How agile project management can benefit any organization

Agile project management is a methodology born from the software industry as a fast and flexible method of development. Agile is characterized by a series of short, iterative and continuous improvements in a process or systems. It’s enjoyed adoption in an array of industries as  organizations can innovate, manage, design and build new products or services.

“This way of thinking about projects and work is inclusive, focusing on the input of individuals, teams and customers to get constant feedback as projects are developed,” says Samantha Kaplan, Director of Quality & Continuous Improvement – Client Solutions and Program Management at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “That means quicker reactions to change and faster delivery to customers. It’s modernizing project management to focus on the right things at the right time. There is an increased emphasis on efficiency, waste elimination, and a focus on the end users.”

Smart Business spoke with Kaplan about agile project management — what it is and how it helps organizations improve product and service development.

How does agile project management work?

Agile’s emphasis is on collaborative teams, which work on a project or initiative. Directives aren’t pushed from the top down in agile. Rather, teams work to iterate, relying heavily on individual feedback. There’s also an emphasis on cross functionality and stakeholder involvement, especially customers, which requires a sensitivity to feedback and rapid change. 

This type of project management is common in the tech industry where it was born, but today it’s being used in education, construction, government, insurance, financial and professional services. 

How is agile project management deployed at an organization?

To deploy agile project management, an organization has to be ready for change. The methodology represents a significant change in how an organization works and thinks, how projects are delivered and how an organization does business. Whether or not an organization is ready for change can be measured through a readiness assessment. The readiness assessment can give an organization a sense of the time and effort agile implementation could take, processes that may need to be in place, the resources and skill sets needed and the metrics to determine progress.

Deployment is usually done first through a single agile team that will eventually develop agile standards and templates, and introduce the methodology to subsequent teams throughout the organization. Its success requires the right composition, enough training so the pilot team understands the new process and leadership sponsorship.

Leadership must ensure the agile way of thinking becomes part of the culture. It also needs to be there to break early teams through road blocks, which means being supportive and ensuring regular communication. 

What improvements should organizations expect after deploying agile?

With agile project management fully and successfully deployed, organizations can expect greater focus on customer needs and wants, which equates to a rise in customer satisfaction. Organizations post-agile tend to experience an increase in sales and revenue while also reducing waste. They’ll see an improvement in collaboration, organizational flexibility and adaptation to change, as well as more innovation. They can also expect improved morale, productivity and better quality products.

Team communication will improve, as does collaboration. Teams address defects sooner and have fewer project overruns. Risk might increase slightly with the faster pace, but the organization is better equipped to identify, deal with and mitigate those risks. The increased flexibility means teams can manage and change priorities more fluidly. 

Organizations of all types are beginning to understand what it takes to keep pace in today’s economy, and that’s leading to a broad adoption of agile project management. Community colleges can be a resource for agile project management training and implementation. Whether the organization is new to the methodology or would like to see deeper adoption, community colleges can help with the instruction or certifications needed for agile initiatives to succeed.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Consider an apprenticeship program to fill your talent pipeline

Apprenticeships are getting another look because of the substantial gap between the training and education America’s college graduates receive and the market demands for skilled labor. 

“There’s a resurgence in their use, largely because of support from governors, state legislators, and higher education leaders who see the success of apprenticeships in preparing students to join the workforce and contribute to the economy,” says Starr Sherman, manager of Cuyahoga Community College’s Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. 

President Barack Obama made apprenticeships a priority, directing millions of dollars to support the programs, and President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase the federal funding that currently supports the Apprenticeship Ohio initiative grant.

Smart Business spoke with Sherman about apprenticeships and how they benefit employers and employees alike.

What do apprenticeships offer that other training programs might not?

Apprenticeships offer students an alternative pathway to college for those seeking to avoid expensive tuition and loans. Apprentices who complete their programs secure employment at high rates and regularly earn family-sustaining wages.

The programs also offer employers opportunities to curate their own talent pipeline and customize training to their specific needs so future employees know their equipment and processes. And the earn-while-you-learn component keeps students engaged throughout the process to earn a state registered journeyman certification for national recognition as an expert in their industry.

