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IBM tries to come up with creative ways to help companies jump on the outsourcing train.

IBM has a new idea for business software, which it feels is unique enough that it deserves a patent.  The computer industry giant has filed application for a patent, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently mulling over.  IBM seeks to patent "Outsourcing of Services", which is briefly defined as a "method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organization". 

The patent application, which can be found here, is an attempt to patent the use of computer software to algorithmically analyze a workforce and the various workloads on a company and determine which parts should be cut and outsourced.

The patent application was filed July 12, 2007.

IBM is also seeking to patent a software system for "matching a knowledge worker" with a corporate entity via means including "experience levels, salary, geographic location, job starting date and duration, and industry sector".  The patent application can be viewed here.  The patent has a figure attached which demonstrates its software, which looks like a small calculator.  The figure shows an example of the device displaying the lower costs of dealing with IGSI (Indian) professionals.  IGSI stands for IBM Global Services, India.  The device also seems to be closely connected to outsourcing jobs, as its main purpose appears to be demonstrating to employers that labor can be found far cheaper in non-U.S. locations.

Finally, IBM has at least one more patent in the works.  They currently have an application for a patent for a "System and method of using speech recognition at call centers to improve their efficiency and customer satisfaction".  This application attempts to patent a system for accent reduction in international workers.  The patent's language clearly indicates that it is targeted for situations such as call centers, where a large number of non-native English speakers will be answering calls. 

The patent first propose to electronically transcribe and then provide a digital voice for the caller.  In order to do this IBM proposes using its text transcription system, IBM ViaScribe, developed for hearing-impaired individuals.  Finally, the patent also suggests the speaker take accent reduction classes, such as the programs which IBM offers.

Some may be troubled by the developments that IBM's patents are contributing to the trend of outsourcing technology jobs outside the U.S.  They should not be surprised, however, with the overly broad scope of the applications or of the fact that the applications appear to be for existing or common sense practices. 

There is a long history of tech patents with overly broad language.  There have also been many patents which attempted to patent a well-defined existing technology that already had become common-place in an industry, which the applier was not necessarily the first to develop.  A famous example is Microsoft's 2004 successful attempt to patent the "double-click" (note--their patent only applied to PowerPCs).



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RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/1/2007 8:12:21 PM , Rating: 3
You mean, the CEO's that shareholders bid on to attract top talent in full knowledge of the price tag?

If you want to see how to quickly destroy a well-oiled corporate machine, go ahead, hire a run of the mill Chinese and pay him 100k. He might be well intentioned, but there's a reason firms are willing to pay someone like Jack Welch stupendous amounts of money. They create value. Cherry picking the 1% who end up as bad apples isn't fair; why pay McDonalds employees as much as we do when (really more than) 1% still screw up my burger? Oh, that's somehow different? Can't treat two groups of humans equal?

Nevermind the moral issue that what owners decide to do with pay is none of our business -- unless we, too, are part owners.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By sinful on 10/1/2007 10:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
If you want to see how to quickly destroy a well oiled corporate machine, go ahead, hire a run of the mill Chinese [INSERT JOB NAME HERE] and pay him 10% of the normal salary.

So basically you believe that there won't be a problem if said underpaid person is merely building an airplane, designing your computer, or doing something like that... but somehow a CEO is off limits?

When you break it down, employees are just mini versions of CEO's - unless the job is so menial that no intelligent thought is required -- at some point the underlings are making decisions.

CEO's have the most noticable effects, but are they doing the R&D? Nope. The development? Nope. Selling the product? Nope. CEO's choose the overall direction of the company, but it's everyone else that keeps the machine running. "Let's build a hydrogen powered car" might be the direction the CEO wants, but it's the employees that implement, excute, and sell said direction.

In other words, employees create value.

In that regard, CEO's are just like everybody else -- Like you said: "Can't treat two groups of humans equal?"


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/2/2007 12:03:11 AM , Rating: 2
You're driving the argument in to whole other realms. I was defending a private group of owners ability to hire or fire who they please.

The can of worms you open is comparative and absolute advantages of Chinese, Indian and American workers. American's above all others have an uncanny knack (do college keggers somehow contribute to this?) for management and human resources. We understand capitalism and how to deal with people in a free and open way from a young age. We're culturally uninhibited -- compared to Asian cultures. It's a cultural advantage, I suppose; it also helps our universities are the best in the world.

So yes, swapping CEO's could be a disaster, but no, moving engineering jobs may not necessarily be.

You're also giving a CEO way too little credit for a job that often requires more dedication and time than I would dare say 99% of the population would tolerate, all willingly. They absolutely are responsible for creating value. How big of a company or team do you work in? Hopefully you've seen and understand that while yes, pawns do the heavy lifting, different management can take similar resources and produce astoundingly different results.

Again, HR's not my thing, I prefer macroecon, but some of this is simple. You sound like a UAW rep :P You're also not qouting a single bit of economic principle to back any of it up.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By sinful on 10/3/2007 2:02:42 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
American's above all others have an uncanny knack (do college keggers somehow contribute to this?) for management and human resources........So yes, swapping CEO's could be a disaster, but no, moving engineering jobs may not necessarily be.


First of all, I'm not saying "swapping engineers will result in failure 100% of the time".
What I'm saying is that while CEO's are important, a lot of jobs are under-rated in value in comparison to the CEO.

Second, do you honestly believe that Americans comparative advantage ONLY applies to management & HR, and not other fields??
I think that's a pretty silly statement.

quote:
You're also giving a CEO way too little credit...

No, I'm giving proper credit, you're just giving too much.

