Giving Voice To The Workers

Giving Voice To The Workers

In light of the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh and another in Cambodia this week, there is an promising crowdsourcing service called LaborVoices for factory workers and other industries.

A former Department of State employee, Kohl Gill, who I do not know, started the service.

LaborVoices collects information from workers by phone polling in the workers native languages.

The service anonymously records information about hazardous working conditions, product quality, and maintenance of equipment.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (13 May 2013), LaborVoices aggregates worker responses and provides the results on a subscription basis through an online dashboard.

Unlike with onsite inspections, where workers can be easily coaxed, cajoled, or threatened to provide positive workplace feedback, the private polling by mobile phones provides for more accurate and timely reporting of workplace issues.

Problems that can be identified early can be remediated sooner and hopefully avoid defects, injuries, and illnesses from poor products and working conditions.

Giving voice to the workforce–anonymously, safely, and in aggregate can provide important information to companies, labor unions, government regulators, and law enforcement to be able to take action to protect people inside the workplace and to users outside.

Like an ever-present inspector general, internal auditor, or tip hotline, LaborVoices can help self-regulate industry, produce safer products, and protect the workers who make it all happen.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UN Women Asia and The Pacific)

Here, There, Made Where?

With so much of U.S. manufacturing activity going abroad, it is almost hard to believe that there is still a store in Elma, N.Y. called “Made in America.” According to the Wall Street Journal (23 November 2012), it’s true.
The store is 6,000 square feet and has sales of about a million dollars a year.And as their name says, they only sell goods that are completely made in the U.S. of A.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find lots of items there.

Forget literally anything electronic or that runs on a battery. It doesn’t exist.

Fashion clothes, also – go somewhere else.

Even if you are looking for a simple electric can opener, this won’t be the place.

How about some tea bags – Made In America has found that while there is still some tea made here, the bags aren’t. So it’s no longer stocked there.

However, if you are looking for simple things like socks, candy and greeting cards – this store may be the place for you.

Reflecting on this, I remember hearing Joel Osteen speak about how with pride, every country labels their goods, “Made In…” (wherever).

Osteen compared it to us human beings, the children of G-d, and how he imagined that even we have a label, or mark, on each of us, that we are made by our Great Creator.

Osteen said that it doesn’t matter how we look on the outside, that our Creator takes great pride in each of us – in what’s inside.

On one hand, it is deeply troubling that there are less and less “things” that we can label “Made in America.” However, perhaps we can still take pride, as G-d does, that what’s on the inside of us as a nation is what is truly valuable and inspiring to the rest of the world.

While high tech and hot fashion is no longer necessarily made here, the dream of human rights, democracy, freedom and creativity for all is still very much our own.

We still have that label – those values are “Made in America” and we’re lucky to have them.

That said, let’s get our American manufacturing engines working again, so we can compete effectively in the global marketplace, not just on ideas, but on hard products as well. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Hollywood PR)

>It’s the Customer, Not the Technology, Stupid

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Two of the finest customer service companies these days are Amazon and Apple. Amazon with free shipping and generous return policy for just about any reason is amazing in their no nonsense customer-service orientation—they inspire virtually complete customer trust. And Apple with their try it, you’ll like it stores full of computers, iPhones, and iPods, as well as their extended product warranties, training classes on products and awesome service desks is just another great customer shopping experience.

We need more of these positive customer experiences:

· Products—products should be true quality through and through (not the shoddy stuff made on the cheap to maximize profit and minimize customer satisfaction).

· Commitment—companies stand by their products with hassle-free money back guarantees (forget the 15% restocking fee, the mandatory return authorization number, and the 4-6 weeks to get your money back).

· Service—customer service has got to be easy to access and quick to resolve problems (banish the cold and calculating automated calling systems with the loop-de-loop dialing—“dial 1 if you want to jump out of a window!”—and where routine service problems are resolved without having to escalate numerous levels to get a supervisor only to then get accidentally disconnected and have to start all over again; oh, and did I forget having to give your basic information over 3 times to each service rep you speak with).

Aside from these basics, we need new ways to improve customer experiences to give the customer an absolutely satisfying experience.

In this regard, I loved the recent commentary by Steve Kelman in Federal Computer Week entitled Customer service Tips From Developing Countries, where some simple yet novel customer service innovations were identified, as follows:

· Chinese Passport Control and Customs provides a kiosk for passengers to “report on their travel experience by pressing a smiley face or a frowning face.” Whoola instant feedback!

· Saudi Arabia ATM Machines, while withdrawing money “offered an option of paying parking fines and some government license fees.” That couldn’t be simpler and quicker.

· Singapore Passport Control “placed a bowl of candy at the counter.” A tiny gesture that goes a long way.

From a simple smiley/frowny face feedback mechanism to a candy bowl as a way to say thank you; it is not rocket-science to be kind, gentle, and caring for customers—most of the time, it’s the basic manners your mother taught you.

In technology, these customer services lessons are especially apropos, since it is easy to get enmeshed in the technology and forget the people and processes that we are supporting. (Or to put it in another way, “it’s the customer, not the technology, stupid!”)