Additionally, apprenticeships are gaining traction outside of the manufacturing and construction industries. Today, apprenticeships are being used successfully in IT and health care, and are getting interest from other industries as well. 

What should companies understand about these programs before starting one?

Apprenticeships are a commitment among an employer, the apprentice and the authorized training provider — they’re relationships that usually carry on for four years. Further, apprenticeships require each employer to give their apprentice a broad exposure to the demands of the industry, offering a designated number of on-the-job training hours completing various tasks under the supervision of a certified journeyman to meet state requirements, all while meticulously tracking their professional progress. 

Employers should also understand that as apprentices progress in their training and skills, they should also receive incremental pay increases. Once they receive their journeyman certification, if they are not receiving industry-standard pay, the company may lose them to other eager employers offering higher wages. 

How can area colleges help?

Employers and colleges benefit from forming complementary relationships around apprenticeship training and upcoming industry trends. Through these arrangements, employers provide the on-the-job training, while colleges provide the related technical instruction (RTI) or education. State-approved colleges can both provide the required RTI and sponsor apprentices. Colleges approved by the state to sponsor apprentices also manage the administrative aspect of the program, including tracking and maintaining all of the paperwork so employers can focus on running their businesses. Additionally, colleges that participate in federally funded programs such as Apprenticeship Ohio receive Department of Labor grant funding that offers up to $2,500 to offset the cost of a student’s first year in the apprenticeship, saving employers the cost of the first year of training. 

When choosing a college to partner with on an apprenticeship program, look for an institution with a reputation for apprenticeships — an institution that has managed the paperwork and has had success with grant awards.

Apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to invest in the next-generation workforce. It’s a chance to train potential employees on specific equipment and fill the talent pipeline to stay competitive.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How small businesses can create successful growth opportunities

Growth is always a part of a company’s strategic plan. From its earliest stages, companies are working to win new business, create innovative products and services, and establish a presence in new markets. However, growth tends to stall once companies reach the maturity stage. 

“Growth plateaus in mature companies typically because they’re not as focused on innovating their products or services as they had been at the start,” says Patrice Blakemore, interim executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. “Instead, their attention is more on the delivery of existing products and services — both of which are already proven and established in the markets they serve.”

Smart Business spoke with Blakemore about growth in later-stage companies — why it can stagnate and how businesses can jumpstart it again.

What are some of the more common reasons that growth in mature businesses stalls?

Companies at the maturation stage stall when the focus shifts from strategic initiatives, such as expansion and innovation, to technical initiatives, such as day-to-day operations. That happens a lot when business owners fail to delegate to employees aspects of the operation, e.g. order fulfillment and customer service. Business owners become tangled in the weeds, which prevents them from establishing a long-term strategy and vision, and setting organizational milestones. 

In business, what gets measured gets done. Goal setting and accountability are equally important to daily tasks. Business owners should ask themselves, ‘What are we measuring? Why? Who is responsible for hitting those goals?’ Incorporating an accountability process can help business owners measure where they are relative to their strategic direction and identify benchmarks for growth initiatives. 

How can small businesses create successful growth opportunities? 

Most often, when small business owners think about growth, they think about what they need — increased revenue, additional staff, better equipment — rather than their clients’ needs or pain-points. For growth to continue, business owners must focus on their customers. 

Focus groups are a good way to get in touch with client needs. Current and past customers can offer insight into what products and services work well, their current pain points and what the company could deliver that would address any gaps or unmet needs. 

When business owners feel stuck, who can they work with to generate ideas that will move their businesses forward?

Cleveland has many resources for businesses in need of advice. There are business coaches, outsource CFOs and consultants with experience in myriad industries who are available to help companies align their metrics with their goals. Advisers can analyze a business from a numbers standpoint to determine what is working strategically and what is not. 

In addition, there are other programs that focus exclusively on growth and offer tools to vet ideas, identify opportunities and create a plan for growth. 

As they mature, the challenges faced by small businesses are common — hiring, retention, finances. Companies that feel they’ve stagnated can find support from community resources and people who are invested in their success. 

Community colleges are wonderful resources for small businesses. They offer noncredit courses — in-person and online — designed to support small business owners. Courses include QuickBooks, leadership and organizational development, and information technology that will benefit their management team.

