SaaS Platforms Will Empower the Workforce in the Digital Age

SaaS Platforms Will Empower the Workforce in the Digital Age

As entrepreneurial CEOs who fund our ventures or executives who grow into being CEOs of more mature companies, we produce annual budgets and financial plans. We estimate our future revenue and given available capital we fashion budgets we believe will deliver our revenue objectives. Hard capital and non-labor expenses are generally predictable. Workforce planning is more of an art and boils typically down to headcount planning. The amounts and types of headcount needed are often based on proforma financial modeling and estimates from primary functions such as engineering, sales, marketing, etc.

Traditional headcount planning falls short. We continue to rely on a traditional headcount model even though it’s crude and includes built in biases such as incremental benchmark planning from last year, organizational and process complexity that hides waste, and the talent of managers negotiating beyond real needs. Market forces and technology advances are increasingly exposing the weaknesses of headcount planning and staffing. For example, employees now only amount to about 65% of the workforce down from 90% twenty years ago. The remaining contingent workforce (QuartZ) is expected to exceed 40% by 2022. While HR is responsible for acquisition of employees, the contingent workforce is frequently managed directly by managers or procurement.

How do you leverage the available talent to perform the most important work? The answer is not more complex management approaches that don’t scale. Better job descriptions or skills matching won’t do it unless the work and its value is clearly understood.

Bots are coming – where do they belong? In addition to the complexity of managing and estimating the needs for people, bots are becoming an important and integral part of workforce management. Billions of dollars are being invested in AI (bot) solutions that are designed to replace some or all of the work traditionally allocated to people in jobs that include repetitive tasks that can be automated (for instance, marketing automation techniques). The forecast for bots as a percent of the workforce varies wildly from 10% to beyond 30% (Singularity) by 2022. A major startup, Automation Anywhere, now has more than 15 million bots implemented in 700 major corporations.

As CEOs we need to wake up to this new reality. We are in a digital world where defining jobs and allocating heads will no longer yield a competitive human capital operating model. For example, does our current staffing process clearly define the optimal mix of employee, contingent, and bot labor for our 2020 “digital” workforce plan? Who and how can our team provide a clear reliable answer? If our workforce represents 50% of our total expense and our workforce includes a 10% inflated headcount – we are leaving 5% operating profit on the table. This is huge! Getting to the optimal answers will not come from doubling down on the headcount planning process. Worse, competitors who learn to optimize their digital workforce composition can use their margin advantage to improve market share, etc.

Talent related SaaS software vendors are stepping up. The good news is that SaaS solutions are evolving to make it easier to manage both employees and contingent labor. If you look at the best SaaS websites, they too, tend to provide the best user experience along with simplicity and clarity to their visitors. Modern HR tools such as Workday, SAP’s Success Factor, and a host of startups are offering to support contingent labor with much of the employee talent management functions such as staffing and reviews.

While an improvement, these platforms will not address optimizing the work content among employees and contingent labor nor do they include bots. As a matter of fact, they would need assistance from experts in the respective fields. For example, when creating ERP software, the developers might want to consult some experienced ERP consulting firms like Syte Consulting Group ( or similar firms in order to gain a better understanding of integrating people and processes so that the right technology can support the growth of the business.

The core of digital workforce planning is the work and its value. In order to get at wasted use of talent, planning biases, and the increased complexity of available sources of talent it is essential to start with the value the workforce renders in achieving business outcomes – namely, the work. In addition to work, the second necessary information for digital workforce planning is the use of talent. For example, how much top talent work is your top talent doing? Neither the work quantified by FTE per service or use of talent is achievable with current headcount planning and management tools.

Current methods of measuring the work are not effective. We can track tasks such as monitoring locations and network devices as often done by large software development organizations. Or, we use surveys of time tracking such as activity-based planning implementations. These methods are time-consuming, prone to errors, difficult to value, and hated by workers.

Introducing a management framework SaaS solution (CollabWorks). However, technology has now evolved to allow management to focus on delivering the most valuable work with the best available talent. The first step is to capture data that clarifies what is the work, the amount of FTEs spent doing the work and by whom at what level of talent. In addition, to optimize both the work and the use of talent, a metric is needed to value both.

