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The Shift to Generalized Workers

by Benjamin Anderson 29. July 2009 21:16

Companies have begun a shift towards hiring and training more generalized workers instead of the more expensive specialized workers so highly sought after in the past.  This is especially true in the IT market.  Companies are hiring individuals with a breadth of knowledge instead of depth.  This means that the worker is capable of doing more and handling a wider range of tasks, but it also means that the individual might progress through a task slower than the specialist would.  But the advantage over the specialist is that the generalized knowledge makes them capable of doing the task in an area that the specialist for another area would no be able to find a starting ground.

The biggest tool in aiding this sift has been the vast knowledge base that is the Internet.  You don’t have to know all the answers, so long as you know where and how to find the answer.  Companies are increasingly using wikis, knowledge bases and document repositories to record the wealth of knowledge that they have access to through their employees.  The biggest drawback to this situation is that there isn’t an easy solution to the problem solving road blocks that are produces by having individuals with a shallow understanding on the issue at hand.

This was the entire reason I went with a general Computer Science degree instead of specializing in Software Engineering.  Small businesses can’t afford to have specialists in every area that they work in or deal in, and larger corporations are dealing with similar circumstances during hard economic times.

If you were having pains in your sides, but had not idea what the cause or alternate symptoms are then you wouldn’t know which specialist to go to for the answers.  The same situation applies to both large and small businesses now.  The more we depend on the Internet for knowledge and other resources, the more our knowledge has the be generalized.  The cultural interactions with other companies in other countries, the systematic interactions with a breadth of devices, and the legal and political issues related to doing business with other states and countries, make every business large and small require an almost infinitely broad knowledge of the world and everything in it.

The big problem isn’t the breadth of knowledge though, it’s being able to access and manage the depth of knowledge available at our fingertips.  We have unlimited amounts of information instantly available to us, but there isn’t a good way of find the information we’re looking for without already having the depth of knowledge of the situation at hand.

With generalization, we know where to take the first step, but the following steps are the journey and blind adventure.

That is the entire reason why I founded Simplified Solutions.  There are already tons of tools out there that are great at storing and securing your information and knowledge, but forgotten and inaccessible information is lost information.  How do you search for the answer you’re looking for when you don’t know exactly what the problem is or the terms used within the realm of your problem?  Right now you have to do a lot of research.  Right now you lose critical time and resources spinning your tires while you race around the world’s boundless information resources.

For many businesses their information resources and repositories have already reach the point that it is difficult to find the information that is already stored there.  The issue is made worse by the recursive destruction of the system’s on handicaps when managing and maintaining the information.

Current information stores are broken.  Search terms, tags and indexing will not help solve problems for a more generalized workforce.  It is time to start making the data and systems work for our workforce instead of increasing the work load as a result of these systems.  Because of this handicap Simplified Solutions is going to begin developing what I call Intelligent Knowledge Repositories (IKRs).  Simplified Solutions’ Assisted Knowledge and Troubleshooting Repository will be the first IKR developed for the IT market.  While the system will work for other markets and industries with little-to-no adapting, it fits best in the IT market where finding information and solutions in the fastest possible means available means saving thousands of dollars and hours of lost productivity.  The system could easily be adapted to the medical industry to help doctors find and research health conditions and ailments.

Simplified Solutions


Categories: software | startups | theory

Is it time to get good at functional programming?

by Benjamin Anderson 5. December 2008 18:42

Dr. Dobbs had an article posted this week about the need for a larger and greater understanding of functional programming in order to correctly develop and program in the emerging parallel environments of the future.  With every chip manufacture adding more and more cores to their processers in order to increase the throughput of their platform.

While I understand where the article is coming from, I don’t agree that FP is the future.  FP has a very distinct and and specific field of use in areas where processes can be cleanly defined and work in a workflow without interruptions.  The majority of applications that will need to take advantage of the multiple cores and multi-threading will have to be done through threading and standard stateless functional systems, due to the nature of the software.  Information services and data models can fit into FP models, but the processes and user interactions can’t be crammed into a singular workflow.  Things that depend on a stand dataflow will work great for FP on multi-core systems, but stand data flows cannot encompass a user.

Introducing the human into the mix severely limits the ability to solely develop in a FP model without becoming extremely inefficient.

There are several efforts to make functional languages a mixture of state-full and stateless to make them more efficient and allow for better management of exceptions, errors and the human user, but there is still a lot of work that has to be done and even more techniques and methods to be learned and used before the changes can work their way our of research and academia.

MS has been doing a lot of research in this area for F# and other functional areas, and Brian Beckman discusses some of those things on the Channel9 site in a two part interview. Part 1 Part 2

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Categories: Programming | theory


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About the author

Benjamin is a software developer in the DFW area.  He spends his free time playing video games, programming, doing graphics design and photography, and reading.

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