Let's put it this way: If we win/lose the war in Iraq, is it President Bush's credit/fault? He's essentially the "CEO" of the army. Or are you going to go "Ok, well he controls the overall direction, but for a lot of things he relies on his subordinates, and thus success/failure cannot be solely pinned to him?

Like I said, I recognize the importance of the CEO, but I'm also not such a fool that I believe a CEO of a company full of dull-wits is the same as a company with a company full of sharp witted people.

quote:
You're also not qouting a single bit of economic principle to back any of it up.

Have you ever heard the saying:
"For want of a nail the shoe was lost..."?

Sometimes, it's the small details that make the difference.
If your theories do not incorporate common sense, maybe you'll discover why they're still theories.
;)

quote:

Hopefully you've seen and understand that while yes, pawns do the heavy lifting, different management can take similar resources and produce astoundingly different results.

Yes, and I've also seen where pawns doing the heavy lifting have made a big difference, and success cascaded from there.

For instance, I know of someone that made slightly more than minimum wage. They saw a problem in their company, devised a solution, and sent it along to management. Managment liked the idea, and implemented it. In the end, it saved the company $50,000-$100,000/year.

Ok, small potatoes for a major company; but then, the story goes on. In some part because of this (not the sole factor, but a contributing one), the company's costs to its clients were less than their competitors -- which weren't implementing this solution.
When the company landed a multi-million dollar contract, it turns out that one of the big factors in landing that contract was that the company's costs were lower than its competitors.

Now, you can say that it's not a direct cause-effect relationship; you can say that it might have only been a contributing factor; but it's hard to deny that one minimum wage employee made a major difference, and (may) have ultimately generated millions of dollars worth of business.

To put it bluntly: Yes, employees might only make a 10% difference in a company, but then again in a cut-throat industry, an advantage of 10% can mean the difference between success and failure.

Second, imagine what would happen if this one company had 10 employees like this. You're talking about millions of dollars/year.

quote:
You sound like a UAW rep :P

And you sound like a self-absorbed manager that can't get over the idea that managers aren't the center of the universe.
:P


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Kenenniah on 10/2/2007 10:55:54 AM , Rating: 2
If an engineer makes a big mistake, it will hopefully get caught by quality control or testing before a product is released. If not, a faulty product might get released, causing a recall, warranty repair work, or some loss of consumer confidence. Costly? Very possibly. Cause severe damage to the company as a whole? Possible but not likely. Completely destroy the company? Extremely unlikely.

A CEO makes a big mistake. Leading the company completely in the wrong direction, making horrible investments, or a long list of many type of big mistakes. Costly? Always. Cause severe damage to the company as a whole? Pretty damn likely. Completely destroy the company? Entirely plausible.

The difference in resonsibility is huge. Most outsourced employees total possible effect on the company is pretty limited, so while there may be a risk it's more calculated. A CEO on the other hand? It's far far more likely for a CEO's bad decision to cause a company to go under, and to cause possibly thousands of people to lose their jobs, than a bad decision made by the underpaid person "designing my computer".


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By sinful on 10/3/2007 12:25:55 AM , Rating: 2
You're exactly right; but my point (perhaps not fully expressed as such) is that the employees are just MINI -versions of the CEO.

If a company consistently puts out bad prodcuts, recalled products, loses consumer confidence year after year, etc, yes, it's not going to implode overnight, like if the CEO made a giagantic blunder... but eventually, the company is going to fall apart.

To make a bad analogy: a death by 1000 cuts, instead of a death by 1 deep cut, is still a death.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By TheGreek on 10/3/2007 9:49:56 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A CEO makes a big mistake. Leading the company completely in the wrong direction, making horrible investments, or a long list of many type of big mistakes. Costly? Always. Cause severe damage to the company as a whole? Pretty damn likely. Completely destroy the company? Entirely plausible.

The difference in resonsibility is huge.

Sure is, he gets a nice golden parachute, makes out like a bandit no matter how bad he screws up. It's like top level boxing. Ever notice how much the loser gets? There are no losers in that match.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By rdeegvainl on 10/2/2007 8:44:59 AM , Rating: 2
actually is is completely our business, since the money they get is money from the consumers,as potential consumers, we do have a right to know how the company is run, and make decisions based on that. not arguing either side of the issue but that is the way i see it.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Ringold on 10/2/2007 1:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
So if a girl sells you a cup of lemonade on the street corner, you suddenly have a right to know her personal financial situation, possibly that of the "parent company" (parents) as well, along with the manner in which she operates her life?

Absolutely not, not unless you're a business partner (which is what a shareholder is). The logic is identical; just applied in a way you may not like, but identical none the less. Gravity applies in situations we dont find convenient; so do economic principles. Where do people get the idea that buying something from somebody by an act of free will suddenly gives them ownership of something other than the product?


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Kuroyama on 10/2/2007 1:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
I hate to agree with Ringold, but only the shareholders have a right to decide management and CEO pay. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors is largely self-appointed and shareholders have little real influence in corporate decision making processes.


RE: All IBM has to do ....
By Kuroyama on 10/2/2007 1:16:24 PM , Rating: 2
CEO pay structure and hiring issues are often quite opaque. Moreover, in most companies there is no real means to vote against a candidate for Board of Directors, as generally a single share voting in favor of the candidate is sufficient to give them the job. US corporate structure is far from being in the best interests of the owners (read stockholders) of the companies.

The CEO as overpaid employee part was meant to be serious, but obviously the outsourcing bit was in jest, as no one would seriously propose outsourcing the CEO's job to China.


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