Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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4/10/2007
05:34 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Weighing In On Wal-Mart's Fluid Scheduling

I'm in desperate need of some self-image enhancement therapy after reading some of the feedback from last week's piece about Wal-Mart and its implementation of workforce-scheduling software and my assertion that while some employees will have to adapt to new work schedules that can be fluid or even unpredictable, it's nevertheless an excellent business move by Wal-Mart because it will lead to greater customer valu

I'm in desperate need of some self-image enhancement therapy after reading some of the feedback from last week's piece about Wal-Mart and its implementation of workforce-scheduling software and my assertion that while some employees will have to adapt to new work schedules that can be fluid or even unpredictable, it's nevertheless an excellent business move by Wal-Mart because it will lead to greater customer value by pegging workforce deployment to store traffic.One of the most thoughtful pieces of feedback came from Jay Avitable, a CTO at a financial services company. He extended the discussion way past Wal-Mart and whether it is abusing employees and destroying the social fabric in this country and should be brought under the heel of, oh, maybe Human Rights Watch.

The CTO suggested that what's at play here is an ongoing but quite revolutionary upheaval in the fundamental relationship between employer and employee, and he broke out his theory into one of three classes of worker:

"One thing that interests me is the way advancing technology has made the most fundamental aspects of the relationship between 'employer' and 'employee' subject to change. When I first started taking on management responsibilities within the IT department of the financial services company for which I work, the 'worker' model was simple. I had a staff (quite large by today's standards) of software developers, network administrators, and hardware maintainers and fixers.

They were all employees in the traditional sense, mostly salaried, some paid hourly, all with fairly predictable schedules. Fast forward a few decades, and things are quite different. I now seem to pay for three classes of 'workers.' One is very much a 'pay as you go' model.

Specifically, outsourcing and off-shoring specific development projects, where 'pay' is very precisely distributed for work very precisely performed.

The next is the 'nonworker,' that is to say, ASP or SaaS solutions. An increasing amount of the budget is to pay for contracts for services, which ultimately winds up being pay to another company's employees.

The third is a seemingly more traditional 'employer and employee' relationship, but perhaps not. These are the several key employees, salaried, who are in our employ due to their advanced technical skills, their demonstrated ability to craft solutions to complex problems, and their proven track record in managing crises. They represent a 'brain trust' of sorts, paid more for their potential than for their minute-by-minute tangible contributions.

While that was a long-winded statement, my point and question is whether or not we are headed toward an economy where a much larger fraction of the workforce (not just IT and knowledge workers) may be subject to the kind of radical change that I have experienced in my little (IT and software) world over the last 25 years?"

Do you see this same type of stratification emerging? If so, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

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