Friday, August 31, 2007

Global Talent to Develop the Smart Grid

en español más abajo

At I.B.M., a Smarter Way to Outsource
New York Times. July 5, 2007
By Steve Lohr

Jeffrey Taft is a road warrior in the global high-technology services economy, and his work shows why there are limits to the number of skilled jobs that can be shipped abroad in the Internet age.
Each Monday, Mr. Taft awakes before dawn at his home in Canonsburg, Pa., heads for the Pittsburgh airport and flies to Houston for the week.
He is one of dozens of I.B.M. services employees from around the country who are working with a Texas utility, CenterPoint Energy, to install computerized electric meters, sensors and software in a “smart grid” project to improve service and conserve energy.
Mr. Taft, 51, is an engineer fluent in programming languages and experienced in the utility business. Much of his work, he says, involves being a translator between the different vernaculars and cultures of computing and electric power, as he oversees the design and building of software tailored for utilities. “It takes a tremendous amount of face-to-face work,” he said.
What he does, in short, cannot be done overseas. But some of the programming work can be, so I.B.M. employees in India are also on the utility project team.
The trick for companies like I.B.M. is to figure out what work to do where, and, more important, to keep bringing in the kind of higher-end work that needs to be done in this country, competing on the basis of specialized expertise and not on price alone.
The debate continues over how much skilled work in the vast service sector of the American economy can migrate offshore to lower-cost nations like India. Estimates of the number of services jobs potentially at risk, by economists and research organizations, range widely from a few million to more than 40 million, which is about a third of total employment in services.
Jobs in technology services may be particularly vulnerable because computer programming can be described in math-based rules that are then sent over the Internet to anywhere there are skilled workers. Already, a significant amount of basic computer programming work has gone offshore to fast-growing Indian outsourcing companies like Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services.
To compete, companies like I.B.M. have to move up the economic ladder to do more complicated work, as do entire Western economies and individual workers. “Once you start moving up the occupational chains, the work is not as rules-based,” said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “People are doing more custom work that varies case by case.”
In the field of technology services, Mr. Levy said, the essential skill is “often a lot more about business knowledge than it is about software technology — and it’s a lot harder to ship that kind of work overseas.”
The offshore specialists in India are learning that lesson. As they increasingly compete for higher-end work, the Indian companies are hiring thousands of workers this year in the United States, adding an odd twist to the offshoring trend. Tata alone plans to recruit 1,000 workers in America, said Surya Kant, president of the company’s American unit, for “the near-shore work that requires regular contact with clients in person.”
For I.B.M., the world’s largest supplier of technology services, moving up to more sophisticated work is not the only step in its strategy to address the rising global competition. Labor represents 70 to 80 percent of the cost in traditional technology service contracts, and the traditional work of maintaining and updating software and data centers for corporate customers is still a large part of I.B.M.’s services business.
So I.B.M. has moved aggressively to tap the global labor pool, and it is increasingly using software to automate as much traditional services work as possible. Today, I.B.M. employs 53,000 people in India, up from 3,000 in 2002; in India, the salaries for computer programmers are still about a third of those in the United States. Over the same span, the company’s work force in the United States declined slightly, to 127,000 at the end of last year.
I.B.M. is also one of the world’s largest software companies. And its software development work, bolstered by dozens of acquisitions in the last few years, is more and more being done with an eye for use in its services business — to substitute software automation for labor. Smarter, more customized software can automatically handle some programming chores. I.B.M. employs 200,000 people worldwide in its services business, and if growth means constantly having to add more people, the business is in trouble.
“We couldn’t keep building out labor,” Samuel J. Palmisano, the chief executive, said. “The long-term strategic answer was not to have a half a million people working for I.B.M.”
Today, the company’s global work force is organized in clusters of business expertise and connected by high-speed communications links. Project managers can search worldwide for the right people with the right skills for a job. One tool is Professional Marketplace, a Web-based database of people and expertise.
The idea is to build networks for producing and delivering technology services much like the global manufacturing networks that have evolved over the last couple of decades. Look inside a computer or automobile and the parts come from all over the world. High-end technology services projects increasingly will follow that formula, combining skills from across the globe and delivered on-site or remotely over the Internet.
Over the years, I.B.M. has been challenged by disruptive waves of technology, from the minicomputer to the Internet. Mr. Palmisano sees the globalization of services as the next big shift in the business landscape, and I.B.M. is moving to adapt. “We’re reinventing I.B.M. once again,” he said. “We’re reinventing it by moving up to the higher-value portions of our industry and creating this globally integrated enterprise.”
The utility project I.B.M. is doing in Texas offers a glimpse of the global formula. The far-flung work team includes research scientists in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and Austin, Tex.; software developers in Pune and Bangalore, India; engineering equipment and quality-control specialists in Miami and New York; and utility experts and software designers like Mr. Taft that have come from Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and elsewhere.
I.B.M. plans to use the skills learned and software written for the smart-grid project in work with utility clients around the world. In the services field, these are deemed “reusable assets,” reducing costs in the future.
Ron Ambrosio, a senior I.B.M. researcher, has been down to Houston a few times, attaching sensors to power lines and collecting gigabytes of data on electricity flows. He and others at I.B.M. are studying how to predict and prevent power failures, optimize performance, reduce costs and conserve energy. “We’re looking at this as part of a worldwide opportunity,” he said.
Dennis Hendon, an account executive, and Rob Calvo, a senior services consultant, lead the I.B.M. team in Houston. Mr. Hendon is an engineer by training, while Mr. Calvo has a business degree, but their real skills lie in years of on-the-job training — what labor experts call “passive knowledge” and “complex communications,” observing, listening, coordinating, negotiating and persuading. The two men say they think of themselves as orchestra conductors, getting all the human parts working smoothly together, inside and outside I.B.M. “We aren’t mounting the poles, but our subcontractors are,” Mr. Hendon said.
CenterPoint considered trying to do the smart-grid project itself, but not for long, said Thomas Standish, a senior vice president. “We don’t begin to have the kind of Internet and technological sophistication we needed for this,” he said. CenterPoint talked to other large technology services companies, Mr. Standish said, but soon settled on I.B.M. as the one with the breadth of research, software and services capability needed for the ambitious project.
In Pune, Dheeraj Gupta, a 34-year-old software engineer, said it was I.B.M.’s breadth — and thus the range of opportunity for him — that prompted him to join the company in 2000. After earning a master’s degree at an elite technical institute in India, Mr. Gupta worked at four software and services companies in India before being recruited to I.B.M.
At I.B.M., Mr. Gupta began as a Java programmer, but later moved to higher-end work, personifying the strategy for success in the evolving global services economy.
Today, Mr. Gupta leads a team of four developers writing software for utilities like CenterPoint. “I’m a technical guy,” he said. “And now I’m moving higher up the ladder. I know various software technologies but now I’m gaining business and industry expertise as well.”