Companies should always have an eye toward innovation and growth opportunities and a plan to stay relevant to existing customers. It’s not uncommon for progress to slow down. But recognizing it and taking steps to address it are critical to a company’s continued success.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How Cleveland could leverage blockchain technology for success

Many stakeholders in the Greater Cleveland area see blockchain, an emerging technology that serves as a secure distributed ledger of online transactions, as a means to create a unique identity for the area that will attract and retain businesses. It also could be a means to economic development that improves lives in all of the city’s communities.

“Emphasizing blockchain doesn’t mean moving away from other important sectors, such as manufacturing and health care,” says Alex Johnson, Ph.D., president of Cuyahoga Community College. “But by putting resources behind blockchain now, Cleveland could establish itself as a hub for businesses and organizations developing this new technology for a worldwide audience.” 

Smart Business spoke with Johnson about Cleveland’s blockchain movement, where it’s headed and how it could become an economic engine for the city. 

What is blockchain? How is the technology being applied today? 

Blockchain is a series of digital records linked using cryptography. It enables transactions to be carried out between individuals or organizations without an intermediary. The design of blockchain is such that records can be accurately identified and verified, but are nearly impossible to alter by unauthorized parties — each transaction becomes a permanent part of the blockchain. This permits blockchain to provide accurate identification of a person while offering nearly impenetrable data security. These factors make it ideal for application in education; manufacturing, especially when it comes to supply chain management; government; the medical field; and any area in which secure records are kept.

How are area institutions of higher education involved?

The success of Cleveland’s blockchain movement depends on collaborative engagement. Area institutions of higher education can contribute through the development of the talent needed to work in this field. Cuyahoga Community College has joined forces with Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University to research and develop the new technology while training a workforce to bring it to life. This floor-to-ceiling approach ensures that new applications for blockchain are developed as people are trained to work with the technology and, at a higher level, understand its potential impact for improving existing business operations. 

Tri-C will focus primarily on workforce development. Investments in technology-related education, including labs and equipment, have aligned Tri-C as a key training provider for blockchain. Creating a pipeline of talent that ranges from technologists to technicians ensures that businesses that are considering locating in Cleveland will have the diverse and capable workforce they need.  

What does success look like for Cleveland’s blockchain movement?

Many local leaders see a potential path to Northeast Ohio’s economic renewal in blockchain, but only if the region gets out in front of the large-scale adoption of the technology. According to current projections, blockchain could be utilized in up to 60 percent of American companies by 2020. However, it will require a strong collective focus to be seen as a city that is synonymous with blockchain. 

What help is needed to achieve the movement’s goal?

It’s going to take a more formal approach that involves individuals throughout the community. It requires a redirection of resources and possibly a little help from outside agencies, such as the state government and philanthropic organizations throughout the nation. By working together to attract and retain the businesses and talent needed to grow this industry, blockchain could become the catalyst to continued economic recovery and advancement for the city and the region, and a catalyst for Cleveland’s growing, positive reputation. 

Further, a focus on talent development could be a driver of economic equality. The workforce for blockchain, and IT and other industry sectors, has to come from all of Cleveland’s communities. That means making an effort to get more individuals from throughout Cleveland prepared to take on the jobs that can elevate Cleveland to everyone’s benefit.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

The role of community health workers in the continuum of care

Community health workers are on the frontlines of public health. These trusted individuals know their communities, which enable them to connect people to the various health and social services available to them.

“They know the community and they know the barriers its members face to access care and services,” says Marquita L. Rockamore, director of health industry solutions at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College.

She says financial and racial inequities affect how people are served, their access to care and the quality of care delivered. Community health workers address those inequalities by helping members of their communities navigate service providers to find the care they need.

Smart Business spoke with Rockamore about community health workers and their role in the continuum of care.

Who typically employs community health workers and what services do they provide?
Community workers serve as a vital lifeline to members of the community who need care, but may not have the ability to access it. They connect the dots between insurance, health care providers and pharmacies to make sure all medical needs are being met.

Nonprofit community agencies and municipalities employ community health workers, as do county departments of health, clinics and managed care organizations. Hospitals have patient navigators who have unique training, but offer many of the same services as other community health workers.