>Invention versus Innovation and Enterprise Architecture

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User-centric Enterprise architecture is about producing valuable information products and governance services for the organization to enhance IT planning, governance and decision-making. There are elements of both invention and innovation in EA.

Invent“1. To produce or contrive (something previously unknown) by the use of ingenuity or imagination. 2. To make up; fabricate.”

Innovate“To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time.”

(TheFreeDictionary.com)

The definitions of invent and innovate are similar, but have important subtle differences.

  • Invent is to produce first which connotes a physical production or manufacture of an items, and secondarily to contrive or think up something imaginatively.
  • Innovate, however, is not producing or just thinking up something, but actually introducing it (for the first time), and in the process of introducing, there is an element of not only thinking up an idea or making it, but of actually bringing it to the marketplace to create value and reap benefit from it.

In User-centric EA, we both invent (think up and produce) products and services such as baseline and target architectures and transition plans as well as services to govern IT. However, we also innovate; we introduce the products and services, through effective marketing, communications, training, and leveraging their use to add value to the mission.

  • From a User-centric EA perspective, it is not enough just to put things out there (invent them)—like the “build it, and they will come” motto heard frequently during the period of “irrational exuberance” in the stock market and internet bubble of the early 21st century. Rather, we must innovate–constantly consider our users and build for them, to their requirements and make the EA of true value to them.

In BI Review Magazine, 3 December 2007, Thomas Koulopoulos presents “Don’t Invent, Innovate.”

Tom writes: “Myriad catalysts have suddenly created an ability to invent beyond our wildest dreams. Manufacturing is a global commodity…capital moves more efficiently to fund new ideas, micro markets can easily be targeted and fulfilled with well oiled supply chains. As a result we are surrounded by more useless inventions than at any other time in history. Affluence seems measured by the number of things we can accumulate and then drag to the nearest landfill…we confuse invention with innovation…too many people and organizations get wrapped up in the premise that quantity of invention is what drives progress. It’s not. Innovation is about imposing a discipline of value creation in an organization…Innovation is change with a purpose and a vision. Invention is simply change, the age-old battle between quantity and quality.”

In architecting the business and technical aspects of our enterprises, we need to keep in mind the distinction between inventing and innovation. Of course, we need to invent—we need to build idea and things–as humans, we need these “things” to survive. But also we need to innovate and ensure that what we invent is truly with purpose, vision, and is of value to the end-user.

>The Power of Marketing and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture is all about planning and governance to enable organizational success. But despite all the astute architectural planning and sound governance, why is it that the better product so frequently loses out to better marketing?

We’ve seen this happen with the more innovative and better functional Apple products losing out to Microsoft. We seen VCRs beat out Betamax, even though at the time Betamax was seen as the superior format. And again, we’ve seen CDMA become the dominant cellular network standard in the USA, despite GSM initially being the superior technology and had 73% worldwide market penetration.

Now once again, the superior product has lost in the market and is no longer being made, the Hydrox chocolate sandwich cookie made by Kellogg Company has lost out to the inferior Oreo cookies made by Kraft Foods Inc.

The Wall Street Journal, 19-20 2008 reports that ”The Hydrox Cookie is Dead, and Fans Won’t Get Over It.”

Hydrox enthusiasts “preferred Hydrox’s tangy, less-sweet filling. Many fans seem to remember that the cookies held together better than Oreos when dipped in a glass if cold milk. Some argue Hydrox cookies were more healthful than Oreos, since Oreos used to contain lard.” In fact, in a 1998 taste test by Advertising Age, 29 tasters voted for Hydrox and only 16 for Oreo. Yet despite these preferences, Hydrox lost out to “the dominant Oreos, one of the country’s best-selling snack foods.”

“For many years, the contest between Oreo and Hydrox was akin to that of Coke versus Pepsi, the Beatles again the Rolling Stones, dog people and cat people.”

In the end, Hydrox lost to Oreo; “Oreo had all the advertising, but those in the know ate Hydrox.” Over the years, Nabisco (now owned by Kraft Foods) had the far larger marketing budget, and Hydrox was discontinued in 2003.

Fans still hope that “Kellog changes its mind, especially since this year is the cookie’s 100th anniversary.”

So is marketing stronger than product, like the pen is mightier than the sword?

This lesson seems pertinent in a presidential election year, where fund raising by candidates and advertising by them is seeing reaching astronomical levels. “After nine months of fundraising, the candidates for president in 2008 have already raised about $420 million. This presidential money chase seems to be on track to collect an unprecedented $1 billion total. By some predictions, the eventual nominees will need to raise $500 million apiece to compete–a record sum.” (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/index.asp)

So will the best candidate win to be the next president of the United States or simply the candidate with the deepest pockets and best marketers?

From a User-centric EA perspective, I find this contest of product versus marketing to be akin to content versus design in developing EA information products. For example, an EA program can have wonderful and valuable EA information content, but if it does not employ User-centric EA principles of design and communication (such as using profiles, models, and inventories or information visualization and so on), then the EA program will not reach its potential. Every consumer product has both content and design or product and marketing. The high-end luxury companies have learned this lesson well and often capitalize on this by offering products with superior design, flair, packaging, and marketing and are thus able to develop formidable brands and command superior prices. So a word to the wise, do not ignore the power of marketing, communications, and design as part of your EA or other product development endeavors.

