Measure and Improve Your Technology Application Work System
I grew up the analog age. In turn, I had to learn to think digitally (it’s actually a work in progress) in order to better utilize emerging technology. When I was in college, cable had just been introduced. VCRs were the thing to have. CD players had yet to make it onto the dorm room shelves. I did not use a personal computer to perform my daily work until I had been in the workplace as an Industrial Engineer for four years. Fortunately, I have learned a lot about how to measure and improve a technology application work system.
In the classic “Back to the Future” movie, Doc chides Marty for not being able to think fourth dimensionally. In today’s business world, many of our younger employees wish they could give their managers ‘the business’ as well for not being able think digitally. The gap grows daily between the ‘before computers’ crowd and the ‘after computers’ crowd. How effectively do you utilize existing and emerging technology in your organization?
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How Wide is the Technology Gap in Your Organization?
There are two potential dangers associated with this widening gap. First and foremost, if we don’t begin to close this gap, the younger crowd will begin to take advantage of, if not control, the older crowd. This will happen even though the wealth of the older crowd is paying for all of the neat toys (the technological infrastructure if you want to sound professional).
The second danger presents an even greater downside however. By failing to acquire a digital acumen, we are also failing to learn how to save a lot of time and money. More and more people are feeling stressed out because of their workloads. Americans, at least, are working more and more hours per week on average, Because of poor technology use, we are missing out on the potential to reduce our workloads significantly. We want to say it is the capital cost of new technology that is keeping us ‘as we are’, but that is just an excuse. We just can’t comprehend the potential value of technology itself.
Think about it. We have managers who do pretty well with their cell phones, texts, and e-mails. These same people still struggle with programming the VCR or creating a Powerpoint presentation. The cost of slow typing alone would pay for the typing classes. The cost of continuing to use paper would pay for the well-developed intranets that all too few companies have.
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Where are Your Data Mines?
I can remember what it was like to do work without the aid of a computer. Armed with a calculator and white out tape, I would crank out version after version of cost estimates for the process engineers at the pen plant. In hindsight, having a PC to work with probably would have meant that I had one less IE peer to hang out with. It also would have made things a lot easier, faster, and less frustrating.
Today, we have the means to both collect and crunch data very easily. That said, we also have too many people who don’t know how to even use the pivot table feature in Excel. Bill Gates himself said that the pivot table was the most important and powerful feature of the Excel package. This indicator, along with others, leads me to believe two things. First, we fail to effectively analyze the important data that we are collecting. Second, we don’t effectively use the volumes of data we capture.
The database has played a key role in my own process improvement efforts over the years. In addition to capturing waste events as they occur (such as material loss, downtime, or accidents), databases allow us to capture the details, and in particular the causes, of such events. Before computers, we might have filled out a form each time one of these events occurred. No one wanted to be the person who had to sort through all of those forms looking for possible problem causes. Opinion ruled in the problem solving arena to a much greater degree that it should have. Back then, what cost effective options did we have?
LEARN MORE: Measure and Improve Your Measurement Work System
Where’s the Gold in Your Data Mines?
There’s a lot of gold in them there data mines. Our failure to understand queries and the software features for creating them however is keeping us from finding that gold. Additionally, bar coding, RFID, and wearable technology has gotten so cheap that it is almost archaic to be hand entering anything! Maybe the problem is not a lack of understanding as much as it is remaining locked in our ‘before computers’ mindsets. Are you getting the most out of your data mines? How much gold are you leaving in the ground each day?
In the digital world, things are actually pretty simple. We enter things into the fields of a database. The data is crunched, and reports capture the results. When we fill out a web form (entry screen), we are filling in the fields of a new database record. The same thing occurs when we fill in the blanks on any computer-based form.
One Simple Technology ApplicationWork System Example
Unless you want to be fancy, the skills one needs to post pages to a website are not any different than those we use to create a Word document with pictures in it. You basically open a file, make your changes, and insert your pictures into text box-like tables. Then, you save the file to the intranet. As a result, you have either an updated or new web page.
In the past, it was more of a challenge to both create and post web pages. Also, it was pretty costly to set up an intranet. Not any more. Given the ease of installation and use that now exists, I believe that all managers and supervisors should know how to create, update, and post web pages. I’ve done it myself, so I know it’s not that hard.
Now, assume that all of your managers and supervisors have this basic skill. No one would have to make and distribute copies of the monthly report any more. We could sit at our desks or in the airport with a wireless connection and almost instantly look over performance reports, complete with graphs. The time lag to get the information would also be reduced. You could also get comments on the work almost instantly.
I am amazed that more organizations, even the small ones, have not gotten rid of more paper in favor of using their internal web sites. By simply requiring each leader to learn and use this skill, we could save a whole lot of time and money. With the advent of wearable devices, if the information is on a server, it could also be on your people.
By the way, don’t forget that data can be easily accessible to your support personnel as well (such as human resources, information technology, and maintenance). How much waste and clarity do you think you might find if everyone could share more information more easily?
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Would You Like to Improve Your Technology ApplicationWork System?
For over forty years, I have helped design and improve technology application work systems in multiple companies and a variety of business arenas. This experience continues to help me discover value added, simple ways to set up digital systems to measure daily performance. Plus, we can create balanced scorecards that link process performance to company goals. Ultimately, I can help your organization better apply technologies as they emerge and become cost effective.
Failing to think digitally is the primary power restrictor for this power system. If you like to make better use of existing and emerging technology on the job, let’s make a digital connection.
Do you have interest in the technology application work system improvement ideas that I offer? If so, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Better yet, work further with me to help you improve your technology work system through my virtual, interactive technology work system improvement workshop.
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Keep improving! Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems
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