IBM launches grid coalition. IBM has begun a new coalition to accelerate the adoption of IBM's Intelligent Utility Network (IUN) software and services. The alliance will be a consortium of IBM customers and partners who will share lessons learned. Initial membership includes IBM along with CenterPoint Energy of Houston and Pepco Holdings of Washington, D.C. Centerpoint is currently working with IBM to implement IUN services such as remote connection and disconnection of service and automated meter reads for customers in the Greater Houston area.

Complementary Readings
In high-tech economy, some jobs cannot be outsourced International Herald Tribune. July 4, 2007

Exploration of Offshoring Issues Continue: Committee Looks at How Companies Choose Where to Locate Their R&D Facilities Press Release. Committee on Science and Technology. US House of Representatives. October 4, 2007

Other posts about Smart Grid in this blog
February 02, 2007
Profiling and Mapping Intelligent Grid R&D Programs
March 05, 2007
Distribution and Microgrids.
March 30, 2007
MicroGrid Control System Implemented in CHP Product
May 14, 2007
GridWise Architecture Council Offers Interoperability Checklist.
August 29, 2007
US Legislation on Smart Grids

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Talento Global para Desarrollar la Red Eléctrica Inteligente o "Smart Grid"

IBM se reinventa combinando talento del mundo entero
Suplemento en español del The New York Times de El País
Jueves 26 de Julio de 2007

