Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Welcome Back Twinkie

By Angela Childs

From coast to coast people are keeping an eye on grocery store shelves awaiting the return of Twinkies.  From the news of the Hostess bankruptcy first breaking and every time I’ve heard Hostess or Twinkie since, I’ve thought:

If you can’t make money selling junk food in America…

There’s a lot to unpack with the Hostess story and there is a lot of blame to go around but there are also a lot of lessons to be learned.  I, for one, have been fascinated from the beginning.

Was a big part of why they failed because they didn’t have a document management system?  Would you believe me if I said yes?

I can say this – IOS is most successful when we are solving a business problem for one of our customers.  Step back from the “what” – document scanning, workflow, system conversion, etc. and focus on the “why”.  When there’s a really compelling why then the what can have a tremendous impact.

What do I mean?  Let’s take Crate & Barrel as an example.   They were paying an outside company to audit their freight bills.  If that company found discrepancies then they would refund Crate & Barrel.

This is a standard practice but they looked at it and decided it didn't make sense.  They were paying a company to see if they had overpaid another company.

What if they could audit their own bills?  If they found the discrepancies before they paid, they’d eliminate the initial overpayment and eliminate the need to hire an outside company.

That’s where we started with them.  They came to us with a problem they wanted to solve.  Perfect.  We love that.  It was our job to dive in, uncover all the variables, learn what resources were available, the culture, dependencies, etc. and we came up with the right what.  Many pieces and parts were selected from our toolbox but for Crate & Barrel the nut was that they got a freight payment system that accomplished their goals and bolted on seamlessly to their existing content management system.

How’d it turn out?  By bringing their freight billing in-house, there were able to effectively manage freight payments, with a system that prevents duplicate invoice payment, checks and flags calculation errors, and assigns GL codes to each transaction all while not requiring any additional staff with an ROI of less than a year.

Could we have also saved a lot of people from Twinkie withdrawal?  Sadly, we’ll never know.
Monday, July 8, 2013

Looking Back To Measure Progress

By Brian Kopack

I was up in the attic recently and I found a box of stuff I’ve been saving over the years – kind of a personal time capsule.  Mostly the typical stuff, awards, baseball cards, old college uniforms and newspapers.  A lot of newspapers.  I’ve managed to save newspapers to record what I thought at the time were seminal events in history – mine or the world’s.  The last issue of the Chicago Daily News, The Washington Post the day Richard Nixon passed, the Chicago Sun Times reporting on Michael Jordan’s 1st championship - all cool to look back at now.

Then I hit the jackpot  – the centennial issue of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

 In 1989, I finished high school and started college at Butler University.  In August of that year, the WSJ centennial issue was published.  A lot of pomp and circumstance, a lot of history and most interestingly, a lot of predictions.  Now remember, in 1989, the Y2K hysteria hadn’t even started to percolate, so the question, “What do you see coming for the year 2000?” was almost science fiction.

The paper did an interview with several of the top technology minds of the time to get their perspectives on what would be next.  Robert Noyce, then the Vice Chairman of Intel predicted, “In another 10 years, we’ll replace file cabinets with computer memory…..you’d like to have everything that comes across your desk sitting in there, so you can take action on it.”

That was 1989.

He predicted the paperless office by 2000.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the business world in 2013 still hasn’t caught up to his vision.  Now I get not everyone in business has the “early adopter” gene, but even the most cautious would agree that a.) he had the right idea b.) it is totally possible today – both from a cost and effort perspective and c.) the almost 25 years since he made that prediction is a long enough beta-test to prove his idea wasn’t really a fantasy.

If you haven’t embraced electronic content management yet, what are you waiting for now?  The next big thing?  Come on, already!

Don’t be embarrassed.  Call IOS.  We won’t judge.  We’ll just help bring your business into the 21st century – finally.

One other interesting prediction (guess from who):  “The PC… will be your window to the world.  That is how you will find out about things.  Any document less than five pages will be electronic.”

At IOS, our 5 document conversion labs convert about 5,000,000 images per month and we would love to help make Bill Gates’ prediction come true.  Give him a little something to feel good about after all these years.

Call IOS – just don’t wait 24 years.

Monday, July 1, 2013

1600's London and Social Networking

By John Trimble

Tom Standage made some great observations in his recent New York Times article, Social Networking in the 1600s on how concern about the time suck of “social networking” is not new. In fact, in a very real sense it dates back hundreds of years.

He quotes $650 billion as a figure circulating today on what social networking; Facebook, Twitter, etc. could be costing the American economy each year. While that number is questionable at best and ridiculous at worst, it does historically mimic old fears and questions:  are social and technological advances drowning the worker, especially the younger workers, in indolence and useless diversion?  Specifically, these concerns are an echo from England in the 1600’s. What was the new controversial social networking delivery system back then?  Coffeehouses.

Coffeehouses sprang up in Oxford and hundreds followed in London. They even served as post offices. People went to them not just to drink coffee but to read and discuss the world, their interests and gossip. Strangers were encouraged to talk to strangers, regardless of station. True social networking.

Coffeehouses also tended to have their own specialty; politics, finance or even science. Isaac Newton wrote “Principia Mathematica” one of the cornerstones of modern science after a long discourse in a coffeehouse. At Jonathan’s, a coffeehouse in London, merchants kept specific tables where they did their transactions. Their business eventually turned into the London Stock Exchange.

But what did the media alarms of that day sound like? Pretty standard stuff…” these places were “the ruin of many serious and hopeful young gentlemen and tradesmen.”

So what does this tell us? The desire and the rewards for collaboration are anything but new. Often when a new technology or behavior set comes around it is often criticized as disruptive, wasteful and inconsistent with the prevailing notion of “work.”  I am sure a lot of time was wasted in 1600’s London trending out on the newest import from the Arab world; drinking coffee. Today, a lot of people waste a ton of time on Social Media. No question.

But at the same time, social networking then and now creates interaction and collaboration with all types of people, participation is encouraged, hidden talents and interests are uncovered, new ideas  flourish.  A 2012 report by consulting firm McKinsey and Company showed that the use of “enterprise social networking within companies increased the productivity of knowledge workers by 25%.” That number might be just as goofy as the $650 billion but it does highlight the very real upside.

Collaboration produces results and innovation. New vehicles for that create criticism and suspicion of indolence regardless of the century. That is a constant. All that is changing is the format.

Another constant?   Coffee