2013 prediction: the human-technology bologna sandwich

The biggest trend in 2013 will be a business process shift to what I elegantly deem the “bologna sandwich model” of humans and machines. That means: this will be the year organizations figure out how to use employees not to replace technology (“Would someone please go find and count those Twitter mentions?”) but to envision and interpret it. In the bologna sandwich model, the people are the bread: on one end, they’re the strategy, envisioning the technology needed to move the business goals forward; on the other end, they are the interpreters of the technology – what patterns are emerging, what do the analytics tell us, and how do we refine our approach?

A sexier answer would be “the cloud – everywhere” or “big data” or “the internet of things” – and those ideas are dead on. If those Black Friday numbers are any indication, in 2013 mobile in particular will continue its rapid acceleration into our everyday lives. But to me the seismic shift will be getting the human-machine interplay right so that we’re neither Luddites nor slaves to Utopian automation. We need to use humans and machines for what they’re best at: for the former, strategy and interpretation; for the latter: data mining and analytics. Nate Silver’s victory in the 2012 presidential election provides the anecdata that will be the tipping point for a thoughtful, data-driven approach.

What’s the biggest industry challenge related to that prediction? The inherent skills gap between many high school and college graduates and the world of work. We still need critical thinkers, and we also need people with quantitative skills to be everything from entry-level data analysts to the blue-collar coders that all businesses – not just tech firms – will require. For the bologna sandwich, you’ll need tech-savvy leaders to drive the strategy, and data scientists to interpret the results. How will we solve for this? In 2013, I’m confident you will see both traditional and non-traditional educational models develop innovative responses to that challenge.

Originally posted in the Predictions and Reflections series for Massachusetts Innovation Technology Exchange (MITX) .


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