How to prepare IT workers for the impact of automation

Stephanie Overby

Dube: To overcome resistance to change, our perceptions of artificial intelligence and automation must change from fear to acceptance. Instead of focusing on how machines can replace humans, we should create scenarios where people work alongside them. The [issue] is no longer ‘machine vs. human,’ but rather ‘machine and human.’

We need to remember that people’s skills will be evolving and not static. Each new technological development creates roles that were previously unheard of a decade before. For example, the Twitter and Facebook revolution has led to the creation of tens of thousands of social media experts and even entire agencies dedicated to a new business need.

This adaptation can help shift IT leaders from maintaining day-do-day operations to dedicating themselves to strategic change. An engineer, for example, develops new algorithms or systemic improvements that have the potential to completely transform a business and impact its productivity.

CIO.com: What are the most immediate challenges when introducing increased AI and automation?

Dube: The immediate challenge is properly aiding the shift in perception of an AI-driven workforce and reskilling your workforce to adapt to changes in roles and responsibilities. In order to do so, workers must be given the tools they need to succeed, and this starts with education. Educating the workforce about how automation can result in more enjoyable, strategic, and creative job roles, and how it will bring more productivity and increased revenues, must be a priority. This starts with CIOs and business leaders who can help mitigate the risk of transition. In order for the transition to be successful, it must be completely supported from the top-down within the organization.

While any kind of restructuring will inevitably be met with a degree of resistance, in the medium to longer term the new model has the potential to deliver far greater benefits to a company’s entire employee base.

CIO.com: Might there be some areas where automation is possible but the disruption would just be too great?

Dube: Business leaders must ask themselves a vital question: “What will happen if this change is not embraced?” [There may be] a domino effect. If a business fails to adapt, it is likely to die. If the business dies, then there will be no jobs to protect. Of course, that’s a worst-case scenario; however, it is plausible. Failing to embrace change and undertake automation can affect revenues and hinder competitiveness, which can both have a huge impact on an organization.

CIO.com: What sorts of new role do you see emerging as a result of increasingly advanced automation capabilities?

Dube: The introduction of AI will see the creation of new executives such as the Chief Data Intelligence Officer. These highly skilled workers will be able to filter and interpret the vast amounts of data stemming from automated procedures and transform it into valuable intelligence. The ability to see the bigger picture and spot trends and opportunities will become a key skill within IT, as it maximizes the varying abilities of both people and machines.

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