Smart Organizations

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In 2011, IBM Watson, an artificial intelligent computer competed on a famous US game show Jeopardy, against 2 former winners and won!

The win was remarkable but if you consider how IBM Watson won is even more amazing. IBM Watson is a computer built on a QA technology that takes a question expressed in natural language, seeks to understand it in much greater detail, and returns a precise answer to the question. It means that computers can now look for answers based on text and questions just like humans. To put things in perspective, IBM Watson 3-year development price tag is around 900 million dollars. It had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage including the full text of Wikipedia but was not connected to the Internet during the game.

Are we about to witness man vs. machine warfare pictured in popular sci-fi movies, Skynet in Terminator? This article is not about that. It is also not about how machines will replace humans and automate processes. Rather, this article is about how machines can augment human to allow us to do things which were not humanly possible or if possible would take tremendous amount of resources and time. Smart machines or cognitive systems will enable organizations to become smart organizations. It is going to change the workplace in all areas be it Sales, Marketing, Research & development and of course my favorite Human resources.

Facing rising high turnover and shortage in talent in pipeline, imagine having to sniff through external sources, internal sources in various forms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, emails, current and ex-employee records to find the right candidate. Imagine now you have smart recruiting machine that can shortlist candidates that are most likely to succeed in your company for you in a matter of minutes. The smart recruiter can learn the rules of selection.

Imagine a smart engagement system that lets you know the level of employee engagement instantly based on the data collected from intranet, absence records, overtime records and employee turnover. Imagine a smart HR advisor that tells you who are likely to leave your company and why!

It’s a world where we will have smart computers that help improve our wisdom and knowledge. Recently, I had my own experience with IBM Watson. My question was to find out “what are the key factors that affect turnover of high performers in the company”. To answer the question, it would take me at least a month of data mining and analysis (with my current ability in statistics) before I come to a conclusion. Instead, with IBM Watson, it was able to answer in a matter of minutes. By the way, those of you who want to try, there is a free version available online with fairly extensive functionality.

It’s coming! Every major player in Human Capital management space is investing heavily in machine learning and big data in its effort to develop smart systems providing insights to human resource professionals. Smart HR can be our trusted advisor just as Watson was to Sherlock Holmes.

Suvit Chansrichawla, next-generation HR consultant under the brand Serendipity&Co., partner of the Curve Group in Thailand.

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