Author: Yogi Schulz

Applying technology appropriately is a prerequisite to achieving business productivity. This issue occupies the mind of management constantly. We learned long ago that simply whipping the slaves harder does not improve productivity.

All of mankind’s technology inventions have been applied to raising business productivity. We’re all familiar with how the plow, the steam engine, the loom and even the lowly paper clip improved business productivity. Since World War II, information technologyinventions have made a significant contribution to raising business productivity.

Now we all use PC’s, office software suites, the Internet and major applications like ERP and CRM. Have we largely exhausted the potential of information technology as a tool for raising business productivity further? I think not. So where are the opportunities?

Squeezing Value from Yesterday’s Investments

We have made huge investments in computing infrastructure and applications in recent decades. Many organizations can still squeeze a lot of business productivity from their current investment without investing another penny in more applications. (Sorry, software salesmen.)

For example, has your organization implemented all the ERP modules it has licensed? Are there integration issues that prevent you from achieving the promised benefits from the CRM software you installed recently? Does your web site look dated and droopy because your content management process is broken? How many of your staff know what Styles are in Word or how to use Named Ranges in Excel?

Addressing these and similar issues may not be glamorous but it’s comparatively cheap and will raise business productivity.

Acting on Today’s Opportunities

Applications are just beginning to incorporate graphic data. Until quite recently, most applications were limited to structured text and numbers, the traditional data types that computers were invented to manipulate.

Recent developments are overcoming old limitations cost-effectively. Improved support for graphic and video data in Windows XP is simplifying access. Support for large volumes of data in database management systems is solving graphics storage problems. Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop is enabling widespread distribution of graphic data.

For example, inventory applications are starting to feature product pictures and diagrams. HR applications are beginning to include employee pictures and diagrams of directions to workplaces. The products of drafting and modeling software are being distributed in pdf or jpg form far beyond the workstations that created the plans and models.

I’ve noticed an increasing interest in software to support collaboration of individuals and work groups. The need for such software arises because the development of successful products and services of our advanced economy require the effective interaction of experts from design, engineering, production, distribution and marketing. It’s no longer a one-man or one-woman show. (Sorry, Martha Stewart).

For example, the talent to produce eye-catching clothing, head-turning automobiles and structurally sound airplanes is almost never located in one place. Software that enables collaboration through ease of communication and sharing of documents helps distributed teams be successful.

Implementing graphics support and collaboration software are two opportunities that can produce business productivity today without significant cost or risk.

Thinking about Tomorrow’s Ideas

Today immersive 3D visualization is a pricey, compute intensive application that is achieving rave reviews in niches like high-end product design, oil & gas exploration and astrophysics.

Tomorrow, as the required software becomes both cheaper and more capable, I anticipate 3D visualization will expand to business data. The benefits of being able to see relationships or problems that just don’t pop out of a screen full of numbers will produce business productivity. For example, we’re seeing early adoption of this technology for stock trading to spot opportunity in the flood of price and volume data. (Sorry; it wasn’t available to spot the impending Internet and telecom stock meltdowns).

Today many stumbling blocks make widespread deployment of wireless applications problematic. Tomorrow these problems will be fixed. The inadequate security, lack of geographic coverage, insufficiency of bandwidth will become faint memories. For example, some trucking companies are early adopters of wireless to communicate truck location and status information.

The business productivity benefits of information technology have not been exhausted. Tomorrow’s ideas are constrained only by the limits of our creativity.