Tag Archives: efficiency

GET YOUR OWN ‘BOTS

OR RISK BEING PUT OUT OF BUSINESS BY THEM

by Howard Tullman

Don’t fear the bots. They’ll free your company from unprofitable and tedious work. Yes, some jobs are going to be displaced. But the ones that are left and the new ones the bots will create will be more productive and way more interesting.

I realize that it’s a little frightening for many of us when we hear some of the intimidating statistics about headcount reductions in more and more industries that are being driven by the growing deployment of what we’re generically calling “bots.” But I don’t think bots are so bad for business. I realize that, while the major shifts are just beginning, we’re already talking about the displacement of thousands of analysts and adjusters in the insurance and finance industries as well as hundreds of highly-paid attorneys in sectors of the banking business. The sooner you figure out how to incorporate and deploy these little time- and money-savers, the better off you and your business will be. And that goes for businesses of all sizes.

Excepting some of the folks who will be replaced by these efficient and energetic little wonders, it will be a break for the better. Honest. No one in their right mind will miss any of the boring, repetitive and utterly useless tasks that are a painful part of too many of our jobs. If your tasks can be reduced to a set of instructions and rules that need to be repeatedly and flawlessly executed, we’ll soon enough find a program or a machine to do that work better, quicker and more accurately than you– and to do it 24/7 as well. No one argues with that part of the equation. We’d all love to be freed up from our chores and be doing exciting, creative and constructive work.

The rub comes in the rest of the story – the ratio and the scale of the jobs being eliminated as compared with the new jobs available to replace them. To quote Bruce Springsteen, in My Hometown, “Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.” Take a look at the hospitality business as a simple example. Airbnb is closing in on Marriott’s $42.7 billion market cap (it’s already worth about $10 billion more than Hilton), but the employee headcounts of these companies are in different universes. Marriott employs more than 225,000 people, Airbnb about 3,500– yes 3,500 employees. And I’m not just picking on Marriott. Hilton has about 170,000 team members. You can argue that some of those people are doing different and allegedly irreplaceable functions. But in the end, the real question is whether the customer/guest’s needs are being more than met. None of Marriott’s guests really cares about whatever it is that fills the day for those extra 400,000 workers. I’m not even sure that most of their managers know what makes up their day.

When you couple the substantial reductions in the workforce with the readily-demonstrated and clearly impressive gains in productivity and lower operating costs that we’re also seeing, it’s clear that there are major bumps in the road ahead and significant disruptions in the ways business has traditionally been done. This is especially true because the vast majority of these changes are neither complicated in regard to the technologies nor costly in terms of the required capital. Low-hanging fruit abounds. JP Morgan Chase reports eliminating more than 350,000 hours of legal document review time per year by employing bots and smart contracts.

When I use the term “bots,” I’m not talking about anything as challenging as truly intelligent agents or even anything autonomous. I’m talking about simple lines of code– and not that many– that can successfully execute instructions and directives or commands that are well-established and documented by humans. I hate to call any of this stuff artificial intelligence. At best it’s augmented and extended intelligence. The intelligence being extended is ours; the folks being augmented are us. We’re talking about systems and tools that will help us perform routine tasks with minimal supervision or ongoing direction, and essentially automatically, upon request. Every business still has some of these pockets of obvious inefficiency and it’s mainly ignorance of better options and inertia that keeps them from realizing immediate improvements and significant cost savings. Your business does too, and the sooner you do your own audit and analysis, the better off and more competitive you’ll be. (See Use a Mirror to Mind Your Own Business First)

There are opportunities everywhere, but the sweetest spots for almost any business seem to fall into four recurring buckets. Forget about chatbots and retweeters. Focus internally first where you can get the biggest bang for your buck and where you can ride on existing rails. The people providing support and resources in this emerging space are few and far between right now, but they tend to target these critical areas: HR, Finance, Operations and Sales. I know, you’re already saying, “well duh, that’s just about the whole business”, so trim it down to HR and Finance and start there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

One of the best providers is an 1871 alumni organization called Catalytic/www.catalytic.com/> whose tagline says it all: “Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t.” They are smart enough to understand that they are in a “rinse and repeat” business so that each time they build a new process bot they create the ability to provide a version of that same solution to thousands of other businesses more efficiently, more rapidly, and less expensively. They talk about concrete client results delivered in days, not months or years.

