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Human Capital in the Digital Age: Tested but not out, yet!

In an article in Scientific American, I had written the about how big data can help rebuild america’s ageing infrastructure. This day an age, I am absolutely convinced that the combination of man and technology should be performing tasks better than ever before.


As I was passing through security check at Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, I was observing the progress velocity of the passenger queue. I was wondering how the conditions of both the passengers as well as the security staff could be improved.  The process of managing trays on the conveyor belt is certainly a candidate for a robot to manage. Instead, the human staff could focus on making sure that the experience of the customers is improved. I certainly don’t see a huge risk of loosing jobs if processes and key goals of a process are well understood.

While the example above was of how a robot could fit into our life, the one major issue I constantly encounter and question, is ‘our ability to act on data’ as well as our ‘inability to act on data.’ In fact, my organisation, the data strategy lab has been conducting surveys in order to assess where an organisation stands on this spectrum.

It is clear to me as well as the participants of the surveys, ‘our ability to act on data’ is low. i.e., our ‘inability to act on data,’ is high. I find this unacceptable with available technologies and knocking what the combination of people, processes and technology can do.

The Florida Bridge collapse is a recent demonstration loss of life and property due to our ‘inability to act on data,’ in a timely and a comprehensive manner.

To this end, I recently delivered a keynote speech at The ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences. The audience were a group of human capital leaders from various industries. The program was led by a smart, bright and brilliantly enthusiastic Dr. Elena Hubschmid-Vierheilig (https://www.zhaw.ch/de/ueber-uns/person/hubh/).

As a part of the session we were reviewing our ability to act on data as well as our preparedness to address the human capital need of managing an airport operation, which has data potentially being dispensed from numerous devices and elements. The question posed to the group was – “…are we adequately prepared to address this human capital need…?” The unanimous response was – NO!

Fortunately, experts such as Dr. Hubschmid-Vierheilig, have been teaching about the confluence of human capital management, big data analytics and innovation need.

My message to leaders as well as aspiring leaders in the digital age, is to aim at “Getting to YES, Now!” Especially, on matters related to safety, efficiency and compliance. Good profits are bound to follow, when our focus is set right. And of course, it should be on – people. Which is what I call, ‘The Billion Dollar Byte.’