In the world of Information Security an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) “usually refers to a group, such as a government, with both the capability and the intent to persistently and effectively target a specific entity”.
I’ve written and tweeted and otherwise socialled the message about the threat automation is posing human cognitive labour. However one thing I’ve skipped over – despite through my career choice being an implicit part of – is the APT to human labour that the application of analytics within business represents.
Attempting to control labour productivity and costs have always been an important activity within any operation – more productivity per unit of labour at the lowest possible cost being the key aim (when was the last time you heard business groups advocating higher minimum wages?).
The Science of the Labour Analytics APT
BI & Analytics have enabled this to move from an art – i.e. “I, Bob’s manager, suspect he is a slacker, and should be fired” – to a science – i.e. “I, Bob’s manager, see he is costing more to employ than he generates in revenue, and should be fired.” To people working in sales this is nothing new – targets and bonuses have long been part of the way their performance is measured (gleefully ignoring the evidence that this is counter-productive). Now however, everyone in the organisation can be assigned a “worth” which they must justify.
Now traditionally some components are more easily allocated value – sales people generate revenue, consultants can be sold – but areas that have been harder are starting to fall into a metricisable state. For example, through analytics of customer satisfaction, it can be worked out which aspects of service – billing, support, service levels – actually matter. Then consequently what the business should spend to get that function delivering the customer satisfaction to keep the customer. If support doesn’t really matter, don’t ask for a payrise if you work in that department.
Its not all dark side, of course – part of the metricisation of labour has meant that some improvements to working life have come along. The realisation that happy employees are more productive has led to companies paying more than lip service (read: obligatory Christmas party and awkward team-building events) to keeping people happy and feeling like their work is worth expending effort on. So we can all look forward to less beatings.
Analysts are the Architects of Unemployment
It may be a bit harsh to suggest this, but I believe that alongside the roboticists, software developers, visionaries and other people building our future, analysts are a key player in removing human labour from daily life. At the futurologists end of the deal they are designing the learning systems which will allow machines to think, but in the here and now they are creating the basis for working out what sections of business need to be automated first.
At least the good news is that as an Analyst you will probably be one of the last to be fired…. by the HR algorithm.