Increasingly, community health workers are being employed to help close the digital divide. That work focuses on teaching members of the community, seniors especially, how to use computers and software to create or access electronic health records. This can help them better understand the details of their health conditions and take action to make improvements.

How are differences in the titles and educational backgrounds of community health workers affecting the industry?
The industry is suffering from an identity crisis. Community health workers are known by a host of names — outreach workers, liaisons and more. But it’s bigger than a name. There are also differences in how community health workers operate, which makes it difficult to capture performance data or streamline education and training.

Another issue is the level of certification or academic degree employers and insurance companies would like community health workers to have. For example, in some cases, a community health worker can be employed with a high school diploma and a certification, but an insurance company might require a bachelor’s degree to reimburse an employer for those services, so there’s a disconnect.

As communities continue to address opioid addiction, the digital divide and inequities of care, there is a greater need for homogeneity in the industry to better provide and pay for the community health care workers who can connect people to much needed services.

What challenges are employers facing when it comes to connecting with or retaining community health workers?
There are barriers that are affecting if and how community health workers are employed. Employers sometimes aren’t sure how to get reimbursed for the services of community health workers. That can be as simple as not understanding which code to use to get reimbursed for those services.

Employers want to hire certified community health workers, but equally as important is hiring individuals who can communicate with the many different types of people who are served, as well as those who deliver care or reimburse for services rendered. Employers prefer to deploy someone who mirrors the demographics of a particular community, knows the neighborhoods and can relate and communicate to those being helped. It can be a challenge to find those who fit that description.

There are many people hurting for resources. Some are trying to juggle caring for a family member while going to school or working full time. There are many people who need services and don’t know where to get them, often despite living in a resource-rich community. Community health workers can make those connections for those who don’t know where to turn.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

Commercial drones are increasingly popular, but there are risks

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are being effectively deployed in many commercial applications across a swath of industries. The technology is being used in construction work, insurance inspections, agriculture and public safety.

“Regardless of the industry or type of work, it’s always better to work smarter, not harder,” says Clayton A. Harris, chief of police at Cuyahoga Community College and vice president and dean of its Public Safety Center of Excellence. “When technology enables greater efficiency with reduced costs and effort, it’s quickly and aggressively adopted.”

But before companies can use UAVs to help solve problems, they need to be able to identify operators who understand the rules governing drone flight.

Smart Business spoke with Harris about the commercial applications of UAVs, drone training and the regulations that direct their use.

Why are drones becoming more popular for commercial applications?
The pace of drone technology development has been fast. Drones went from being an interest of hobbyists to becoming so widely used that small-scale drones are as easy to operate as toys in the hands of general consumers.

In the commercial realm, drone use has grown exponentially. Not only has the cost of equipment come down, but it’s much easier to retrieve and interpret data collected through UAVs.

Because drone technology is so popular, UAV manufacturers are able to make greater investments in research, materials and development to deliver more advanced capabilities. Drones have become out-of-the-box solutions with many applications.

What laws or regulations are commercial drone operators required to abide by?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which polices the national airspace, is the main governing body for drone flight. Its most significant regulatory milestone is its Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107), which sets operating, registration, pilot certification and airspace authorization requirements.

There are separate rules for pilots flying drones for business and those flying for fun. Operators can incur significant penalties for failing to register certain UAVs or for operating a drone in restricted airspace, such as within a five-mile radius of an airport or flying over a stadium with a seating capacity of more than 30,000 during an event.

Recently, the FAA launched a nationwide beta test of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability to support the safe integration of drones into the nation’s airspace. Through this system, drone operators can receive real-time airspace authorizations to quickly plan their flights.

How can UAV operators improve their skills?
The FAA’s website offers details on UAV operation and flight, and provides a wealth of information on pilot certification and the requirements to pilot small UAVs.

The Ohio/Indiana Center in Springfield, Ohio, is working to advance the commercialization of the technology and support the UAS community in research and development. The organization will assist anyone looking for help with any aspect of UAV, helping operators get up in the air faster.

There are also area schools that offer drone training programs. These courses train pilots in making flight plans and on the laws and regulations governing operation, as well as flight training through simulations and live operation to prepare students to take the FAA Part 107 exam.