All work can be described as services. What we can learn from the rise of SaaS work platforms such as Upwork or Gigster demonstrate is that work can be described in the form of services instead of tasks. A service describes work delivered by a supplier to one or more customers (internal or external). While tasks may vary and come and go, services describe a supplier-customer relationship where tasks flow across the service. For example, we use software developers via Upwork who continuously perform tasks as part of services where the value of the work is established. These platforms are now being used to align service needs with both contingent and employee workers.

Merely providing a company with a developed application is not the only thing that falls under the category of providing services; however, managing those applications/software is also a task. With the ever-changing IT landscape, if your small to medium-sized business (SMB) has grown to the point where you realize your business needs can be better served by an expert with a broad range of IT competencies, you can seek the assistance of BFA Technologies, Inc.(has managed services in California serving clients all over the United States).

Customers need to drive the flow of work. Another positive reason for describing all forms of work as services is recognition that the value of work (services) depends on the customer receiving the benefit of the work. Rather than distributing the work via a typical management top down structure, work as services can be distributed based on customer needs. This keeps the

focus on value where it belongs – the customer. And this relieves line management from gathering, reporting, and communicating activities. Organizations are now able to clearly understand the services within a workforce consisting of employees, contingent workers and bots. And more importantly, for each service the organizations are able to measure the relative contribution to operating profit.

Summary. These new SaaS management frameworks (CollabWorks)will integrate with existing SaaS talent and work platforms to enable both workers and the organizations to optimize their respective needs to their mutual benefit.

About the Author

Michael Grove is the Founder and CEO of CollabWorks, a technology company that provides a powerful management framework (FrameWork™) in the form of software and professional services. His core belief is that if individuals are empowered to manage their own engagement they will thrive to the benefit of themselves and the organization. The FrameWork technology sits at the center of the Digital Workforce of humans and automation (AI). Michael’s vision is that work will evolve from jobs to a marketplace of services by 2025.

Michael currently co-hosts CEO workshops and sponsors the CollabWorks Thought Leadership Team (TLT), DisruptHR (Bay Area), and Disrupt.Work. He has been a successful CEO for over 25 years of venture and self-funded companies including Open Country, Micromodule Systems, Introplus, and the Pathway Group. Michael has produced several breakthrough patents and led businesses in aerospace, renewable energy, semiconductor, information, social networking, and workforce management. Michael holds Bachelor and advanced degrees from California Polytechnic, UCLA, USC, and Wharton.

Rabbit Holes and Elephants are Pointing to Changes in HR

Rabbit Holes and Elephants are Pointing to Changes in HR

For years now, we have talked about the HR function and speculated how it may change going forward. Talent acquisition (TA) is a good example of an area of HR that will likely change a lot going forward because it has several tedious and repeatable (automate-able) work steps. If the primary role of TA is to meet headcount objectives, then the time-consuming aspects of TA could be automated or outsourced. Our research indicates that about 25% of HR’s existing functions could be performed by automation (machine learning, etc.) by 2023. (TA represents about 40% of the automation opportunity.)

The Elephant in the room is that change is coming to HR and the function must reinvent itself to stay relevant.

The good news that HR is fully capable of transforming into a strategic business function. The rabbit hole is also in the room. HR can be the function that delivers increase business performance from the organization’s use of talent. Instead of just being a service to the BU’s, HR can also be responsible for optimizing the talent to achieve the revenue forecast. Why HR? Like Finance, HR is cross functional and is the only function where the hiring, developing, and retaining talent are core responsibilities.

In order to own the business performance from use of talent, HR needs new capabilities that are relatively easy to develop. First is understanding and managing the use of talent. To do so, HR needs to know (with data) what the talent is doing (the work) and how the work aligns with workers’ talent capabilities. For example, our research shows that top talent on average is only doing 30% top talent work. So, the first step for HR should be to help the BUs increase top talent work per top talent worker from 30% to 50%. The result is an increase in value creation and most likely a reduction is new headcount needed.

Secondly, HR needs to be able to establish and support value-based objectives inside the BUs. Like Finance uses budgets to control costs and minimize waste of financial resources, HR could use new tools and data to create talent “budgets” to ensure that talent is used efficiently. Current HR tools such as assessments, pulse-surveys, OKRs, and performance reviews focus on individual employees and their engagement. While important, there is no hard correlation between actual value produced and worker engagement. In order to drive workforce margin contribution, HR needs to establish objectives and provide services to the BUs that measure and correlate the use of talent with margin contribution to the company.

