Employment in the Digital Revolution

Data management systems are one of the most exciting results to come out of the digital revolution. They automate and simplify repetitive administrative tasks, freeing up personnel to focus on business development and client relations. Previous "revolutions" - industrial and electric most recently, and agricultural before them - had the unfortunate side-effects of making the jobs of tens of thousands of unskilled laborers obsolete and decreasing the number of workers required to complete a given task. Happily, we have not seen a similar trend today in the deployment of data management systems.

There is no vast underclass of ashen-faced, tenement-dwelling HTML coders who would be put out of a job by WordPress! Instead, what we find is that our client organizations typically assign website management to a mid-level professional whose interests and skills lie elsewhere: marketing, sales, administration, but seldom communications or IT.

One of our greatest professional joys is hearing back from a client that the data management system we've implemented for them has allowed them to do their own job and stop monkeying around their website for hours on end trying to get a photo of their product to align properly. By implementing a data management system, an organization is able to centralize and standardize its information, safeguard its institutional memory, and present itself to the world with a consistent voice. But just as importantly, the former part-time webmaster is able to re-apportion five, ten, or even twenty hours a week away from the website to his or her primary responsibilities.

Let's do the math. A company manager spends five hours per week updating, fixing, and fretting about the website. Every six months, something goes really wrong (the website gets hacked, the hosting company mysteriously closes shop, the code stops working) and the poor manager has to dedicate an entire week to cleaning things up. Allow for three weeks' vacation and that's 315 hours spent doing things that the manager isn't supposed to be doing! He spent over 300 hours that could have been billable or dedicated to finding new clients. At $75/hour, the company has wasted $23,625 and has gained no new ground.

Recent web technologies are breaking down the barriers to entry. Completely non-technical people can manage web content with ease. WordPress allows a novice to set up a blog in mere minutes, while providing a rich set of customization tools for the advanced user. Drupal does a lot of heavy-lifting to support larger, more complex organizational websites. The system that powers our own website and eighteen others, Mimik IMS, can be tailored to manage multiple sets of multiple types of interrelated data. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of organizations have saved millions of hours by simplifying web management without the layoffs and skill-obsolescence of previous generations.

That's a great way to run a revolution.