Links, and I don’t mean sausage

Alan Belniakbusiness, MTIE, technology2 Comments

As an opening note, this post is not about politics (red vs. blue; right vs. left).  It is tangentially about government, but only as a backdrop to the imminent spending that will happen in the technology sector.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or here) contains many provisions for monies to be set aside for technology-related spending.  Some of the bigger-ticket items include health care ($147.7b), the environment (about $5.2b), energy ($49.7b), and information technology ($19b just in healthcare-related IT; other various amounts sprinkled throughout).  Here is a good breakdown of the bigger-ticket items in an easy-to-understand way.  Some people reading this list (or hearing it; this entire topic as dominated the media over the past several weeks) may simply nod, and say “mmm hmm… mmm hmm” in tacit agreement.  But stop to think for a moment: what does that really all mean?

Here are my first thoughts on the matter…

  • health care: digital health records, HIPAA, standards wars, adoption across industries, systems overhaul, training and learning, and security (as it relates and as it does not relate to HIPAA, which, as I understand, focuses more on privacy)
  • environment: trees and streams, air, water, pollution, metrics of measurement of pollution, competing interests in the environment (‘animal’ people versus ‘plant’ people), dense urban cores (creating concentrated pollution centers) vs. sprawl (debilitating natural resources at an astounding rate)
  • energy: decreased consumption of, more sustainable forms, infrastructure to support, extending it to areas where it isn’t
  • information technology: better use of it, security and privacy, hardware to support it, electricity to power it, better and faster dissemination of the information to the masses, wired and wireless forms

That’s a lot to take in, and that’s only 130 words.  If I sat down and thought more about it, I could come up with more extensions of these topics, as I’m sure you could.  And that’s just those topics, let alone the other content!  And I may not even be 100 percent correct with my thoughts.  But that’s not the real focus of the above bullets.  The focus is: how are those linked?  I’ve come up with one example.  Before any of you post a comment saying ‘what about the…’, note that this is just a scenario for a thought exercise – note that I didn’t attach any values or metrics to this for that very reason.

  • The push for electronic health care records could drive down the necessity for paper and paper-related goods in the health-care industry.  This would increase the need for information technology spending, in the form of infrastructure and software.  This could lead to an increased use of energy (namely, electricity), possibly prompting more sustainable sources to be sought.  However, this increased use in energy could be offset by the reduced energy spent converting the trees to pulp to paper that were previously needed for paper-related goods.  And the acreage needed for the number of trees could be greater than that of a data center (as a net benefit to the environment) to support electronic health records.

Of course, some of those assumptions could be reversed, and the net effect may be the opposite of my supposition.  Regardless, one can connect these four seemingly disparate areas of spending in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and establish links from one societal/commercial impact to another.

Linking Disparate Pieces

A savvy manager of technology-intensive enterprises needs to see those linkages ahead of time.  That manager should pick a location (better yet, multiple locations) in the value network to derive the most benefit and start to determine the key influencers.  ‘Benefit’ could be monetary, social, both, or other.  For example, maybe the first value network location in the healthcare record example is that of a software provider.  What needs to be acted upon now to start deriving benefit when this aid becomes available?  Perhaps there’s a bit less money (assuming that’s the benefit sought) to be had in the software arena for healthcare records, but the money is accessible sooner, than say the hardware portion.

The manager will need to understand what s/he needs to know, who and how to hire for what s/he doesn’t know, and find ways to shape and/or enact that public policy.  Note that there are provisions for when this money needs to be spent, and time is short so action needs to be swift.  A savvy manager also needs to recognize that lobbyists will play a key role in all of this, since the money is being released at the federal level to the states; from there, it is disbursed to companies and organizations (as I understand it; my civics are a bit weak).  Lobbyists will play a key role in understanding and influencing that fund channeling.  Lastly, a tech-savvy manager needs to understand The Act in a broader context to know where to look for other value opportunities – indentifying and creating a secondary set of linkages.

The takeaway here is that this Act is daunting in its breadth and depth.  But there are many gems inside, and knowing how to create these linkages will permit existing companies to prosper in these challenging times.  In addition, this could permit a new industry to form from all of this (maybe it already exists, and I need to brush up my resume):  managers who can see these linkages across the broader context, pairing with lobbyists at the federal and state level, and teaming up with permitting agencies to rapidly package and get approved the required information to access this funding.

Can you think of other examples that link these four areas together in a cohesive and plausible manner?  Either in the health care record example I have above, something else?  If so, please share them below in the comments.