The Office of the Future

Scientific American has an interview with Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) research fellow David Biegelsen who has been at the lab since the beginning.  It is a really interesting look back 40 years at “The Office of The Future”.  If you are unfamiliar with PARC (as I was) from the article:

Xerox established its Palo Alto Research Center (better known as Xerox PARC) in June 1970 as a West Coast extension of its research and development laboratories. PARC researchers proved wildly successful in pioneering many contemporary business technologies—the PC (the first was called the “Alto”), graphical user interface (GUI), Ethernet local area computer network (LAN) and laser printing, to name just a few. Xerox, however, was considerably less successful (and less interested) in commercializing much of PARC’s technology itself, leaving the door open for Apple, IBM, Microsoft and others to capitalize on PARC’s innovations.

This is a good reminder for me that being right is not enough.  These folks were ahead of the curve by a long shot and, they were on target about how and what technologies would develop and become useful.  (Image for a moment having email a regular part of your day in 1970).  The thing is that a lot of areas had to catch up before they could capitalize on it.

About 10 years ago, I remember speaking to a vertical market analyst who told me that most of the time, companies when pursuing vertical markets over-estimate short term results and under-estimate long term results.  That rings true here as well.  Having a clear vision of what the future holds may mean that you have to keep pressing for a very long time before you will really see the fruits of your labor pay off.  Just because you are not seeing the results over night, it doesn’t mean your vision is wrong.

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2 Areas Not To Outsource

Part 1 Here

In my last post, I submitted that today’s outsourcing is not all that different from basic economic specialization.  We can see that due to advances in technology – particularly communications – the pool of places, talent and resources to draw from is now essentially global and nearing limitless.  Often times my customers ask me questions and I have to point out that the question they have asked is not a matter of “can” something be done, but instead “should” it.  That is where these options with outsourcing have left us.

So what areas should a successful corporation focus on?  Obviously those that offer the biggest return in cost savings.  Now those who have done business with me over the years know me to be perhaps obsessive when it comes to focusing on hard dollar ROI and having very little tolerance for the soft dollar pay-backs that are often used to justify technology sales.  That being said, one has to consider all the COSTS including harder to estimate impacts on other areas of the organization.   Continue reading “2 Areas Not To Outsource”

Free Capitalism Lessons From China

Free Bread

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
Adam Smith

I ordered some small key chain LED lights for a business associate a couple weeks ago. He was going to go to a trade show type of event and wanted something with his new company’s logo on it to give away. He had seen some lights I gave away for a similar purpose a few weeks before and thought they would fit the bill. Since I had ordered from these folks before, I offered to place the order for him. The company that makes the lights is based in Shenzhen, China.

The lights are well made, VERY bright and cheap as heck. I figure for marketing chachki, function beats form. These lights are something that someone might actually USE rather than throw in with another million free pens that never seem to write well. I have seen these lights in stores (I would name them, but don’t want to deal with lawyers) for $12-$15 each. With custom color printing, shipping etc, I got them for just under $0.60 each. With a 500 piece minimum on custom printed items, that came to just south of $300.00 delivered. None of that is enough to inspire me to write a blog post about them though. Continue reading “Free Capitalism Lessons From China”