Diversity Insight

The path to diversity: through a computer?

Could software solve your diversity problems? The National Science Foundation thinks so. The federal agency awarded a $450,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to the Boulder, Colorado, tech firm OptTek Systems, which plans to build a software application that can improve an organization’s ability to strategically plan and manage its workforce.

Issues such as limited talent or an aging workforce “are changes companies are going to have to contend with so they can plan out how their workforce is going to evolve and better strategize how to meet their financial goals,” says OptTek chief development officer Jay April. He says the benefits of the software, called OptForce, include integration of strategic business planning with workforce planning, cost-effective achievement of diversity goals, and increased confidence in forecasting business performance.

OptTek received the grant on the strength both of its proposal and of its previous work — most which involves software that simulates certain business or financial problems, such as how to staff a hospital with the right number of doctors and nurses. Another of its software applications, for example, developed for customer Halliburton, helps determine which oil and gas fields to explore to optimize investment.

Chief executive Jim Kelly said the company came up with the idea for the new software after working on a diversity-related project for the Navy. “Most of the work going on right now in HR departments is very piecemeal,” Kelly told the Denver Post told recently. “We’re looking at all these problems at once. Our approach is very holistic.”

The firm says OptForce will be available for commercial sale by the end of the year.