents must learn new lessons of how to manage, motivate, and reward them accordingly.
-- Give your technical workers room to grow -- or someone else will. Richard Mixon, 41, is one of the new breed who is actively managing his career. A senior electronics engineering technician in the seismic testing division of the Western Atlas oil exploration company in Houston, Mixon early on made it his mission to seek out jobs that would allow him to grow. "I wanted to have a broad enough spectrum of skills to be able to fit into any technical environment," he says. The son of a construction worker, Richard studied electronics for two years at the University of Houston with the aim of working in the computer industry. Lacking the funds to continue his studies, however, he took a job with IBM ! repairing office equipment. The five years he spent as a service representative taught him valuable lessons in how to deal with customers, but it wasn't getting him any closer to his goal of working with engineers who design computer circuitboards. He left IBM, in 1978, to join Texas Instruments, which hired him to repair integrated-circuit test systems. Inside a year, Mixon realized that without a four-year engineering degree his chances for advancement with TI were limited. But he could see that printed-circuit technology was beginning to spread to many other industries besides computers -- and with it, his opportunities to take on more challenging projects. So when he learned about an opening for an electronics lab technician at Halliburton, an oil-field services company that was booming in the energy-short years of the early 1980s, he jumped. The move exposed Mixon to the kind of work he had been longing to do. Over the next nine years at Halliburton and, later at Schlumberger, which offered him both more money and more interesting assignments, Mixon assisted electronics design engineers in developing circuitboards that would go into the latest geologic data-acquisition equipment. Despite the challenge, after a while Mixon could see no further career advancement awaiting him at Schlumberger, so he began to look for opportunities outside the company. A recruiter sounded him out about moving to a bigger job with Western Atlas, and he grabbed the offer. In his current position, Mixon is helping to develop an electronic sensing system that will be used to locate oil. In addition to working on the design of new circuitry, he is the point man delegated to work with manufacturing to bring the new gear quickly into production. And he's always on the lookout for new tasks to take on. Says Mixon: "It's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission." Mixon's ultimate goal is to build on the broad technical base by starting his own business.
-- Technical workers are moving from the back office to the customer interface. With the new corporate focus on customer satisfaction, companies like TIE Communications, a telecommunications equipment supplier with annual revenues of $110 million, are relying more heavily on their technicians. TIE hopes to win market share from its scores of smaller rivals and crack new markets that the big regional phone companies are leaving behind. But executives at TIE's headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, realized that growth would not come simply by pushing more hardware. They also needed to distinguish their company with superior customer service. Falling prices for telecom gear were bringing products like videoteleconferencing equipment and advanced multiplexers for data transmission within reach of the small and midsize businesses that TIE targets. Problem was, the new, integrated black-box telephony is intimidatingly complex, some of it far beyond the servicing capabilities of many of TIE's 400 technicians. Says executive vice president Eric Carter: "Unless we did a better job of training them, our technicians would drive clients away." TIE set out to mold all of its technical service reps into, as Carter puts it, "ambassadors to the customers." The company contracted with the Corporate Educational Services division of DeVry Institute of Technology, a leading for- profit technical training academy that operates 13 schools throughout North America, to help design a curriculum. In addition to providing its technicians with a firm grounding in how the complex new circuitry and software work, TIE wanted the new courses to improve their communications skills so that they could help sell customers on new products and services. The training, which began last fall, brings groups of some 20 service reps from TIE's 58 district offices to Overland Park during the first two weeks of each month. TIE plans to cycle all of its technical workers through each of three progressively more advanced levels of training over the coming six years. An added benefit of this instruction: By mingling with colleagues from different offices, the customer service techs swap war stories on problems they've encountered in the field and take hands-on solutions back to work. Technicians who have been through the training's first phase are enthusiastic: Steve Barbier, 32, an eight-year TIE veteran in the St. Louis office, says the program "turned on major light bulbs." Barbier is a high school graduate who had worked his way up from the lowly $4.25-per-hour job of pulling cables to a skilled $16-an-hour position supervising new installations and more sophisticated equipment repair. But his limited understanding of the systems' inner workings made him reluctant to recommend to customers that they upgrade their networks with gear he was unsure he could service. That lack of confidence is no longer an issue. Says Barbier: "Where I would once take five steps back to avoid a problem, I now take two steps forward with a new solution that helps the customer, TIE, and me."