Jeffrey Taft es 'un luchador errante en la economía global de los servicios de tecnología punta, y su trabajo demuestra por qué el número de puestos de trabajo altamente cualificados que pueden ser deslocalizados al extranjero en la era de Internet tiene un límite.
Cada lunes, Taft se despierta antes del amanecer en su casa de Canonsburg, Pensilvania, se dirige al aeropuerto de Pittsburgh y vuela a Houston para pasar allí la semana. Forma parte de las docenas de empleados de servicios de IBM de todo Estados Unidos que trabajan con una empresa de servicios públicos de Texas, CenterPoint Energy, para instalar contadores eléctricos informatizados, sensores y software en un proyecto de "red inteligente" diseñado para mejorar el servicio y ahorrar energía.
Taft, de 51 años, es un ingeniero que domina los lenguajes de programación y que tiene experiencia en el sector de las empresas de servicios públicos. Explica que gran parte de su trabajo consiste en hacer de traductor entre los distintos idiomas y culturas de la informática y la generación de electricidad, al supervisar el diseño y la instalación de software hecho a medida para las empresas de servicios públicos.
"Requiere una cantidad tremenda de trabajo cara a cara", dice.
En resumen, lo que hace no puede hacerse en el extranjero. Pero parte de las labores de programación sí pueden hacerse fuera, por lo que los empleados de IBM en India también forman parte del equipo que trabaja en el proyecto de las empresas de servicios públicos.
El truco para las empresas multinacionales como IBM consiste en dilucidar qué trabajo hacer y dónde y, lo que es más importante, seguir manteniendo el tipo de trabajo más especializado que requiere aptitudes especiales y que tiene que ser realizado en EE UU, compitiendo sobre la base de los conocimientos especializados, y no únicamente en precio.
Sigue abierto el debate sobre cuánto trabajo cualificado en el extenso sector de servicios de la economíaestadounid,ense puede ser exportado a países con costes menores como India.
Una cantidad considerable de trabajo de programación básica ya ha ido a parar a empresas indias de subcontratación. Para competir, las empresas como IBM deben pasarse a trabajos mejor remunerados por realizar tareas más complejas, al igual que las economías occidentales en su conjunto y los trabajadores individuales. "Una vez que uno empieza a ascender por la cadena ocupacional, el trabajo deja de basarse tanto en las reglas", afirma Frank Levy, economista laboral del Massachussetts Institute of Technology.
En el campo de los servicios tecnológicos, aclara Levy, la aptitud fundamental "a menudo tiene más que ver con el conocimiento empresarial que con la tecnología del software, y resulta mucho más complicado enviar esa clase de labores al extranjero".
Es una lección que están aprendiendo los especialistas en India. A medida que compiten por los trabajos más especializados, las empresas indias están contratando este año a miles de trabajadores en EE UU, dándole un curioso giro a la tendencia a la des localización.
Para IBM, el mayor proveedor mundial de servicios tecnológicos, el pasar a labores más complejas no es el único paso en su estrategia para enfrentarse a la creciente competencia mundial. La mano de obra representa entre el 70% y el 80% del coste de los contratos tradicionales de servicios tecnológicos, y el trabajo rutinario de mantenimiento y actualización del software y de los centros de datos para sus clientes corporativos sigue siendo una parte importante del negocio de servicios de IBM.
Por eso IBM se ha movido agresivamente para explotar la reserva de mano de obra mundial, y cada vez ,usa más software para automatizar en la medida de lo posible las labores de servicios tradicionales. En la actualidad emplea a 53.000 personas en India, en comparación con las 3.000 que empleaba en 2002.
En Pune, India, Dheeraj Gupta, un ingeniero informático de 34 años, explica que fue la amplitud de IBM lo que le llevó a unirse a la empresa en 2000. Después de obtener un más ter en un instituto tecnológico de élite en India, Gupta trabajó en cuatro empresas de software y servicios en India antes de ser reclutado por IBM.
En la actualidad, Gupta lidera un equipo de cuatro desarrolladores que escriben software para empresas de servicios públicos como CenterPoint. "Soy un técnico", dice. "Y ahora estoy subiendo por el escalafón. Conozco diversas tecnologías de software pero ahora también estoy consiguiendo experiencia comercial e industrial".

IBM lanza la coalición de red. IBM ha creado una coalición para acelerar la adopción del software y los servicios de su concepto Intelligent Utility Network (IUN). La alianza será un consorcio de clientes y colaboradores de IBM para compartir conocimientos y experiencias. La primera aficiliación incluye a IBM y a CenterPoint Energy de Houston y Pepco Holdings de Washington, D.C. Centerpoint trabaja actualmente con IBM para implantar servicios IUN como la lectura automática de contadores y la conexion y desconexión remota del servicio a los clientes del área del Gran Houston.

Lecturas complementarias
In high-tech economy, some jobs cannot be outsourced International Herald Tribune. July 4, 2007

Exploration of Offshoring Issues Continue: Committee Looks at How Companies Choose Where to Locate Their R&D Facilities Press Release. Committee on Science and Technology. US House of Representatives. October 4, 2007

Otras entradas publicadas en este blog sobre Inteligencia de Red

2 de febrero, 2007
Profiling and Mapping Intelligent Grid R&D Programs Comparación de Diez Programas de Investigación y Desarrollo de la ·Red Eléctrica Inteligente”

5 de marzo, 2007
Distribution and Microgrids. Micro-redes de Distribución de Electricidad

30 de mazo, 2007
MicroGrid Control System Implemented in CHP Product

14 de mayo, 2007
GridWise Architecture Council Offers Interoperability Checklist. El Consejo de Arquitectura de GridWise Publica una Lista de Comprobación de Interoperabilidad

29 de Agosto, 2007
US Legislation on Smart Grids Legislación de los Estados Unidos sobre Inteligencia de Red
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