The factors that drove the massive employee productivity gains of the last half-century are well-known and easy to identify. They boil down to advances in an organizing principle from production lines, through lean management techniques, to the use of computers and mechanical automation.
So what’s next? When growth is always an imperative business need, how much more “massive” can employee productivity gains become? Are such gains even realistic to expect?
As we make strides away from the human work hour as the basis of all economic value and rely more on knowledge—and specifically the application of knowledge and skills—it becomes critically important to deliver not just the right skills but also the right information at the right time. As workers are charged with making more important choices for business and the economy, ever closer to the point of consumption, they require proper information for their needs, just in time. This is where productivity gains will happen.
The emerging information society requires knowledge, data, and the skills needed to interpret, adapt, and provide structure and direction to the information. The skills required to make good decisions at specific points in the innovation and consumer cycle are broadly definable—but they change frequently in response to business and work conditions.
This means that in an information- and knowledge-based society it is increasingly important to create a formalized process, method, and capability for continued learning. To accomplish this, new modes of on-the-spot thinking and decision-making need to be pre-loaded into front-line workers.
What do these new, trained, and ready workers need to apply their skills? Unsurprisingly, it is information. Having prepared workers to be effective, appropriate information must be delivered into their hands and minds as it is needed. This information becomes the raw material and when combined with experience, the employee has the tools from which economic growth, productivity, and increased value to the customer are produced.
Thus it is clear that the next stride in productivity, like the previous information boom, will come from increased utilization of digital technologies. But here’s the difference: Unlike the increases of the past which came from reacting to static information, the next wave of productivity innovation will be developed from a more dynamic system in which information, knowledge, and decisions are more fluid, moving closer and closer to the direct consumer interaction.
From an overall system and capability perspective the new waves of Digital Workplace technologies are ready to propel productivity gains. “Ready,” because right now they’re delivering machine learning, information analysis, and real-time information delivery. What is still required are the initial steps to codify and align the business and the employee, by creating delivery methods that allow for:
This feedback loop will allow businesses to create and act on the information required to compete, drive value, and prosper in the new, knowledge-based economy.
Here is where the challenge really begins, but also where we find the solution. The business must define a set of methods or capabilities to digest information at every level. This means not only creating categorizations of information, culture, and desired, appropriate results, but also having mechanisms to deliver the information, capture its use in the field, and identify outcomes. This requires a strong capability to interact with the information in the moment as well as provide additional information back into the business as close to real time as possible.
Here’s the great part: once the core is put in place (with solutions like Akumina enabling quick launches of a flexible information), the information can be delivered appropriately and accurately just as fast. Perhaps more importantly, and this is where Akumina stands out from our competition, delivery needs to then adapt to your information, process, personnel, and customers to allow for multiple types of experiences and interactions with the same set of information as appropriate to the individual receiving them, knowing that this will change over time. In other words, user-level personalization.
It is that change which is paramount. Not only might the information change, but the desired consumption method may also change. It is not enough, for example, to have a mobile app or an information dashboard that displays the flow of information. Today it is important to understand and expect that as the information is used, new and dramatically impactful ways of acting on it will be developed, fed back into the system, and adopted by the business.
It is in this capability to deliver on any experience or interaction with data and information that Akumina shines. As an intermediate layer between the information and its delivery—connected but not tightly coupled to either—we are capable of delivering any experience more simply and connecting multiple sources to a variety of intelligence sources such as search, machine learning, productive analytics, and natural language processing to deliver contextual information rapidly. At the same time we are as flexible and extensible as necessary for expansion and growth that can not even be imagined today—but is assuredly on the way.