Friday, November 22, 2013

The New Paradigm

Monday, next week, begins a new era in my company, Randall Planning & Design, Inc. And for those patient readers out there (and thank you for that) who don’t know I still run a professional urban and master planning business located in California, I still am in business. I do accept condolences for the last few years though, it wasn’t my fault. But we have pushed through and as noted we are starting a new era.

We are going virtual. Remote employees all interconnected through the cloud and multifunctional VOIP (voice over internet protocol), supported with Skype and cell phones. And now that most of our business occurs at client’s offices and job sites the need for an office is, well, unnecessary. The most surprising thing is my clients. I was apprehensive about telling them what we were doing, yet without exception they are all behind it. And I see a touch of jealousy behind some of their comments and support; the thought of not having to go into an “office” is liberating.

It is a leap of faith, faith in remote operations, faith in staff and their abilities to managed their time (I have great faith in them too), and the ability to meet the demands of the clients.

Having once a large office and staff (22 professionals), office space was required. The business became as much an issue of logistics and time management as well as the mundane bits of community design and planning, herding cats comes to mind. Reproduction machinery, phones, and even a library were required. And don’t even start on storage and records.

It’s all different now. Back in the archaic days of pencils and drafting equipment (I have a box full of triangles, circle templates, eraser shields, electric erasers, and an armory of T-squares). By my count I still have thirty rolls of yellow tracing paper to 42”. Today one person can do what five or even ten draftsmen did back in the 1980s. AutoCadd and computers changed all that in the mid-1990s (it is hard to believe this new paradigm in the architectural and planning world is less than twenty years old). I feel like a dinosaur a few months after that alleged asteroid hit. Change can be gradual or seismic, this change has been seismic - on a San Andreas level. Much has changed and will continue to change. Architectural and design staffs will be significantly less even while the process of entitlements becomes more complex. Even the business of construction plans is changing from ammonia based blueprints to Xerox copies to iPads, smartphones, and construction job site monitors. The blueprint industry will never be the same (BTW anyone want a Xerox 510 printer, I have one - real cheap).

Even with these changes in how the work is done, the basics behind the why haven’t. Our clients still need solutions to their problems, land will need to be developed and improved. Families and populations are still growing, roads will be expanded, and more jobs will be created. If there is one important aspect of the human condition is that it cannot be outsourced and that it is not “virtual.”

Stay Tuned . . . . . . . . .

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