There also are industry-specific courses — for example, a training program that introduces law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders to drone technology, its capabilities and how and when to use drones in emergency and homeland security situations.

What should companies know before using drones for commercial purposes?
Before contracting with a pilot, determine if he or she is bonded and insured. Conduct background checks and find out if the pilot has some history of success in the work he or she is being asked to do. Also, check to ensure that the pilot has completed training and is certified to operate the specific UAV required for the task.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Every organization should promote a culture of continuous improvement

It’s common to talk about quality and continuous improvement in the context of manufacturing.

Methodologies such as ISO, lean and Lean Six Sigma are a means to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. When done well, the end result is a better experience for customers and employees, and bottom-line benefits to the organization.

But continuous improvement is no longer captive to these existing frameworks or to manufacturing. It’s now ubiquitous and industry-blind.

“Continuous improvement is simply about the people and processes that make up a business,” says Samantha Kaplan, director of quality and continuous improvement at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “It’s becoming part of the culture and put in practice at every level of an organization.”

Smart Business spoke with Kaplan about how quality and continuous improvement affects organizations, regardless of sector.

Where are quality and continuous improvement processes found today?
This initiative can be in any organization. The methodologies typically had been applied to specific industries, such as ISO in manufacturing, particularly automotive, medical devices and aerospace, but these ideas have made their way into other industries. Lean, for instance, is being implemented in health care. That often pulls service providers, such as insurance companies, into the process as they try to meet the expectations of their clients.

Generally, however, many organizations are implementing a culture of continuous improvement. They are regularly looking at processes to see where and how improvements can be made. In some cases, performance can be measured against metrics.

Hospitals have patient satisfaction surveys and those results are linked to their government funding. In the public sector, government organizations and programs may be asked to meet certain measurables. How well or if they’re able to do that is directly tied to their funding. Elsewhere, it’s just about being more effective and efficient.

Improving processes requires that problems are identified, action is taken to fix them, there are checks to see the results of that action and the process is reviewed to see how it can be done better. It first requires a commitment to a culture of improvement; then the best tools and techniques can be identified for that organization.

Ultimately, organizations can’t accept status quo. They need to improve and streamline to remain competitive.

What difference does such a process make for an organization?
Continuous improvement affects how an organization operates. It becomes natural to make improvements, correct problems to be more efficient and effective, rather than being reactive. It also creates a culture of problem solving — dedicating time to get to the bottom of issues and fix the problem.

There’s a direct link to the strategic vision of an organization. It’s carried out not just from the top down, but simultaneously from the bottom up so that the entire organization is committed to the same idea.

How can organizations ensure their process improvement initiatives stick?
It requires a commitment from leadership. It’s essentially a strategic initiative, so it needs to be reinforced from the top and by champions throughout the organization.

Recently, ISO standards have been revised to focus more on leadership’s role in process improvement, as well as providing resources and assigning responsibility. Leadership has to be involved and people throughout the organization need to really live the process. There has to be accountability and encouragement to think creatively when problem solving. Then it becomes more of an organizational management system and not simply a quality management system.

Continuous improvement must be embedded in the organization’s DNA. The strategic vision should reflect this, so there’s a commitment to improvement, which can be leveraged in many ways. Sometimes that requires stepping back and taking a high-level look to find where the organization can be more effective and efficient in how it meets the needs of customers and improves performance metrics. It’s no longer a discipline strictly for manufacturers. Every organization can benefit from a commitment to continual improvement.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Community college training connects candidates with manufacturers

Manufacturing today emphasizes automation. It’s how companies are keeping pace with competitors that have lower labor costs. But it’s raised the bar for candidates looking to get into the industry, and made finding qualified candidates a challenge for employers.

Smart Business spoke with Michael White, program manager of advanced manufacturing at Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development Division, about the needs of today’s manufacturers and how community colleges are connecting candidates and employers.

What skills are needed for candidates to work in the modern manufacturing sector?
Candidates need to be tech savvy. Much of their job now entails interfacing with computers and reacting quickly to change. They’ve got to have the ability to trouble shoot problems and work in a team environment, which means getting along with others.

