Your tax dollars at work – the 7,321,886th US patent

February 22, 2008

http://techdirt.com/articles/20080213/175906.shtml

Techdirt calls this “Top Accenture Scientist Patents Offshoring US Jobs”

The remarkable and priceless innovation being protected by our wonderful system of patents:

Patent # 7,321,886:

Rapid knowledge transfer among workers

Abstract A system and method enable rapid knowledge transfer, for example between a plurality of experts and a plurality of apprentices located remotely from the experts. The system makes use of unique tools to facilitate transfer of knowledge and collaboration between individuals, even among remotely located individuals. An input to the system is a Knowledge Transfer Plan which has been designed to orchestrate the knowledge transfer. The knowledge transfer system integrates a shared repository and collaboration tools for use by the expert and apprentice. The collaboration tools may be accessed through role-specific portals which are automatically created from the Knowledge Transfer Plan. In one embodiment, the system is configured with a World Wide Web-based interface and an integrated suite of tools to support knowledge transfer activities on a global basis to facilitate knowledge transfer among workers engaged in an outsourcing business process The present invention relates generally to systems for sharing knowledge among individuals. More particularly, the present invention relates to a system and method for rapid knowledge transfer among workers. One application is a system for transferring knowledge in the context of outsourcing job functions of workers.Outsourcing a job function or other responsibility generally involves assigning the responsibility of one or more employees of a client organization to one or more consultants of an outsourcing agency. After a transition period during which job specific knowledge is conveyed from expert employees of the client organization to one or more consultant apprentices of the outsourcing agency, the consultants assume full time responsibility for fulfillment of the outsourced responsibility.

In general, there are three kinds of outsourcing. A first kind is business process outsourcing, in which an entire business or departmental function of the client is assigned to the outsourcing agency. An example is processing of claims such as insurance claims. A second kind of outsourcing is applications management, in which all or part of an automated function of the client, such as a billing system, is transferred to the outsourcing agency. A third kind is customer service relation management, in which consultants of the outsourcing agency handle interactions with customers of the client. Ideally, the outsourcing is completely transparent to the customers, who are not aware they are interacting with consultants of the outsourcing agency.

>> really?

A primary reason for outsourcing is cost savings for the client organization. This is achieved through consolidation, process transformation and job migration. By consolidating a job function for many clients in a group of outsourcing consultants, the outsourcing agency achieves economies of scale unavailable to individual clients. By transforming a business process through new technologies, standardization and other proprietary skills, an outsourcing agency can make the process more efficient and less expensive. Finally, the outsourcing agency may migrate some or all of the job functions to offshore locations such as India, the Philippines, China, etc., where labor is less expensive. Through such means, the outsourcing agency can reduce the overall cost of operating a business function and pass on some of the cost savings to the client.

>> What about Russia and Eastern Europe? Asian bias

The outsourcing process between the client organization and the outsourcing agency is referred to as an outsourcing engagement. From the perspective of the outsourcing agency, an outsourcing engagement has several phases. An initial process is business development, in which the outsourcing agency markets its capabilities to potential clients and develops an outsourcing agreement. A second process is transition planning, during which the client and the outsourcing agency establish the cost of making the transition. Costs include the labor costs, such as severance, hiring and relocating, and cost of tools necessary to the engagement, such as hardware and software. A third process is knowledge transfer, during with the consultant apprentices of the outsourcing agency develop the expertise of the expert employees of the client organization. A fourth process is job transition, during which the consultant apprentice takes over from the expert employee as the actual individual doing the work. Subsequently the outsourcing engagement is in steady state, with the consultants assuming full time responsibility for fulfillment of the outsourced responsibility.

The present invention deals primarily with the third phase of the outsourcing engagement–knowledge transfer between expert employees of the client and the apprentice employees of the outsourcing agency who will eventually take over the outsourced job function. The knowledge transfer phase has heretofore required extensive personal interaction between an employee expert and an assigned consultant apprentice. A process of job shadowing has been used, in which the apprentice learns the necessary knowledge directly from the expert by watching and listening and gradually performing individual job tasks under expert supervision. On a task-by-task basis, the expert certifies the apprentice as being competent to perform the task.

This level of personal interaction has proved to be very costly. The apprentices must travel to the client site, often over great distances at great expense. The apprentices must be temporarily relocated to the client site so that they can learn first hand from the experts. A typical engagement transition can extend over several months, and may involve dozens or hundreds of individuals who must be housed and fed. Since many outsourcing engagements are to offshore outsourcing agencies, apprentices need visas to travel to the client site, a need that increases administrative costs as well as opportunity costs created by visa delays. If some apprentices do not travel to the client site, real time interaction with experts from a remote location may be difficult because of the time differences between the client and outsourcing agency sites.

>> Even serfs, slaves and prisoners have to be housed and fed.

The outsourcing process for an enterprise of any size or complexity further involves transfer of job-related knowledge and experience from a very large number of experts to as many or more apprentices. Each expert, in turn, may perform a large number of tasks which need to be identified and classified and learned by the associated apprentice(s). Moreover, many experts may interact with an application, such as a software package or a tool or other equipment. The job-related tasks for the application must be identified, classified and taught to the apprentices. An automated process suitable for accomplishing these goals would require many man-hours to program for each engagement. Such programming requires suitably-skilled programmers able to turn process inputs and goals into operational software code for an engagement. This programming adds to the cost and time required for an outsourcing operation.

>> This is what Mechanical Turk is for?

Since the outsourcing process is motivated by cost savings, these added costs reduce the feasibility of outsourcing. Accordingly, there is a need for an improved system and method for rapid knowledge transfer among workers, particularly in the outsourcing context.

>> I thought it was all about the quality!

BRIEF SUMMARY

By way of introduction only, the embodiments disclosed herein provide an improved system and method for rapid knowledge transfer, for example between a group of experts and their apprentices. The system makes use of unique tools to facilitate transfer of knowledge and collaboration of individuals, even among remotely located individuals. An input to the system is a Knowledge Transfer Plan (KTP) which has been designed to orchestrate the knowledge transfer process. The knowledge transfer system integrates a shared repository and collaboration tools for use by the experts and their apprentices. Based on the KTP (provided as input), the system creates a role-specific “portal” for each individual involved in the knowledge transfer process (experts, apprentices and management personnel). The portal provides a unified interface to all resources (knowledge and collaboration tools) that that individual needs in performing his or her role in the knowledge transfer process. In one embodiment, the system is configured with a World Wide Web-based interface and an integrated suite of tools to support knowledge transfer activities on a global basis. 

What does Accenture plan to do with people who do ‘rapid knowledge transfer’ (using Sharepoint and ASP.NET) to offshore staff? Now does this mean that everyone else will have to train offshore people face to face and burn up cash, or can they just use Java to write their own KTP?

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