E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

The Numerati – Reducing Your Employees to Numbers

A few weeks back Dave Snowden, as well as a couple of other folks I respect and admire, put together a blog post where he was questioning the ethical validity of the contents of a new book called The Numerati, which tries to pin down how the knowledge workers of the 21st century might be operating on the corporate world, based on some research that seemed to be taking place inside IBM of capturing end-users’ behaviours while working on the computer to then try to find the right experts / information for later engagements.

Funny enough this is a conversation I have been having internally already with a whole bunch of folks on an internal blog post started by Harriet Pearson, IBM’s VP Regulatory Policy & Chief Privacy Officer (On a blog post!! Who would have thought about that, huh?). Of course, I am not going to be sharing those comments over here, since they are taking place on a private environment where I feel I just need to respect that: its own privacy.

Needless to say though some of my comments were not very positive from the perspective where I feel the author of the book, Steve Baker, clearly seems to be missing the core driving values that drive IBM & IBMers to do their job in a professional manner. As an example of those values there is one in particular that will summarise my sentiments on, at least, the BusinessWeek excerpt of Baker’s book, and which, I thought, was worth while sharing over here as well:

Trust and Personal Responsibility in All Relationships

The premise of the book excerpt I read seems to contradict rather heavily that third core value from the IBM corporation as well as that one from IBMers, so I thought I would go ahead and put together this blog post where I will try to share with folks out there what’s IBM’s standpoint, which also happens to be my own, and I am sure that of plenty of other fellow colleagues.

For those folks who would want to know plenty more about it, specially IBMers, please go ahead and check out Harriet’s internal blog post on the topic where you can see where IBM stands. For the rest of you who may be interested, I got in touch with Harriet as well various folks within Corporate Communications and this is the statement they are sharing with anyone out there who may be asking for IBM’s position on the book’s contents:

  • ""The Numerati" appears to confuse what might be technically possible, speculation concerning theoretical technological breakthroughs and what IBM actually is doing now.
  • IBM is not routinely analyzing employees e-mail, calendars and chats without employees’ permission or knowledge
  • Efforts have been underway for several years throughout IBM to better identify and determine the availability of persons with specific skills to be utilized on behalf of our clients.
  • Employees themselves provide information via online database tools concerning their skills.
  • That information can then be matched to client requirements, and also can be used to help determine IBM hiring and training requirements.
  • Any impression that IBM creates employee behavioral profiles through monitoring of employee communications or schedules is erroneous."

As you may have noticed, I have taken the liberty to highlight some of the statements mentioned above, and grabbed from an e-mail exchange, and placed some emphasis on them as I feel rather identified with them as being one of those IBM employees.

Perhaps the most compelling items that certainly contradict some of The Numerati’s claims, are the second and last bullets, which I think clearly state how not only IBM, but also many of us IBMers, feel about some of the arguments the book excerpt tries to make.

As you may have guessed as well, this is going to be the first and last post I will be putting together on this subject on this blog, since I feel there was a need to put things down, perhaps, from a much clearer perspective, and share my two cents worth of comments on how I feel about the whole subject. Needless to say that I surely am glad IBM takes very seriously these matters and clearly understands concepts that nowadays are becoming more and more important, specially in the current Enterprise 2.0 world: like trust, privacy, responsibility, ownership, openness and transparency.

And I guess that now is where I will be putting together a short disclaimer that will be accompanying this entry:

Yes, indeed, as most of you already know, I have been working for IBM for nearly 12 years now and I am very proud of it! Why? Because amongst many other things, the company respects my privacy and treats me like a professional & responsible knowledge worker. The way it should be.

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