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Operational Excellence
Dave Bauer
San Jose Mercury News

Not everyone in the workplace welcomes the tech folks’ latest idea – and Dave Bauer, vice president/operations at the San Jose Mercury News, is OK with that.

“It’s human nature to resist change,” said Bauer, former vice president/technology. “People get used to doing their jobs a certain way. The key is showing them how technology can improve what they’re doing, and in the long run improve the business by freeing up resources that can be used to cover stories, sell ads or get ads in the paper.”

He’s not just some “techno geek” who has no idea how people work. Bauer had many roles before becoming “technology guy.” He was a reporter, an editor and a prepress manager.

“One of the things that helped me in my career is that I came out of the newsroom,” he said. “It may be blind faith, but people believe that I know what I’m doing and that I want to help them with their jobs.”

He has credibility. Or, as former Mercury News Publisher Joe Natoli put it: “Two things make Dave Bauer special: his breadth of experience and the willingness to share it.”

Bauer’s leadership skills on the Knight Ridder Operations Task Force led to $4.5 million in technology-related savings. One of his duties was to determine benchmark standards for the company’s IT operations and to use them to help companies improve performance.

In a few cases, Bauer was invited by newspapers to review their operations and find ways to save money. “Everyone is aware of the economic pressures we face and looking for advantages and opportunities to advance the business while cutting costs,” he said. “Their willingness to examine these things was almost surprising at times.”

He practices what he preaches. In San Jose he combined the administration of the advertising and circulation computer systems of the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times. The system standardization is saving money. The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune and The Monterey County Herald may soon be on board as well.

Cost-cutting by itself rarely inspires, so Bauer focuses on the desire to do one’s work well. He advises employees to view technology as a way to help them use their skills to make their jobs more enjoyable.

“We can use technology to free up our resources from the mundane.” he said.

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