Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Human Capital and the Data Center

The topic of Human Capital has intrigued me lately, so I thought I would do a little research/commentary post on it. By no means do I want to declare that the data center has a human capital "crisis", but I think a little more attention and action on the topic are perhaps in order. A good starting point would be a definition -- and I found that on LinkedIn I believe. Human Capital is the process of driving business value and improving performance by maximizing capability and engagement of staff. It is different from human resources and work force planning and as many would tell you, the people are the most important asset of a company. Human Capital has actually been in the news quite a bit lately:

  1. Microsoft chose Iowa for the "quality work force"
  2. Systems Management News reported on a joint study between the Human Capital Institute and IBM that extolls "It Takes a Human Touch for Business to Succeed".
  3. Michael J Morris wrote a post about "Good Jobs Are Out There..."
  4. On June 16-17 the Human Capital Institute, Sun Microsystems and the New Learning Playbook hosted the innaugural meeting of a new executive round table focused on learning innovations and managing Milennial talent.
  5. The IBM CEO study I mentioned yesterday listed "people skills" as something that 48% of the CEO's surveyed mentioned as a change driver.
  6. A real shocker: "Both Presidential candidates cited a weak jobs report as an argument for their economic proposals."

The IBM study also had an interesting quote from a financial markets CEO: "we're making acquisitions for the people, not the assets". A virtual data center conference that I attended today also noted that there is a lot of "gray hair" management and senior staff that will be retiring in the very near future. This then implied that the younger IT workers would be left with a knowledge gap and a big challenge ahead of them. I think all of the data center automation that is under way will certainly help fill some of that gap, but the over-arching concern is that perhaps data center staff wouldn't know what to do (manually) if all of that automation broke!

The Human Capital/IBM study was interesting for a number of reasons. Just as we have heard that the CIO role is rapidly changing, the study noted that 84% of respondents know that putting people in the right roles is key to business success. Talent Management was also mentioned a few times and is sure to be the buzz word d'jour for a while. So the challenge at hand is to understand and apply human capital theories/methodologies/whatever, analyze the talent economy within the organization and re-strategize work force planning. Note the correlations within the definition of work force planning and human capital. Work force planning is the process of forecasting and preparing for changes in an organization’s workforce. This is done by mapping the current workforce structure and capabilities, deciding what the future needs of the business are in terms of long term strategic goals, undertaking gap analysis and implementing a plan to alter the workforce structure in order to meet the longer term corporate objectives.

Mission: Engage in work force planning in the data center industry to better profit from human capital and devote more time managing the engagement of staff.

For those new readers to my blog I want to note that I have a slight bias towards the Midwest (and Iowa particularly). Michael Manos declaring that a "quality workforce" was a reason that Microsoft chose Iowa came as no surprise to me. I became involved in a new program recently that I wanted to tout here briefly and give as an example for something that could be a very beneficial program most anywhere in the U.S. It is called HyperStream and it is built as a "tech hub for Iowa students". The idea is to engage young kids in technology and really help guide them into the right technology jobs. There are clubs, camps, programs, internships, mentoring and competitions -- all to help keep the kids engaged and excited about technology. The IT Olympics that I served as a mentor for last spring was a part of this program. I have heard some of the early success stories of this program and it is really inspiring to see how well it is doing. Check out the program and further details at http://www.hyperstream.org/

Well....I suppose that is enough for one night. I just had some random thoughts and opinions that I thought I would get out there. My Dad spent a lot of his career in work force development and "human capital" issues -- maybe it rubbed off on me just enough to author this post. :)

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