CollabWorks provides important capabilities needed to HR to become a strategic business function.

Our focus at DisruptHR SF is to present new ideas, innovation, and thought leadership that will help HR leaders transform HR into a strategic business function. We need your support and talent as executives, thought leaders, and innovators! Please apply to be a speaker. And please join our DisruptHR SF community and participate at our  October 15 event.

Why CEOs Should Pay Attention to Talent Use

Why CEOs Should Pay Attention to Talent Use

As CEOs we often worry about talent. Can we achieve our objectives? Why are employees turning over? How competitive are we? Yes, talent is critical. But, the use of talent is what delivers value.

Why does talent use matter? Low Hanging Fruit to Improve Margins.

Talent is what delivers value and talent use is the efficiency of delivering that value. Wasting or misusing talent directly affects business value. We depend on managers to identify and allocate talent. We don’t do a great job of talent use because our headcount planning and allocation methods are crude, and we don’t have a reliable way of measuring talent use. Net profit (and cash flow) is directly correlated to talent use. The less talent needed to achieve the same revenue then greater the profit margin. As indicated, just a two percent improvement in revenue/labor will improve margin contribution (EBITDA) by 1-2%. If the planning process continues to improve talent use over current methods, then the margin contribution is cumulative! For example, 3 years of 2% revenue/labor improvement will produce a 5% gain in EBITDA. In addition to the financial benefits, effective talent use produces improved talent motivation and engagement.

 What is the use of talent why alignment matters? Headcount Planning is Wastes Talent.

We define talent use as talent performing work. We relate talent value to the value of the work produced. For example, we pay more for an airline pilot than a stewardess because pilots require more talent and produces more value. Airlines optimize their whole routing system to optimize talent use. The problem with the headcount-based financial model is that there is no clear quantifiable data regarding the use of talent. Job titles, roles, and compensation are not connected to talent use unless the work is highly defined, and the talent use is highly structured. Assembly lines for example. For nearly all knowledge workers, it is the alignment of the right talent to the right work that optimizes talent use and margin contribution. 

Use case: An engineering group increased top talent use. 15% gain in margin contribution.

A very high-performance technology group was experiencing frustration and turnover from their top talent. Why? They were required to perform work that lower level talent could perform, and they were required to interrupt their development to attend useless meetings.

As shown, the group using the CollabWorks management FrameWork identified their current use of talent and then executed on several management sponsored improvements that yielded a 15% increase in top talent use after 15 months. Since top talent work is considered high margin contribution per employee, then the management estimated an improvement in margin contribution of 55%. 

Does size matter? No. The earlier you develop best practices the bigger and quicker the pay off.

Return of Human Capital Correlates to Valuation

When organizations are small it is easier to correlate the use of talent with achieving financial outcomes. As organizations scale we depend more on financial modeling and budgets to allocate talent and the effectiveness of talent use becomes opaque and talent waste and misuse grow. Even early round venture funded startups can yield poor talent use as intense demands on management leaves little time to focus on talent use. Developing early talent use best practices will pay off in business performance for both management and the investors. As shown, a D round investment can improve investor return by 19% by adding just 85% of the planned labor to achieve the same revenue.

The Impact of 5% in improved profit margin is strategic. Early adopters win, laggards lose. Times change, and we evolve. Most of us had not heard of Design Thinking 10 years ago. Now it is the new normal. The ability to manage and measure talent use is now available and will become standard management practices. The benefits over time are huge, yielding an unfair advantage for early adopters.

You Have a Lot More Talent than you Think

You Have a Lot More Talent than you Think

CollabWorks began with a simple concept: Optimizing talent value works best when both the individual and the organization benefit. Since then we have sponsored workforce innovation as thought leaders, sponsors of events, and developers of technology that will allow organizations to shift from managing labor cost to managing labor value.

We are all familiar with the outside-in management models practiced for decades where the organization functions from top-down.  The workforce is defined by job descriptions and headcount. And, managers set objectives and manage individuals (you). The whole point of management is to keep the workforce focused on doing the most valuable work needed to meet the organization’s objectives. 

