Workflow software is the Henry-Ford version of software. By that I mean it is basically the digitized version of the assembly line, which Henry Ford invented (Henry Ford was the founder of the automobile company Ford, for those who don’t know). In an assembly line, much more can be accomplished because people can specialize in one particular task, which allows for greater efficiency. After a person is finished with his/her specialized task, he/she can pass the project to the next person who has his/her own area of expertise. On Henry Ford’s assembly line, one person specialized in attaching a muffler, headlights, or tires to a vehicle before sending it down the line to the next station. This allowed high quality vehicles to be produced quickly and efficiently. It is a concept that revolutionized manufacturing as a whole; however, its implications are much more widespread than just manufacturing. Today, this concept is used in an electronic form called workflow software. It allows workers to work on part of an electronic project in their fields of expertise and then send it ‘down the line’ to the next worker regardless of the physical distance separating them. For example, in today’s film industry, 3D animation is used in a large number of films. As one would suspect, 3D animation is done entirely through the use of computers, and there is a huge range of specialization within this aspect of film. To demonstrate, I remember watching ‘the making of’ feature on a popular 3D-animated film, and there was an animation specialist whose sole job was to animate dirt and grime on the scenes that were sent to her. After she was finished with a scene, it was then sent to the next phase of its creation. This example demonstrates how workflow software allows for the transfer of data from one computer to another.
Honestly, I take workflow software for granted. I don’t think twice when I start a homework project at the computer lab, email it to myself, and finish it later on my computer at home. When one of my professors puts something on his/her website for the class to download, I don’t really appreciate how simple it is to do so. After reading this section of The World is Flat, I more fully appreciate the privilege that we have of being so interconnected.
Another type of important software is called open-source software. It is software whose source-code is available so that its users can modify and improve the software, as well as freely distribute it. From what I can surmise, open-source is created, not by software companies, but by unpaid ‘geeks’ who know how to program. They collectivize their knowledge to create and fine tune software that rivals professionally-made software.
Open-source software is important because it allows for major improvements where the software is lacking. It can continually be improved upon. The book gives an example of this with the story of the creation of Apache, which was such a good program that commercial companies couldn’t compete with it. Open-source software allows people to have cutting-edge software for free, which I think is good.
Outsourcing is when a company purchases a good or service from an outside supplier rather than an internal resource. Information systems contribute to this through connecting everyone, so a good or service can be purchased from the cheapest supplier, regardless of where they are.
Outsourcing is a controversial topic. While it can cut product costs, making products cheaper and more available to everyone, it also takes potential jobs out of our economy and places them in other economies. In my opinion, however, outsourcing is good. Outsourcing creates huge competition. Competition drives people to educate themselves and become smarter. Those who are not willing to compete will have a harder time finding a job, which encourages everyone to compete, making society smarter and better off.
I really have nothing to criticize in this module’s reading in terms of content. The stories were entertaining and informative. I particularly liked the ‘Apache’ story, because I thought it was funny that a huge corporation like IBM couldn’t compete with a private community of computer geeks.