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Dickeson--Looking for Some Changes

October 2000
Start with this situation analysis: We can't use monthly financial statements to support operating decisions. There are too many unrealistic assumptions and they're not timely. We're not optimizing liquidity—not turning over inventories and account receivables rapidly enough. Our production reporting is all messed up with non-chargeable labor or machine hours and spurious capacity assumptions.

Despite knowing the multitude of variables of printing inputs, we don't acknowledge the application of chaos theory to printing. We set prices for commercial jobs by marking up mythical cost estimates knowing that it is nonsense. We install computer systems that provide stacks of data we either don't use or misuse—for example, scheduling and estimating systems that must be ignored. We invest in high-speed presses and computer-to-plate technology, neither of which will cost-justify. Why?

Even though all this is true, we survive. But we could do much better if we made good use of the data we can now command. It's the Information Age. Peter Drucker, our foremost business guru, tells us our main task is to make our knowledge workers efficient and accountable. How do we do this?

Technology hasn't done it for us thus far and isn't about to do it, unless we demand it. The buck has stopped in our chair. Time to begin thinking—speculating—about what we, and our knowledge workers, can really use as support for operating decisions.

Tell a Good Story
As humans, we operate best if the information comes to us in story form. That's a given. How do we get information as a story? Television programs, movies, newspapers, magazines and books give us information as stories. Writers, editors, directors, producers and publishers make stories for us that we process into knowledge. Is it too much for us to ask the computer system designers to shift into story publishing attitudes—to become story tellers?

Sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? Think about it.

Suppose we suggested "presentation graphics." You know, like Microsoft's PowerPoint, to our tech-publishers to start them thinking. You can't go to a trade meeting these days where a speaker doesn't use a slide presentation to tell her/his story. (Some are better story tellers than others.)

Or maybe use a browser for database information that pops up whenever we turn on our workstation. On that home browser screen for our company, give us options for showing the information nuggets we want to see to tell us what's happening right now. It'll be a different view for the sales manager than it is for the CEO or the controller. Hyperlink it so we can drill down for more detail if we want. Tell us a story, please! Use cartoons, sound clips, photos, headlines, sidebars, whatever.



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