Results: Talent Misuse  

Outside-in organizations don’t scale well.  Outside-in is the root cause of inefficiency, waste, and inertia that ultimately dooms many organizations as they become too slow and inefficient to adapt. The outside-in model assumes that a “job” performed produces value when in reality there may be little correlation between the job and value. It is the actual work that produces value that drives business performance. Those doing the work are the sources of the value. This is obvious and yet while organizations are spending billions to manage talent better, the waste, disengagement, and turnover continue, while talent shortages are rising.   

Shift to Inside-Out Management  

After three years of research, executive interviews, and many workshops, CollabWorks has concluded that the answer to workforce inefficiency is to start with a focus on the source of value creation and work backwards. If it is the work that produces value, then create a management model that begins with the individual and optimizes their ability to create value. We call this approach an inside-out management model. The inside-out model works well co-existing with traditional outside-in management. Instead of the “job” being the means of allocating work, the work and its value become the basis for deciding what individuals do. Inside-out means that each individual at all levels of the organization clarifies and manages their own work to the mutual benefit of themselves and the organization. To enable this shift, CollabWorks has created a technology and SaaS process that starts with the individual and provides a simple yet very effective means of clarifying and improving the value of the work performed. This revolutionary inside-out management model is called the FrameWork™.

Managing from the Inside-Out  

The FrameWork starts with each individual (you) regardless of organizational structure, job, or type of worker. You set your objectives, priorities, and measure your outcomes. You identify improvements and initiate actions to improve your capabilities, use of talent, and address your desires and needs. The key metric is value creation, and the FrameWork provides you quantitative data to assist you in optimizing the use of your talent.

How do we know work has value? If we think of simple market mechanisms, let’s say of a farmer selling tomatoes to customers in a market. Depending on the quality of the tomatoes and the customer needs a transaction occurs when both parties agree on a value exchange.  A premise of the FrameWork is that this kind of market value exchange applies to all forms of work. Value is attributed to the work when customer(s) (internal or external to the organization) confirm the work’s value. Another premise of the FrameWork is that all work can be described as services where each service is serving customer(s). The FrameWork provides you a simple means of defining your work as services and then to clarify the customers who attribute value to each service. Instead of your manager managing you, you manage your customer’s experience with your service. Your “job” is to ensure your work is addressing your customer’s current needs and to consider improvements to address future needs. 

All Services to Customers = Talent Use  

In most cases, you serve several customers such as a your team, other functions, lab partners, managers, or the entire organization. The FrameWork makes it easy to identify your entire service profile. The sum of your services represents the use of your talent. The value received by your customers represents collectively the value of your services.

Agile Process of Managing  

Managers continue to play an important role moderating outside-in strategy and direction with inside-out empowerment and coaching of individuals (you) to better serve customers. Individuals own their service profiles and the creation of valuable work on behalf of their customers. By continuing to adapt to changing customer needs, individuals at all levels of the organization are using lean-like management processes. Managers set direction and focus priorities on business strategy. However, managers no longer need to distribute and manage tasks, then provide reports to their superiors as frequently occurs when work flows through a job structure. The management of the work is 80% owned by those doing the work. This liberates both the manager and their team members to focus on optimizing their own value. The FrameWork provides a simple consistent process with clearly defined roles. Managers can be traditional line managers, team or project leaders, or temporary. The result is a lean and agile focus on best means of serving customers.

Agility Requires Ongoing Improvements  

Continuous improvement of services is built into the CollabWorks management FrameWork thus producing a more agile and resilient organization. As ideas are captured, those most aligned with objectives and needs are selected as potential projects. Gamification and voting are used to promote and select opportunities. Those individuals with the most passion and commitment to creating an improvement form teams who in turn create clears ROI plans and seek approval. The projects can be strategic or simply changes to eliminate low-value work, waste, or address business/worker needs. 

Ongoing Improvement Transformation  

The FrameWork maintains past, current, and future service profiles (work) for each individual and then rolls up the data for any team, group, function, and organization. Past profiles represent a history of services and changes which can demonstrate reduced talent waste, improved talent alignment, and capability growth (or not). Future profiles represent opportunities to better address customers, the organization, and the needs of the individual. The gaps between future and present are clearly identified and often include desired objectives, changes in services, and actions defined to satisfy the transformation. Trends and correlations can be seen providing insights and lessons to further optimize individual and team talent use and ultimately the whole workforce. The FrameWork supports all forms of change management such as design thinking, lean, and agile processes.  