-- Today's technicians are tomorrow's executives. Some organizations are starting to make the mastery of a technical speciality the prerequisite for career growth. At Union Pacific, for example, all new employees who aspire to a management position must first become a "data integrity analyst." Why the hurdle? Union Pacific carries 13,000 shipments a day on 700 trains running on 19,000 miles of track. Coordinating that massive traffic flow poses a huge data management challenge, one that required a new approach to the rail business. Says national customer services vice president Jim Damman: "We saw that the company's future growth would depend more on the ability of our managers to be masters of technical data rather than overseers of the hourly workers." Since 1986, Union Pacific has been replacing the paper mountain of shipping orders, bills of lading, and invoices it once swapped with its customers and their shipping agents with a computerized electronic data interchange (EDI) system it has developed. Now, some two-thirds of all the railroad's client communications -- up from just 3% eight years ago -- are managed via EDI from a single customer-service center in St. Louis rather than through the 40 offices that formerly handled the unwieldy paper flow. Empowered by EDI, the data integrity analysts keep tabs on all of the customers' contacts with the railroad. They create detailed electronic profiles for each shipper that permit the customer service representatives to facilitate order taking or resolve questions. They also provide the information that dispatchers in Omaha use to track shipments and that clerks in accounting rely on for accurate billing information. Just as valuable as the huge improvement in efficiency that EDI has wrought (employee productivity at the St. Louis center is up 300% since 1986) are the fabulously rich strategic uses Union Pacific can make of the amassed data. The railroad's goal is to mine that treasure-trove to be able to offer customers higher value-added services tailored to their needs. Thus, veterans of the data integrity job, like Robyn Bohnert, are promoted to the more advanced technical roles of finding ways to organize the data for new business uses. Hired as a customer service representative in 1990, Bohnert, now 26, spent two years as a data integrity analyst. Last February she advanced to a position as project manager for new systems development, which pays her some $35,000 a year. Her job draws heavily not only on her technological skills but also on her knowledge of marketing. She uses the EDI customer profiles to build new databases that might, say, help a team that works with grain commodity shippers uncover evolving patterns in their usage of the railroad's services and sell them on new ones. She has also put her technical talent to use in helping Union Pacific improve its own performance, extracting from the databases she's created the sources of customer problems and how much it cost the railroad to address them. Says Bohnert: "We're just beginning to scratch the surface of the improvements that a technical analysis of the data will reveal."
-- Technical workers turn black-box technology into productivity gains. Long the jealously guarded privilege of management, access to information virtually defined power and status in the traditional corporate bureaucracy. But with the advent of networked computing, it is fast becoming the common wealth of every employee. Stephen Kellogg, the computer system administrator for an Atlanta engineering and architecture firm called Armour Cape & Pond (AC&P), plays midwife to that revolutionary change. Hired into the newly created position last October, Kellogg, 26, is responsible for the hardware and software that together make up AC&P's electronic umbilical cord to the 60 architects, drafters, and sales and administrative support staff in Atlanta and Washington. The job demands full use of the programming, systems-analysis, and electronics-maintenance skills he acquired in the Coast Guard and later developed at a technical institute. Keeping the system running and handholding the firm's neophyte computer users would be job enough to earn Kellogg his $30,000 annual compensation. But he must also keep data moving smoothly among the AC&P's computer workstations, allowing drafters to translate architect's concepts into full-scale renderings and keeping track of their frequent design changes. The network must also accommodate the sales force and allow the folks in accounting to track invoices, payments, and payrolls. Says Kellogg: "The payoff from the new technology comes when the whole organization applies its power to work in dramatically new ways." Kellogg is the one who makes sure that AC&P capitalizes fully on technological advances. To that end, he has formed a power-users' group, a | committee made up of staffers who are masters of the intricacies of the system. He calls on them to lead monthly training sessions open to all employees to quicken the spread of the best practices throughout the firm. Kellogg is also busily scouting out the newest hardware and applications software that will keep his firm on the cutting edge of technology. So important do AC&P partners see that task that they now include Kellogg in all their weekly meetings. "I see no limit to the potential growth of my role," he says.
-- The payoff from technical training is big. Automation of manufacturing has been a job killer for tens of thousands of semi-skilled industrial workers. But for factory technicians who know how to operate the new, computer- controlled production equipment, career opportunities have seldom been better. That's because, as Tom Blunt, a manufacturing consultant from Louisville, puts it: "Employers who automate but take people out of the process are lobotomizing their factories. A human is the cheapest, lightest, totally flexible and reprogrammable machine money can buy." Rockwell International's Allen-Bradley unit, a maker of industrial automation equipment since 1903, is getting more than its money's worth from the 140 technicians who operate its new Electronic Manufacturing Strategy (EMS) production lines. Through the late 1980s, most of the machine tools the company built lacked the smart internal controls that customers wanted. Unless it could leapfrog the competition by building in-house the specialized circuitboards its products lacked, the company would continue to lose market share to nimbler foreign companies. The challenge Allen-Bradley set for itself in developing EMS was formidable. The company offers 50 different product lines, and each would require several different boards of varying size and configuration. No company had ever produced so large a mix of such elaborate componentry in the low volumes needed to customize each finished product to customer specifications. EMS, which went on-line in 1990, met the exacting criteria. But what new kind of worker would it take to go mano a machino with the fearsomely efficient equipment? Answer: one with technical skills unlike any Allen-Bradley had required of its factory hands in the past. Most of the company's hourly production workers assembled simple electrical switches and relays, a repetitive job that required an iron butt to sit at a workbench for eight hours a day but little thinking. Working in EMS would be another story entirely. It demands that the specialist understand how the process operates in its entirety and be able to intervene whenever trouble arises. "Technicians are the doctors of the system," says Larry Yost, the senior vice president for the operations group that developed EMS. "They have to be able to respond to the countless ways the equipment can misalign components or encounter programming glitches." Rather than recruit these specialists from outside, Allen-Bradley decided to retrain volunteers from within its production ranks in the new technical skills. For Larry Hanson, 51, who joined the company out of high school in 1961 as an assembler, the new opportunity was a godsend. For years Hanson hungered to escape the tedium of his factory job, but with a growing family to support he couldn't afford to give up the job he had and move to another company. Hanson had applied for other technical manufacturing openings within Allen- Bradley but was passed up because he lacked the requisite skills. To remedy this deficiency and improve his chances of being accepted into EMS, he enrolled in computer programming courses at a local college. "There was nothing I liked about my job apart from my paycheck. I wasn't going to let anything stand in my way of joining this project," he says. Together with the other volunteers chosen for EMS, Hanson learned on the job how to sequence the flow of circuitboards through the system, spot potential defects in the spacing of components packed as close as 0.02-inch apart, and eliminate the bottlenecks that could slow production. They also spent two days a week after- hours for two years studying college-level algebra and trigonometry, computer programming, and principles of solid-state electronics manufacturing -- a curriculum developed and taught by the nearby Milwaukee School of Engineering and paid for by Allen-Bradley. The training is now continuing in a second two-year program with courses in cost accounting, business strategy, and team-building skills. Says technician Hanson of his new role: "My job is fascinating. There's not a day that doesn't fly by."
