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Digital - a humdinger way of life from now!

By Sashi Mukundan, Regional President and Head of Country, bp India


All aspects of our life are getting digitized. Digitization is interwoven with everything we do in our lives and that in turn is changing the way we need to think and work and the skills needed to be successful. A time has come that we can’t travel without GPS, and practically feel lost without a mobile or email! 


It is speeding up the way we connect, acquire knowledge, think, and make decisions. The rules of competition are concurrently being rewritten due to digitization. None of us would have foreseen what 2016 looks like back in the nineties. It all happened post the Y2K boom. The astonishing part is that the change has been the most in the last 5 to 10 years.


The human touch keeps decreasing and the digital face of a person is emerging! We are currently email IDs and ten digits stored in phone memories, and we may soon be known only by our social media handles.


We would need a totally different set of talent pool to manage our businesses as we move towards a deeper digital age. The worker of the future will be known for their tech savviness and speed of adoption to change. Technology and ways of doing things and skills will become obsolete every few months – and a day may come when this happens by the day or even by the hour!


Communities will be global and the only link could be some sort of a “common digital platform”! For example you may have in India the Airtel family or the “what an Idea sirji” family and the newest of them all - the soon to be launched Reliance Jio family!” 


My two penny bits of advice - please do not laugh or ridicule the younger generation because they will have the last laugh! They are living in the new world and you are struggling to understand them and how they communicate or do things. Gen Y is the ‘Digital native’ while we scramble for language lessons and to acquire our passports! I predict that most of us will be obsolete if we don’t adapt to the new ways. 


The volume of data in the world is growing at an unprecedented rate. Some factoids that I have picked up to illustrate the speed of digitization:


  • 11 hours – speed at which world’s information base doubles
  • +12 terabytes – Amount of data twitter process every day
  • 1 trillion – Number of device connected to the internet
  • It will take 1000 years to view all YOUTUBE content posted to date

I belong to the oil and gas industry which is a dinosaur - where cycle times are measured in decades. Even this industry is changing and we are seeing data analytics and automation enabled by supercomputing playing a larger role to change the scope and scale of what we do – it also brings about a change in the talent we attract. 

Take the case of bp and how we process data; bp has the world’s largest supercomputer ever built for commercial research. The Centre for High-Performance Computing (a three-story, 110,000 square foot building with a 4 petaflop of processing power) is keeping bp at the forefront of seismic imaging technology, enhancing capabilities in exploration, and reservoir management. As it has been said in our industry: “A GPS coordinate is data, a contour is information, a map is knowledge, and someone who knows how to read it is wise…!”


With the beginning of the Digital age, it has certainly activated multiple changes in aspects of how we operate our businesses and how we, the human factors, need to change with digitization. Few examples are; how we communicate? Internal, external and with each other – it is more through social media and larger communities. I feel the stage is set where digital platforms will supersede print and television. Companies already focus on LinkedIn for candidates and recommendations. The upsurge of the virtual office, where the workforce do not reside in the same city or country and are working from anywhere have given wings to concepts like taking work to remote locations. It has changed method of how corporate learning is done (employees have begun to take charge of their own learning needs). These are just a few areas……..


New generation of organizations will face different HR challenges and a changing skills platform. With digitization I have functional experts in Mumbai reporting to and working with teams in Canada, Jakarta, Houston, London, and Singapore! In the digital world it doesn’t feel remote. New skills, behaviour and attitudes are required to work in such an environment. Gone are the days where you sat next to your boss and learnt the business.


To sum up the Reality of our Digital world by these three R’s

  • Rapid: constantly evolving, real-time innovation and change
  • Redundant: scale and pace of change can uproot and make every strategy and plan obsolete – disruption is the norm
  • Renew: constant and ongoing engagement, enterprise capabilities needs to be renewed and keep pace


The views expressed here are personal and those of the author.