Improvements By Teams/Groups  

The service profile changes at the group level are the sum of those service profile changes of the participants in the group. The FrameWork process is entirely transparent to the type of worker, group, or management structure. Thus, the FrameWork will blend into any existing organization and culture while providing an agile market-like process of responding to rapid changes in work demands and talent use.

Measure the Increase in Talent Value  

Behind the FrameWork is a powerful mathematical model which produces customizable algorithms, metrics, and data to guide your decision making and to predict outcomes. The data model is rich with insights, benchmarking, and correlations – addressing issues such as service value versus compensation, the alignment of talent to services, relationship between personal growth and job satisfaction, applications for bots, and eliminating bias. 

You Have More Talent Than the You Think  

The inside-out FrameWork allows you, your teams, and the whole organization to clarify and improve the use of talent and the value provided customers. Financial modeling of the organization can now include a correlation of top-down financial performance with the value of the services driven bubble up by sum of individual, group, and functions. The cumulative margin contribution of the workforce can now be analyzed, predicted, and benchmarked to aid management decision making in optimizing the workforce. Current outside-in models waste talent. Inside-out models compliment outside-in models and provide the insight, motivation, and data to leverage the most valuable use of talent. Automation and bots are not the enemies of talent, rather they are the opportunity for you to achieve more including your compensation.

When “You win, then we all win™” is a natural outcome.

Try IT: Increase Your Talent Value  

Experiencing the FrameWork is easy. In less than an hour, you can create your first services profile. You will clarify the services (work) you perform and for whom (your customers). You will assess the relative value of your work. Once clear on your current services, you can consider changes that would increase your value. You then can set objectives and identify improvements you want to achieve on behalf of yourself and your organization.  The FrameWork makes it easy to quantify and track current and future service profiles and your outcomes of addressing objectives and improvement projects. Reviewing your progress takes minutes and is typically done monthly. The use of your talent is your biggest and most important asset. Spending 1-2 hours per month managing your talent will cause you to realize you a lot more talent then you think!

Getting Started: Just Ask for a Log in  

CollabWorks is working with individuals who want to self-manage and corporations who want to grow rapidly and scale efficiently. Anyone can discover ways to increase their services value – including CEOs who frequently discover unproductivity habits and within hours are able to shift their time and focus to higher value work. Engineers appreciate the quantification and correlations FrameWork provides and the ability to clarify and address wasted work. HR managers see the inside-out model and an effective way to motivate employees while providing them data to help them optimize the use of talent.

The Framework is free for individuals and your success is our primary goal. As you improve yourself you will earn points and our plan is to reward you a share of our profits. At CollabWorks we live our motto – You Win, then We All Win. We are looking for passionate early adopters who want to reinvent the outside-in model of running corporations. Help us build an inside-out community of awesome self-managing achievers and let’s create a movement!

What we Learned about Bots and the Nature of Work

What we Learned about Bots and the Nature of Work

Over the last 6 months we quietly investigated the nature of work (which is rapidly changing) and how to better manage it. We have done this in a very logical way, by collecting assessment data from HR groups in 4 different companies (most from different industries), and analyzing that data

What we found was quite interesting, in that most companies are not managing work, but rather managing workers. To ensure that the staff can produce the expected results, most firms are actively working on making the entire process as seamless and as easy as possible. With health screenings (dig this information here), paid leaves, hybrid models, and work flexibility, employees are at an added advantage to bring their best talents to their organization. Considering the coming wave of automation, we also investigated how bots (find out what is a bot) could be integrated into HR in the least disruptive way possible.

The same is true in the case of the healthcare industry as well. They tend to hire external parties to manage claim issues and underpayment patterns in hospital claims in order to effectively manage their revenue cycle. These vendors typically employ cutting-edge METIS software to benefit their hospital partners and the patients they serve. Every year, healthcare providers lose millions due to denied and underpaid claims. Unfortunately, most providers lack the time, staff, or ability to follow up, resolve issues, and receive proper payouts in order to keep the books balanced and revenue streams intact. This could be one of the reasons why hospitals require the assistance of these vendors who use automated technology to do Revenue Cycle Management intelligently. So, whether directly or indirectly, it can be concluded that automation is now a part of almost every industry.

