The New York Times (27 November 2011) has an interesting article under “bright ideas” called Turn on the Server. It’s Cold Outside.
Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy limited flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers or web commuters, use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations. Telework is a broader term, referring to substituting telecommunications for any form of work-related travel, thereby eliminating the distance restrictions of telecommuting. (Wikipedia)
Is telecommuting a good architecture decision or not?
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 28 February 2008, reports that “Some Companies Rethink The Telecommuting Trend.”
“A few big promoters of home-based and mobile-office work arrangements, including AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and parts of the federal government, have called some home-based workers back to the office.”
- Consolidation of operations—organizations are centralizing operational functions and bringing people back in, believing that telecommuting is unnecessary. For example, “Hewlett-Packard, the company that invented flextime, called a significant number of home-office information-technology workers back to the office in 2006, during a consolidation of its 85 data centers.”
- Teamwork—belief that “teamwork improves when people work face-to-face” and through “impromptu dialogues, collaboration, and mentoring.”
Another reason not cited by the WSJ is continued management apprehension about losing control. Management fears that workers are either not working as productively or doing what they want them to do when they are out of sight. It’s a trust issue, and unfortunately, some employees who misuse telework programs ruin it for others who are diligent and honest putting in their hours and doing their work.
Despite these issues with telework, “U.S. corporate employees working full time from home are still rising, gaining 30% since 2005 to 2.44 million in 2007, says Ray Boggs, a research vice president with IDC.”
What are some benefits of telework programs?
- Cost savings—including corporate office space, furniture, equipment, and utilities.
- Recruiting and retaining employees—providing telework options is a benefit for workers and can aid in recruiting and retention—it can save employees money on transportation and work wardrobe, enable more flexible hours, and can provide accommodation to enable some people who could not get to a regular office setting (due to childcare or eldercare responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal situations) the opportunity to be productive human beings.
- Flexible work force—“teleworkers are easy to fire and relocate…because they’re not visible.”
- Greener environment—telework saves people from having to commute to work and reduces pollution from their vehicles.
- Continuity of operations—having an offsite workforce helps protect an organization continue operating even when disasters (natural, accidental, or malicious) strikes the corporate offices.
Ways for teleworkers to keep working from home: “perform well…increase your visibility…make an effort to collaborate.”
For federal employees, “Section 630(a) of Public Law 105-277 (Flexiplace Work Telecommuting Programs) authorized certain Executive agencies to spend a minimum of $50,000 for fiscal year 1999, and each fiscal year thereafter, to establish and carry out a flexiplace work telecommuting program.” (www.opm.gov)
As an enterprise architect, I firmly believe that we need to plan and implement robust telework programs—that the benefits outweigh the costs. The human capital perspective that I espouse for enterprise architecture demands that we build in programs, such as teleworking, that create a more flexible and diverse workforce and provide cost savings and other positive impacts. Of course, telework programs and teleworkers need to be structured and managed so that goals are understood and met, and collaboration and teamwork is not impeded.
Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently [from an environmental and energy perspective]. Typically, technological systems or computing products that incorporate green computing principles take into account the so-called triple bottom line of economic viability, social responsibility, and environmental impact. This differs somewhat from traditional or standard business practices that focus mainly on the economic viability of a computing solution. These focuses are similar to those of green chemistry; reduction of the use of hazardous materials such as lead at the manufacturing stage, maximized energy efficiency during the product’s term of use, and recyclability or biodegradability of both a defunct product and of any factory waste. A typical green computing solution attempts to address some or all of these factors by implementing environmentally friendly products in an efficient system. (Wikipedia)
ComputerWorld, 4 February 2008, reports on “Tips for a Leaner, Greener Desktop: Energy efficiency isn’t just for the data center.”
“Although data centers may use more power per square foot, as a percentage of total power consumption, office equipment is the big kahuna…if you look at overall power consumption, you’re seeing almost double for computers and monitors than for data centers.”
“There were an estimated 900 million desktops in use worldwide in 2006…if all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star [a voluntary labeling program] 4.0 specification , power consumption would be 27% lower than it would be under 2006 guidelines.”
Here are a number of ways to architect green:
- Power management software—software like NightWatchman or LANDesk puts desktop computers and monitors “into power saving mode after a period of inactivity, overriding any personal setting….another product SMSWakeUp can ‘wake up’ those machines to deliver patches and updates after-hours and then shut them down again when the process is complete.”
- LCD monitors—“dump those CRTS replacing older computers and peripherals with Energy Star-rated equipment can save energy and space, and the decreased power consumption can significantly reduce the need for cooling in office areas. Start with CRT displays. ‘The biggest offenders are the monitors.’”
- Thin clients—“managed thin clients use 30% less energy than nonmanaged PCs…thin clients use less power and space, since they have no disk drives or fans, and the Windows session and applications run on the server.”
- Printing effectively—“Hewlett Packard Co, claims that the energy efficiency of its printers improve 7% to 15% with each new generation. Therefore, replacing older units with new, Energy Star-labeled models can cut costs by as much as 25%…printers are also getting smarter about when to go into low-power mode.” Another method to save energy and paper is to configure printers for duplex mode.
Green IT is good for enterprises and good for the planet. Enterprise architects can help make a difference with green IT solutions for their organizations.
For years, we’ve all heard the promise that technology will soon make us a paperless society—but it hasn’t!
In the book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, by Kriegel and Brandt, the authors state that “most people’s desks look like they’ve been hit by a paper avalanche.”
Have things gotten better or worse?
Kriegel and Brandt state that between 1983 and about 1996, “shipments of paper actually increased by 51%.”
Further, they state that “a vice president of a major telecommunications company showed us a study that…on average, people got over 90 hours’ worth of “stuff” to read each week! And only 20 percent of that was electronic…the same study showed that despite all the advancements in information technology, the amount of paper received today had not been reduced from ten years ago.”
Do we need all this paper?
Absolutely not. “50 percent of a company’s paperwork could be eliminated without the slightest disruption to business.”
In fact, the authors recount a telling story about how a courageous manager and his/her employees slowly eliminated parts of a costly, time-consuming detailed 10 column monthly report they put together for the management committee, by first eliminating some columns and then more and more until finally they produced only 4 key columns quarterly. Instead of the management committee complaining, no one even noticed anything was missing (the columns or later the monthly report), until after a number of months, the CEO congratulated them on their good work with the new clear and simple quarterly report.
What has the government done to reduce paperwork?
- Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, “one of the principal requirements of the PRA is that organizations must have OMB approval before collecting information from the public (such as forms, general questionnaires, surveys, instructions, and other types of collections).” (http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/reqs_bestpractices/laws_regs/paperwork_reduction.shtml)
- Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 2002 “requires that, when practicable, federal organizations use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public, by 2003.” (http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/reqs_bestpractices/laws_regs/gpea.shtml)
What should we do in our organizations to reduce the paperwork?
According to Kriegel and Brandt, if paperwork doesn’t “add value to the customer, increase productivity, or improve morale,” then it should be eliminated.
From a User-centric EA perspective, we need to ask our users and stakeholders if they really need or want the paperwork we’re giving them, and if not we need to update our business processes and enable technology solutions to eliminate the legacy paper-based solutions. To some extent this is occurring already, in other cases, it is not. The more we become an information-based society, the more we need and crave information and some people don’t trust the technology or simply want a hard-copy to read or for their records. Paper is not a bad thing. It is a tried and true method of recordkeeping and communication, but when we have so much that we cannot even keep up with it, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our true needs and go a little easier on our environment. Why chop down all those trees, for reports, proposals, print-outs, and projections that often just end up, unread in the round file (i.e. the garbage) anyway?