Much of the labor is done with machines now, so the jobs aren’t as physical — there’s not as much lifting, pushing and carrying as there had been. Rather, there’s more measuring and recording, following standard procedures, communicating ideas to others. That puts knowledge at a premium.

Candidates need to understand equipment, such as CNC machines — how to mount tools, call up and run programs, inspect the parts, and generally interface with automation. There’s some handwork, but today’s jobs are more about directing the equipment what to do.

There’s also a need on the repair side — the people who maintain and repair equipment in factories. They need technical knowledge of hydraulics, pneumatics and electricity; the ability to work with tools; and an understanding of computers, sensors, and all the controls that keep the machines moving.

Teamwork skills are far more valuable now because everyone is working in teams. And troubleshooting skills, along with the ability to quickly react to change, are also important.

How can candidates acquire the necessary skills to compete for today’s jobs?
Those who have the potential, but not the skills, can be trained on the particulars.

There are different entry points in manufacturing. With just a basic understanding of math, someone with no machining background can take 180 hours of training to get the basic knowledge, then move on to an eight-week training internship with an on-the-job trainer and qualify for an entry-level position.

Community colleges are a good place to learn the skills needed to get into the industry. There are short-term certification and two-year degree programs that can provide people with the training they need to qualify for in-demand jobs.

Community colleges are interested in getting people into jobs, not just getting them through training. They’re always looking at combining training with an internship or a job at the end.

What can companies do to create a pipeline of candidates to fill open positions?
Companies should get involved with community colleges by taking a seat on an advisory committee or talking with a workforce development unit to see what can be done to gear a program toward a particular need.

These relationships help companies create a pipeline of qualified candidates. As the manufacturing workforce continues to retire in greater numbers, companies are realizing the importance of having a succession plan to fill holes and ensure valuable knowledge is transferred.

Companies aren’t likely to find candidates with all the skills they want. It takes a combination of outside and in-house training to get candidates up to speed on a company’s particular equipment and processes. So it pays to work in partnership with community colleges to create a training program that fills the pipeline with candidates who are prepared to work with a company’s specific equipment.

Manufacturing is a great career for those with a real interest in jobs with good pay and great benefits doing work that requires equal parts brains and hands. Community colleges can be the link that connects job candidates and employers so everyone gets what they need.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

The transportation and logistics industry sees increased demand

The demand for truck drivers continues to rise. The reported national shortage of 175,000 CDL drivers expected by 2024 has been brought on by two factors.

One factor is the number of baby boomers retiring, which is not expected to slow down. Second, with the continued growth in the economy and the number of other job opportunities that are available to job seekers, CDL driving positions are just one of many career choices available.

There also is demand for other positions in the logistics and distribution profession. Some of that demand is being spurred by Amazon and its growing warehouse presence. And though autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality, they’ll need support from human drivers to get the goods to their local destinations.

Smart Business spoke with Ian Wilson, director of the Transportation Center at Cuyahoga Community College, about the outlook for the transportation and logistics industry.

What is the expected demand for truck drivers over the next five years?
Demand in the transportation and logistics industry will only increase as retirements continue to create openings. At this point, there are more job opportunities within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry than there are trained individuals to take them.

Product demand drives everything. The more demand for products, the more people will be required to transport both raw materials to manufacturers and finished products to retailers. Most products and materials coming into the country make it to their final destination via truck. In addition to drivers hauling both raw materials and finished goods, the industry will still require professionals to coordinate pickup and delivery, and load trucks to satisfy consumer demand.

What impact has Amazon had on the demand for truck drivers?
Amazon is expected to make a significant difference to employment within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry as the company continues to grow. The biggest impact locally is from the introduction of the two new Amazon fulfillment centers, one at the abandoned Randall Park Mall and a second in Euclid.

The Randall Park location alone is projected to add 2,000 jobs in the transportation, distribution and logistics fields. These two locations will need more than just CDL drivers. It will also require warehouse and supply chain professionals.

How might autonomous vehicles affect the trucking and logistics industry?
Autonomous vehicles aren’t yet capable of navigating local roadways to deliver beverages to supermarkets or fuel to gas stations. That still takes human drivers.