>Enterprise Architecture Terms and Taxonomy

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A key foundation to developing enterprise architecture is getting the EA terms and taxonomy right for the organization, so that there is a common language and understanding by business and technical subject matter experts of what all things EA means.

Here are some fundamental terms and a high-level taxonomy for them (prior to having these, I found considerable confusion in the enterprise as to what many of these terms meant and they were used incorrectly and interchangeably by various users):

1) C4&IT—Any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, or techniques used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, transmission, or reception of digital, voice, or video data or information to the appropriate levels of command. This includes command and control, networks, common operational picture systems, information assurance services, communication products and standards, computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware, procedures, services (including support services) and related resources. (short definition─Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology)

2) FISMA Systems—An application or general support system that meets the requirements of the Federal Information Systems Management Act (FISMA) of 2002, including completion of certification and accreditation, risk assessments, policies, and procedures, security plans, security awareness training, annual security testing, remediation procedures, incident response procedures, and contingency plans. (short definition—systems as defined by FISMA).

a. Application Systems—A discrete set of information resources [i.e. applications] organized for the collection, processing, maintenance, use, sharing, dissemination, or disposition of information. (short definition—one or more applications).

i. Applications—the use of information resources (information and information technology) [i.e. hardware, software, and database] to satisfy a specific set of user requirements. (short definition—combination of hardware, software, and database).

b. General Support Systems—An interconnected set of information resources under the same direct management control that share common functionality. It normally includes hardware, software, information, data, applications, communications, and people [i.e. infrastructure]. (short definition—IT infrastructure).

3) Products and Standards

a. Products—Includes hardware, the physical parts of a computer system, and software, the programs or other “instructions” that a computers needs to perform specific tasks.

b. Standards— Guidelines that reflect agreement on products, practices, or operations by nationally or internationally recognized industrial, professional, trade associations, or government bodies.

The way to read the taxonomy is that C4&IT at the top is the CIO world of work and it is composed of Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and IT. C4&IT decomposes to FISMA Systems (since all systems must be FISMA compliant). FISMA Systems decompose to Application Systems (and their applications) and General Support Systems (infrastructure). And these systems (applications systems and general support systems) decompose into hardware and software products and standards.

The short working definitions are fairly straight forward and the longer definitions are based on public information definitions from National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and The Department of Defense (DOD).

These terms and taxonomy should help enterprise architects and their users differentiate C4&IT, Systems, Application Systems, General Support Systems, Products, and Standards, and maybe even widgets by inference. 🙂

>Yin and Yang and Enterprise Architecture

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Yin and Yang describe two primal opposing but complementary principles or cosmic forces said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe.

The outer circle represents the entirety of perceivable phenomena, while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two principles or aspects, called “yin” (black) and “yang” (white), which cause the phenomena to appear in their peculiar way. Each of them contains an element or seed of the other, and they cannot exist without each other.

Yin is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night. Yang is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the daytime.

All forces in nature can be seen as having yin and yang states, and the two are in constant movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

Yin and yang is a process of harmonization ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things. Excessive yin or yang state is often viewed to be unbalanced and undesirable.

User-centric EA applies the concepts of Yin and Yang—in terms of balance and harmony─to the way the chief enterprise architect relates to and works with users, the way products and services are developed, and the way architecture plans are formulated. Some examples:

  • Working with users: The chief enterprise architect needs to recognize that in planning for the future state of the organization, there are going to be different points of views, diversity of aims and aspirations, and general conflict. The architect can use the principles of Yin and Yang to understand that opposing points of view are complementary and in fact necessary to vet issues and achieve better decision on behalf of the enterprise. The architect works to listen to all viewpoints and reconcile these to achieve a harmonized and optimal way ahead for the organization.
  • Developing products and services: User-centric EA provides useful and useable products and services to the end-user. The philosophy of Yin and Yang helps guide the architect to develop information products that are dynamic (actively pushing out information to the end user), balanced (evenhanded, reasonable, and objective,) and where the information flows clearly and concisely. The point is to effectively communicate with users, so that they can access and use the EA knowledge base to make better decisions. EA communicates up, down, and across the organization as well as with outside entity stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, partners, and oversight authorities. In all cases clear and balanced communication is a key ingredient to building and maintaining the architecture and leveraging use for all parties.
  • Formulating architecture plans: In developing a User-centric EA plan, the concepts of Yin and Yang help to develop plans that are neither black nor white (absolute) and that are not static (but rather fluid). For architecture plans to be effective, they need to provide “wiggle room” to the organization to adjust to changing needs and environment factors (i.e. plans should not be “black and white”, but should take into account shades of gray or in the case of the Yin and Yang, there is a little Yang in every Yin and vice versa). Additionally, as the flowing symbol of the Yin and Yang indicate, plans need to be fluid and move the organization in phases. You don’t just jump to the next big technology or slice and dice your business processes, but rather you evolve in a careful, planned, and incremental course—flowing from one state to the next and so on.