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Headline articles of BusinessWeek on Sep 8, picked up IBM reaearch acitivity for building mathematical models of workers with the aim to improve productivity and automate workforce management. I just recalled the word in IBM executive presentation that says "People Supply Chain" to streamline sourcing of the skilled resources for setting customer engagement team for services offering back in 2007.
Here you see the similar expresession, virtual assembly line. "This is the equivalent of the industrial revolution for white-collar workers," .

It is a bit scary, but this is the area that all people intensive Kowledge Service Business should understand.

Author answered why he wrote this book

Was there a spark moment that inspired you to write this book?

I was at IBM Research, talking to Samer Takriti, a Syrian-born mathematician. He was telling me about his project to build mathematical models of 50,000 of his colleagues. He explained that he and his team had all of this data now, and that they could use it to create these simulations of workers. One day, they would be able to predict how productive each one would be, which ones would work best together, which ones were worth training.

That afternoon I drove home from IBM's Watson lab, about 40 miles north of New York. I remember replaying Takriti's words as I crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge and thinking: If they can model us as workers, then others can model us as patients, shoppers, voters... This is the mathematical modeling of humanity! That was when the book popped into focus.

Book Excerpt: The Numerati by Stephen Baker

the efforts under way at places like IBM will not only break down each worker into sets of skills and knowledge. The same systems will also divide their days and weeks into small periods of time—hours, half-hours, eventually even minutes. At the same time, the jobs that have to be done, whether it's building a software program or designing an airliner, are also broken down into tiny steps. In this sense, Haren might as well be describing the industrial engineering that led to assembly lines a century ago. Big jobs are parsed into thousands of tasks and divided among many workers. But the work Haren is discussing is not done by hand, hydraulic presses, or even robots. It flows from the brain. The labor is defined by knowledge and ideas. As he sees it, that expertise will be tapped minute by minute across the world. This job sharing is already starting to happen, as companies break up projects and move big pieces of them offshore. But once the workers are represented as mathematical models, it will be far easier to break down their days into billable minutes and send their smarts to fulfill jobs all over the world.

Consider IBM's superstar consultant. He's roused off the bench, whether he's on a ski lift at St. Moritz or leading a seminar at Armonk, N.Y. He reaches into his pocket and sees a message asking for 10 minutes of his precious time. He might know just the right algorithm, or perhaps a contact or a customer. Maybe he sends back word that he's busy. (He's a star, after all.) But if he takes part, he assumes his place in what Haren calls a virtual assembly line. "This is the equivalent of the industrial revolution for white-collar workers," Haren says.

(Italic part are mine)