Though an effect on local deliveries is still out of sight, there will likely be an impact soon on the long-distance aspect of the industry, where autonomous trucks could manage the highways without a human driver. And even when that becomes a reality, there will still be a need for a vast amount of drivers in the cities to distribute the goods to their final destination.

Filling the workforce demand requires training for drivers, warehouse workers and forklift operators. The industry has a lifetime of opportunities for advancement, from driver to logistics to project management. Automation isn’t likely to affect those positions anytime soon.

What concerns do employers have regarding the existing workforce?
Soft skills, such as interpersonal communication and interacting well with people, are crucial. A person has to be a reliable team player, otherwise most companies would rather do without them.

Turnover in the truck-driving field is a result of people coming into the industry without being fully aware of the expectations of the profession. People need to be honest with themselves and their family about the lifestyle they’re taking on.

Transportation and logistics offers a career, not just a job. But candidates need to understand what the industry is about, ask pertinent questions of employers and themselves and not just think about the pay. It’s important that trainers, educators and employers discuss the realities of the industry with potential employees to manage expectations and reduce turnover.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How digital transformation is driving change within IT

Digital transformation is the way in which companies are adopting technology, specifically digital technologies, to innovate their day-to-day business activities. As one company successfully incorporates a transformative technology, it changes the business model for all companies.

“The pace of change with digital and emerging technology is incredible,” says Monique Umphrey, vice president of workforce innovation and college-wide dean of the Information Technology Center of Excellence at Cuyahoga Community College. “The changes that will take place in the next five years will eclipse the changes seen during the previous 20 years.”

She says there is a confluence of innovation taking place simultaneously: artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, bitcoin, chatbots, 3-D printing, data science, analytics, cloning, nanotech and quantum computing, to name a few.

“Any one of these would have huge impact on day-to-day business,” she says. “Now, because their cost has dropped dramatically, any company could be deploying any number of these technologies simultaneously. Those that aren’t will soon find they’ve been left behind.”

Smart Business spoke with Umphrey about emerging technologies and the evolving role IT professionals play in companies’ digital transformation.

How are businesses being impacted by digital transformation?
Market share is where companies will feel it the most. Consumers have a plethora of choices, most of which they can comparison shop on their smartphone. That’s meant that companies aren’t competing for business locally anymore.

They’re competing against global companies because they’re essentially all accessible digitally.
And it’s not just shopping. Companies are using digital advancements to gain a competitive advantage in fields such as health care, manufacturing and more.

As the digital transformation permeates every industry, businesses can’t afford to ignore the trends. Take, for instance, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. In previous years, the average lifespan of a company on this index was 65 years. Today it’s 15 years. The average company lifespan has decreased in part because of the impact of emerging technology and disruptive innovation.

What is happening to IT departments in the face of such change?
IT departments have evolved from a cost center to a strategic partner. They serve as a collaborator by sharing emerging technologies with the C-suite along with ideas about how to use it to gain a competitive advantage.

The perception of IT personnel as people relegated to some dark room writing code or fiddling with computer hardware isn’t reality. IT personnel are strategic partners in today’s companies. Executive leadership is relying on them to have not only the technical skills, but to also be knowledgeable and be strong communicators.

They need to be able to share the basic tenants of a technology and explain its potential application to the business. They also need to be able to show personnel how the technology is used to improve workflow.
Today’s IT professionals still need hard skills, but that’s just enough to get their foot in the door. Tech skills and communication skills are needed to get the job and business savvy is needed to get promoted.

How can companies stay on the leading edge of technological change?
Companies shouldn’t be afraid of or shy away from today’s technology challenges. There are free tutorials and primers to give anyone a basic understanding of the tools that exist.

Also, educators are broadening their curriculum to make sure all graduates are digitally proficient and can understand the changes that are happening. It is important for companies to invest in re-skilling their employees. It is especially important for non-tech employees to gain digital training so that they have additional tools to solve today’s business problems.

No one needs to be a tech genius to initiate a digital transformation project. Some of the best digital projects have come from people who recognized a problem and found a creative way to solve it through technology. Learning more about digital technologies expands a company’s possible solutions for existing problems.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College