And, to be successful, you need a plan that’s ongoing and iterative and that’s always targeting and attacking the dumbest things you are doing. In many cases, it’s an approach that follows the same basic steps: digitize and dump the paper; speed up the flow and the inter- and intra-departmental handoffs; automate as many steps in the process as possible; measure the results; and do it again. It needs to become a habit and a mantra of your business—always moving to raise the bottom and improve the average.

It’s interesting to watch the adoption cycle as well. It’s both competitive and contagious. The more you do; the more your people will want to do and, interestingly enough, you’ll have them bringing suggestions and ideas to you for next steps–forward integrations into other programs like Word and Excel, for example—instead of sitting on their hands and bitching about the bots.

The dashboards and the flow charts that you now have access to provide levels of actionable information and data that were never available before. Frankly, these are the exact tools that you need to move your business forward. Managing by exception rather than brute force is the only way to spread your scarce and costly resources around.

 

 

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/  and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.

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This article previously appeared in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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CLEANTECH TRUTHS DEBUNKED

Pigs TGenerally Accepted Truths of Cleantech Investing – Debunked

Laurance K. Hayward – The Venture Lab

It is generally accepted in Cleantech investing that:

(1) the companies are capital intensive,

(2) there is a sustainability premium associated with buying the companies’ products and

(3) the adoption of the companies’ technologies requires a change of behavior.

All three can slow adoption and negatively impact scalability and internal rate of return. Certainly this can be true for many Cleantech companies, but it isn’t true for many others.

There has been an evolution and broadening in the definition of Cleantech, call it 2.0. Cleantech 1.0 involved funding solar, wind, battery and biofuel technologies. Many drew parallels to biotech investing in which large sums of capital and extended timeframes preceded product viability. Then add in the need to build factories and infrastructure. The faint of heart don’t change the world.

Often these 1.0 technologies required the end user to pay more for their use, many required subsidies, or incentives to be competitive. For example, there is a generally accepted “sustainability premium” associated with receiving power by solar relative to coal or natural gas. The technologies also required a change in behavior, such as installing new infrastructure on the roof of your building. Ironically, many of today’s demand response applications require the consumer to monitor or use energy in response to new information (i.e. creating more work).

So, these three so-called truths have validity, but now let’s debunk them with some real life examples in the world of Cleantech 2.0.

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Self-Healing Polymers

Every year billions of dollars in corroded metal hit the scrap heap. Some gets recycled. Besides filling our landfills with pollutants, these metals and their coatings require enormous inputs of energy to create and recycle. (Been to a steel mill lately?)

Various coatings are added to metals to help them last longer; there have been remarkable improvements. The old rust-bucket automobile is a rare sight today. But, coatings get damaged after which corrosion ensues. What if the coating could last several times longer? It would reduce the need for chemicals used in cleaning and recoating metals and keep more items out of the scrap heap.

Today, self-healing polymers can be added to a coating in small quantities to prolong the life of the coating and underlying material. Manufacturing can be outsourced to established suppliers and the paint can be applied like any other without a major behavioral change. The sustainability premium is small relative to the performance gain.

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On-Demand Technology

When a 500-bedroom hotel wants to heat water, how do they do it? They typically keep large tanks of water hot with a boiler system. These systems are large, expensive and redundant. They keep large quantities of water hot even during times when little is being used.

Enter on-demand technology, which only heats water when it is being used and has no storage tanks. On-demand technology is now available for use in commercial and industrial environments. Interestingly enough, the system can be less capital intensive than the system it replaces. It can cost the hotel the same or less to buy and install, avoiding the sustainability premium. And, it doesn’t require a significant change in behavior as it uses the same natural gas and connects in a similar fashion. It actually can be a little easier to install due to a smaller form factor and cooler exhaust.