The methodology of analyzing the data and keeping a track of revenue was to do both primary and secondary research on bot vendors and users, and start to correlate that with the HR assessments. What emerged was some startling revelations about the nature of work, how and where to automate with the lowest level of disruption, and how bots will be needed to help deal with the gender bias issue that is plaguing management of many companies worldwide.

Managing Work

If you are an executive today, you are managing headcount. In many cases, managers are not clear about what those that report to them do on a daily basis? Our initial assessments, which we think are similar to those at Tilt 365, and we keep refining, show exactly what tasks people do, and what % of their time it takes to do them.

Some of these results were surprising, even to those completing the assessment. For simplicity, let’s divide the tasks into three types. “X” level work: tasks that are repetitive, doesn’t require much thought or creativity, and are not helping to build an employees skills or growth at the company. “Y” level work: which may be somewhat repetitive, but do require some thought and creativity, and can help build new skills for the employee. “Z” level work: which is challenging, creative, and often stretches the employee in terms of both skills and collaboration.

The goal in managing work effectively, is to have Z level workers (who get paid Z level salary), do mostly Z level work (tasks). When I asked the CEO of a small collaboration software company “How much time each day do you spend in meetings?” He replied “about 2/3 of my time each day.” I then asked, how much of that time in meetings are you doing Z-level work? His answer was about 5%. The next time we talked, he had eliminated half of his meetings and was doing more work with the product and sales teams in interacting with large accounts.

Our Research

Others, doing research similar to ours have found that:

  • “While 72% of respondents see AI as important, only 31% are ready to deal with it.” Josh Bersin, AI, Robotics and automation – Deloitte Insights.
  • HR managers spend 14-30 hours/week doing mundane, repetitive tasks (CareerBuilder)
  • Bots can answer 50% of employee questions (
  • Average time savings per chatbot inquiry is 4+ minutes (Juniper Research)
  • Obie (Slackbot, Dashbot platform) providing workplace information to employees: Who, What, When, Where, How? Changed on-boarding from account creation, to an interactive employee discovery process. > 3 months, on-boarding engagement increased 40%.
  • Bots can save 20%-40% of time on sourcing candidates (Ubisend, Leforce)
  • Improve recruiter efficiency 24% – 38% (Montage, FirstJob)
  • A VCV bot was able to cut the total time to recruit from 250 CVs to 3 meetings with the hiring manager. From 21 hours, to 45 minutes.

We found that:

  • By automating specific processes with bots will save 11% FTE by 2020 and 24% FTE by 2022.
  • The primary services subject to bot improvement (in HR) are: recruiting, employee experience, and talent management
  • Repetitive communications around processes and data can be automated, thus reducing FTE, cycle time, while improving quality
  • By relieving repetitive tasks, the HR talent can shift to providing a more personalized service
  • Bot implementation requires clarity about the service and customer needs, and a clear process for implementation

While others had predicted bot savings, we are the only ones to have actual data analysis to back up our findings. Our analysis methodology was to:

  • Three data sets used: 3 HR departments assessed (almost 200 people)
  • Created a complete activities list
  • Matched specific tasks with vendors and bot case studies to estimate bot ability to do those tasks
  • Matched activities to bot solutions, estimated what % of activity could be done by bots, looked at today, 2 years out, 4 years out
  • Aggregated the results across each organization (looking at potential leverage by bots in each organization, and each time frame)
  • Examined benefits from bots in specific case studies

Based on our analysis, bots will slowly, (but steadily) become part of normal HR processes,

We also did an estimate of bot revenues in the Forbes 2000 based on our 2021 estimate of 7% bot penetration.

Our Report

The report, written from this research, goes into much greater detail, than the few results we have briefly discussed in this executive summary. We believe the benefits of this report to client companies will include:

  • The ability to better manage work, and use employees more effectively
  • Understanding when and where to apply bots or contingent workers to maximize revenue
  • How to use CollabWorks to better morale and engagement, support better self management, and increase employee effectiveness.
  • To get a better handle on what each employee does for their job, and provide a growth path for them with the company.
  • Increase employee engagement and retention
  • Help to eliminate “hiring bias.”
  • Determining how much can I expect to save by deploying bots?
  • What I will need to spend to deploy bots over the next 3 years?
  • Which bot vendors to work with to get started successfully?
  • What internal expertise do I need to get started deploying bots?
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