Wednesday, August 6, 2008

But, is it Efficient?

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to stand on the 10x2 panel at Democamp Guelph. The idea is that 10 people give a 2 minute answer to a common question. The question was simply “What will be the next big technology idea?”

After a small bit of thought, I formed my answer around a theme that has been a focus of my own for the past 6 months or so: Efficiency. My answer then was “The next big technology advancement will be in any software or device that can effectively and economically measure efficiency.” Yes, it’s vague I realize, but it is so simple that the idea can be distilled into almost every facet of life and business to make marked improvements. Here is my Top of my Head list:

Energy Efficiency. This is a no brainer; everyone is on this bandwagon. We have sites both large and small dedicated to it, government organizations spending tax money on it, new devices, ideas and technologies dedicated to it. Most assuredly the next big technology idea will surround Improving and/or measuring efficiency of energy expenditure in:
1. Transportation
2. heating/cooling
3. manufacturing
4. waste management
5. energy production overall.

People Efficiency. Time is money, right? There are studies that say we waste up to 2 days per week at work. Are there ways for employers to get back those two days per week? Maybe, but I would guess that any measures would be temporary fixes at best, and we humans would find new ways to waste that time. But what if there were a way to objectively prove that you were more efficient than your former self, or other employees? Could you get a whole week’s worth of work done in 4 days and prove it? Should not employers pay on results or at least amount of work vs amount of time? I know it’s a pipe dream to think that if you could prove it, your boss might just give you every Friday off for the same pay, but measuring personal efficiency at work at least gives you a benchmark for annual reviews, promotions, and raises.

People efficiency is also about companies ensuring that they are able to use their human resources in the best way possible; ensuring that jobs and tasks are matched with the skills of the worker. Additionally, ensuring that workers are trained in such a way as to be able to do their job without a significant amount of wasted time and materials is important, and measurable. Coaching, mentoring, and moral measurements are also important in maximizing the efficiency of a workforce, and quantitative measurements over time would be a beneficial technology.

Economic Efficiency. Money is well, Money too. How well does a system produce goods and services for a set amount of input resources? Any improvement in the amount of goods and services produced without additional input is an improvement in Economic Efficiency. If we macro-scale this, and only use monetary input, we can put a measure on the Economic Efficiency of government programs, grand scale projects, and countries. There are many good measurement techniques out there for this type of analysis, but we still manage to waste significant amounts of money. Is a new technology for easily and objectively measuring economic efficiency the answer?

Efficiency is a Quantitative measurement. As the government and private sectors give time, attention, and money to efficiency improvements, surely the tools and technologies that can prove and protect the inputs will be (one of ) the next big attention grabbers.

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