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Chemical Advances

Beta Glucan is used to promote animal (and human) health and as an alternative to the potential overuse of antibiotics in our food sources. The conventional method of production involves extracting beta glucan from yeast. It is costly, messy and involves harsh chemicals.

There is now a proprietary method to produce Beta Glucan from algae in sterile fermentation tanks (not too dissimilar to the ones used to brew beer). It is a cleaner and more energy efficient method of producing Beta Glucan and results in a product with greater purity and lower cost.

The sustainability comes with a discount rather than a premium. The end product is used essentially the same requiring no change for the end user. And the production tanks are inexpensive – just as it is relatively inexpensive to start a craft brewery today.

These are just three examples of technologies that contradict commonly accepted truths; there are many more.

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Cleantech 2.0

Cleantech 2.0 isn’t better—it’s just different. Many disruptive and important technologies come with aforementioned truths and our world needs the investors who support them. A Tesla automobile doesn’t exist without major capital investments and a willingness of consumers to change the way they source fuel for their cars. (The sustainability premium is dropping).

The objective of this article is to cast light on generally accepted truths that have scared away many an investor or acted like blinders covering the eyes of others. The unaccepted truth is that there are numerous options to positively change the world without having to settle for a less attractive investment profile. As Cleantech investors ourselves, we don’t necessarily want too many investors back in the game, but a few additional kindred spirits wouldn’t hurt.

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Larry Hayward 2

Larry Hayward is a Chicago entrepreneur.

This article was adapted from TheVentureLab blog

Copyright © 2015 TheVentureLab

Photos – Larry Hayward

VentureLab logo

theventurelab.blogspot.com

This article appeared in News From Heartland

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE SUM OF THE WHOLE

Moises GoldmanHigher Education and the Economy

Moises Goldman PhD – resident scientist

In today’s digital environment, the words entrepreneurship and innovation are the flavor of the day. Universities and even certain high schools believe they are preparing their students to go out into the world armed with the necessary tools to excel. But are they?

Parts - Royalty Free 5

Consider the following points:

  • The “whole” is equal to the sum of its parts.
  • The sum of its parts is equal to the “whole”
  • The sum of its wholes makes a bigger-and-better “whole.”

This article will focus on the third idea.

.Parts - Royalty Free 2

The Part

Graduate engineers can usually code in various languages—Python, Flash, Java, CSharp, Ruby on Rails. Perhaps they are able to create “apps.” They are specialists. With diligence and luck, they go to work in enterprise and fill specific roles.

In those roles, they create what might be call “parts.” A project manager pulls together all the parts into a “whole.” As typically happens, several of the parts do not fit. The process provides for other specialists that fill the gaps.

Parts--Royalty free 3

I am describing a typical mode of work. Specialists in cubicles re-design parts designed by specialists in other cubicles until the organization achieves a satisfactory whole. This is an iterative process, but not a creative one. Industry blunders forward. By any economic measure, it is grossly inefficient. Where, one may ask, is the root of the problem?

Moises Goldman PhD

Moises Goldman PhD

What is Optimal?

We need only ask a few questions:

  • Do the individual engineers on any given project understand what impact, Parts - Royalty Free 4implication or influence their developments have on the overall wellness, intent or strategy of the enterprise they serve?
  • Do they take into account current policy, regulatory, ethical, or socioeconomic factors?
  • Do they are work together—focusing on the whole and not their “part alone?

If the answer to any of these is no, then without a doubt their efforts cannot be optimal.

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The Whole

Parts - Royalty Free 1Universities turn out engineers that are themselves essentially parts. I would argue that they should train-up collaborators adept at comprehending the larger view and better understanding their “part” in the “whole”—in other words, people who are themselves whole.

When each specialist embraces the larger picture, each specialty complements the others. The sum of each whole person makes a bigger-and-better whole project. The sum of the wholes is a bigger-and-better whole.

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GO TO PART 2

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Contacts

This article was adapted from a paper for the Institute for Work and the Economy by Moises Goldman PhD.  www.workandeconomy.org

Moises GoldmanMoises6@comcast.net

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

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.Copyright © 2013 Moises Goldman – All Rights Reserved
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