-- Technical workers demand recognition. As with most people who take pride in their work, technical specialists value recognition nearly as much as good pay. And today they have more options to get both. Office equipment repair technicians, nurses who provide home health care services, and computer-aided graphic artists and drafters, among many others, are discovering new outlets of career satisfaction by taking jobs in smaller companies whose principal business is to provide technical services. Rather than toil unappreciated for employers who fail to acknowledge the contribution they make, they are enjoying both the opportunity to stretch their abilities and the rewards that come with it in specialized firms. Dixie Williams, a paralegal by training, has accelerated her career from a stall to the fast track by making such a move to a litigation support services firm in Houston called Looney & Co. A 29-year-old Dallas native with the energy of a Texas twister, Williams is a college graduate who earned her paralegal certification by attending school five hours a night, five nights a week, for seven months while holding a full-time day job. Like most paralegals, she hired on with a law firm, in her case an $18,500 a year position -- the going rate in 1987 -- with a prominent Dallas practice. Not long into the job, however, Williams discovered the frustrations that come with being a junior professional in an outfit run by temperamental, big- ego attorneys. She expected to do research, interviewing witnesses, drafting pleadings, or assisting at trial as she was trained to do. Instead, her supervisor, whom Williams calls the "dungeon master," assigned her to a senior partner who gave her stultifying tasks like summarizing depositions and indexing documents. More grating for her was watching the choicer assignments -- ones she felt qualified for -- go to the firm's far-better-paid junior associates, the freshly minted law school graduates whom she derisively refers to as "baby attorneys." Williams's workload and morale improved dramatically after she successfully lobbied to be transferred to a job assisting another partner, who trusted her to take on a bigger role. She was given day-to-day oversight for some of the larger cases the partner supervised but which required only occasional direct involvement by an attorney. She also took it upon herself to learn how to research cases using the new computers the firm began to acquire in the late 1980s. Her new expertise helped win a major lawsuit in 1991, and made her one of the firm's most sought-after paralegals. But by then she recognized her career ceiling at the firm would be too low to contain her tall ambitions. Though she had doubled her initial salary, she saw that pay for the most senior $ paralegals topped out at some $60,000 a year by the time they retired -- about what the "baby attorneys" made to start. Williams's big break came when, in the course of assisting at a deposition, she met Richard Looney, then a court reporter. Looney, too, had seen the potential for applying to legal practice the power of computers and the optical scanner technology that converts text on paper documents into digital form the computers can "read." Few law firms would be able to make sufficient use of the computer technology to warrant the expense of purchasing it. By acquiring the latest equipment and hiring paralegals to use it to do the research that supports the litigation of major cases, he figured that he would be able to sell his company's services directly to insurance companies and other major corporations eager to cut their legal bills. Impressed with Dixie's computer know-how and paralegal skills, Looney hired her. Once aboard with Looney & Co. in 1992, nothing was going to hold Dixie back. She started in the Houston office, training other paralegals in the use of the equipment and in the legal procedures to which it would be applied. Within a year, Looney made her the office manager and put her in charge of hiring all the paralegals -- who now total 30 -- to staff three other offices he had opened throughout Texas. Williams's career switch has not just freed her from the frustrations of dealing with curmudgeonly "dungeon masters." With Looney & Co. revenues growing by some 20% a year to $7.7 million in 1993, she expects that her earnings will soon leave those of the "baby attorneys" in the dust. The new power of the technical work force is not only liberating employees from the monotony of the industrial age, but it is also providing companies with the know-how to alter their destiny -- to make competitive leaps, to break into new markets, and to offer their employees wider horizons and far more opportunity than any generation of workers has encountered before.
CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: FORTUNE TABLE/SOURCE: BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS CAPTION: HOW THEY'RE GROWING Job growth for technicians will far outpace that for other workers over the coming decade, with paralegals and medical technicians setting the pace.
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