Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Office of the Future -

...As seen from the year 1975

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING June 30, 1975, 6:43PM EST

"...Will the office change all that much? Listen to George E. Pake, who heads Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto (Calif.) Research Center, a new think tank already having a significant impact on the copier giant's strategies for going after the office systems market: "There is absolutely no question that there will be a revolution in the office over the next 20 years. What we are doing will change the office like the jet plane revolutionized travel and the way that TV has altered family life."

Pake says that in 1995 his office will be completely different; there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his desk. "I'll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button," he says. "I can get my mail or any messages. I don't know how much hard copy [printed paper] I'll want in this world."

Wow, he got that right!

More -

"...Getting there means finding the answers to a host of very complex questions.

Can desk-top terminals be made "friendly" enough so that executives will use them?

Should a lot of powerful machines be moved together with central libraries and thus break up traditional working relationships?

Will office systems get needed computer power by depending on the machines already in EDP centers doing accounting and financial work?

Says Pake's boss, Jack E. Goldman, Xerox chief scientist: "I don't think anyone can really know which is the way to go now."

If the office of the future is a collection of these electronic terminals linked to each other and to electronic filing cabinets, "it will change our daily life," Pake says. "

And this could be kind of scary."

Interesting to take a look back and see which predictions didn't come true and what unknowns at the time prevail.

It's All About Cutting Costs - More from 1975 -

"Costs in the office are running uncontrolled," declares Alan Purchase, senior industrial economist at Stanford Research Institute, who recently made a major study of future office equipment markets.

"Where office costs used to be 20% to 30% of the total in a company, they have now grown to 40% to 50% of all costs." Rising salaries and demands to process more information are growing at geometric rates. IBM says that the average secretary's salary is 68% higher, and the cost of turning out a business letter is 40% more than it was 10 years ago.

More important, Purchase says, "the current recession has brought a real awareness by companies that they have to identify and control office costs and improve productivity."

A Quantum Science Corp. survey showed that while the recession had forced a cut in overall office spending, it was also responsible for increasing text-editing typewriter installations. Nearly one-fifth of all offices surveyed, and 39% of the larger ones, either planned or had recently added automatic typewriters.

But the office's productivity problems have been developing for a long time. "Many offices are not even held accountable for productivity," notes David L. Holzman, Xerox' market development manager. "In studies we've made, 50% of all offices are just a part of the overhead."

Further, the shift of the U.S. economy to service-based industries (they will employ 47% of all U.S. workers by 1980) and the growth of clerical employees are colliding with soaring clerical labor costs, growing shortages of skilled personnel, and changing social attitudes... " - Sound familiar?

Culture Shift - Again.

"This climate is almost forcing the revolution in the office," declares Robert E. Verrando, marketing chief for Xerox' Office Systems Div.

But word processing is a tough sell, particularly since it so often changes the traditional secretary-executive relationship. "The biggest problem we face is the office wife," says Lexitron's Pugh. " She likes giving total loyalty to one boss, and he likes getting it."

Wow! how things have changed.

It's Deja Vu all over again...

So here we are in 2008 facing another slope on an economic down-cycle. I have learned not to panic and don't participate in recessions. I have also learned we all get what we deserve - always.

Click to email me.



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