The Promise of Advanced Automation

When we talk about automation in the workplace and the potential for its adoption to accelerate and impact our daily lives, we often envision a future very different from the world we live in now. Will we have flying cars in our lifetime? Will we eat 3D-printed food or wear 3D-printed clothing? I don’t know. But I do know that, despite the science-fiction-based fear of robots taking over the world that some of us may have grown up with, one thing is for sure: enterprises are eager to know how and where they can best leverage automation to increase efficiency and speed to market.

This year’s SIC keynote speaker, Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robot: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, argues that software robots and artificial intelligence will ultimately do the work of a great number of jobs around the world. And he makes a compelling point that jobs that are fundamentally repetitive, routine and predictable are the ones that will be easiest to automate. Already, we are seeing software do much of what bookkeepers, bank tellers and payroll processors do.

But, having visited numerous product labs and software engineering groups around the world, my estimation is that automation, in the long run, will be a job creator. In fact, companies like IBM, Wipro and others are combining cognitive technology, automation and analytics to deliver capabilities and insights that are creating new market opportunities and new revenue streams.

It is easy to picture a day when everything from retail stores to cars are reimagined through advanced analytics and augmented reality. As these capabilities and insights create a whole new set of products and services, we will see a whole new set of jobs. After all, the job “data scientist” didn’t even exist five years ago, but now it’s in such demand that the Harvard Business Review calls it the sexiest job of the 21st century. User-experience experts and many other new roles are just the beginning of what we will see as we continue along this unchartered path.

Watch how the conversation about the future impact of automation unfolds as Martin Ford, Michael Bieler of Infosys and I respond to Sonya Van Sickle’s questions at last week’s SIC.