Thursday, June 15, 2006

Knowledge as a commodity

If union guys were scared that automation (robotics) would obviate them straight into unemployment, so should Google and the Wikipedia scare knowledge workers.

One of my team members brought me a RAID controller from a failed Dell server (go figure!), and indicated it needed a replacement. This was a sandbox system without warranty, and nobody wanted another PERC.

Not having fiddled with hardware in a while, I went to the Wikipedia to search for "PCI". I looked at PCI, PCIe, and PCI-X articles - all of which had photos. From them, I learned that PCI Express and PCI-X aren't the same thing, and that the card I had in my hands was PCI-X. This allowed me to spot the right replacement part in about 10 minutes, including a call to our preferred vendor.

I know plenty of hardware guys that I could have asked "What's this thing?", but they were busy - and I didn't need them.

Fair warning. If the "value" you're currently providing is largely due to things you know (which others don't), you may want to be ready for a new career or retirement in the next 5 - 10 years. I firmly believe that knowledge has been commoditized - moreso every day. All people will need to know, is how to find it. The value those people will need to add is the ability to take knowledge and do something meaningful with it (e.g. solve problems). That's not knowledge, that's talent - something that can't be commoditized.

At least I don't think so...(grin)


Fistandantalus said...

Good point about the knowledge. Lately I've been experiencing issues with Vendors who don't know their own product well enough to fix it, making me dig and fight and scrape for the development information to fix it myself... then teaching them to do it... Sometimes I think they rely a lot on 'finding' the right info out there rather than learning their own product... Of course I also deal with nurses who can't plug in a power cord to the wall too...

ZEN Master said...

We've been adopters of the free MediaWiki product internally for over a year now, and have found it to be a tremendous resource in eliminating dependencies on individual knowledge. Our HelpDesk does a lot of junior engineering between calls - as we cycle through HelpDesk staff, ramping up new techs takes a matter of days as opposed to months. This is primarily because we have so many processes and features of our environment documented and easily searchable. In my opinion, any vendor who can't do the same is headed for trouble sooner or later.