When you say “IT” the first thoughts that often come to mind for HR people are “not my area”, “bunch of geeks”, “way too hard for me”, “talent I don’t have”, etc. If we are recruiting for it we may not understand half the answers we are given in interviews. As a result people in IT have an aura about them of being special. Today IT does have to be run by specialized professionals because that is the way IT has been designed. But what if we made IT more “human” and thus easier for the everyday person to use? Would it be more valuable to the organization? That is the contention of Ben Rossi in an article in Information Age.
The amount of data today is so large it has a name I have never heard… zettabytes… and we are supposed to have 40 of them by 2020. (Just a reminder- 2020 is only 5.5 years from now.) That is the equivalent of 5,200 Gigabytes of data for every man, woman and child on earth. That is A LOT of information. The question becomes how do we sort through all of that to make sense of it? Certainly computers are getting much more capable but the way things are designed today it still takes an IT person. As Rossi says “…tech in the business world is still needlessly complicated – designed by experts for experts. How many tech initiatives at work require training before full use can be made of the product or service? Excel, for example, has functions that the vast majority of people never make use of. Complicated technology ultimately hinders productivity at user level, to the detriment of the business.” So what is the solution?
Rossi says the solution to dealing with and making sense of huge data is to “humanize” it and not to make it complicated. (Actually Rossi say “humanise” but that is because he is in the UK.) He points out that businesses have not really realized how effective humans are at digesting information, especially if it requires association, comparison and anticipation. By putting tools in the hands of our employee populations that are more “human friendly” we can make use of the capability of our employees to search and filter data. He says “By humanising IT, business leaders will be able to empower the whole workforce, instead of just a select technical few, via the ability to analyse large data sets.”
We have already begun to design such tools. Google’s search capability is easy. It is very human friendly. Thus you can have multiple employees conducting searches on multiple issues and sorting through multiple data sets to find answers. Rossi points out “Smartphones and tablets are also great enablers for making IT more accessible for everyone, providing another step to analysing data in the natural world. Touch and swish gestures on a screen are far more instinctive and therefore usable than the old fashioned mouse and monitor which dominated consumer technology’s opening decades.”
I have suggested a similar approach in a program I have called 7 Steps to becoming a practical HR futurist. To be an HR futurist you must be a trend watcher. Often this is hard for a single HR professional and they end up getting buried in data or stop searching because they get so far behind. Given the tools available today you can use the capabilities of others to watch for trends and then to filter and have them report back to you.
I think Rossi’s conclusion is a good one so I will repeat it here:
With the tools and natural behaviour already out there, businesses need to provide humanised systems that foster our natural analytics ability. The rewards of making greater sense of company, customer or user data are great and can be extended far beyond the corporate world – to help solve bigger problems or even social issues (health or poverty for instance). If they don’t, they will remain submerged in the ever-growing data deluge.
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