As AI and Automation take center stage in IT transformations, there will be greater emphasis on cross-functional teams and rise in deeper partnerships between AI and IT staff.
Disruptive technologies are causing complex changes, clearly indicating the shape of things to come. McKinsey’s report, ‘Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce,’ indicates that in the next 10-15 years, automation and AI adoption will completely transform the workplace as humans interact with ever-smarter machines.
Workers and managers are getting ready to accept automation and the change that will cause in their careers. Most futurists take an optimistic view of humans offloading manual work to machines, since they can deliver fundamental decision-making via algorithms, but cannot match human problem-solving skills.
Gartner has released various reports on the future of IT evolution, and one of its primary conclusions is that independent, ad-hoc teams will do most of the work, moving away from the top-down approach. The analyst firm describes these independent groups like the ones comprising of high performers with diversified skills. These groups will grow and shrink with changes in timeframes, workload, and ‘intense flurries of information exchange and coordination.’
These types of teams will take away the role of middle managers and emerge as a way of cutting cost and driving efficiency.
In the future of IT, the workforce will need to accept the ‘silicon bosses.’ While the idea of machine-based managers still seems farfetched, experts suggest that it is not. Companies like Uber and Lyft already have algorithms managing their drivers. In 2015, a group of computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon, who study human-machine interaction, explored the reaction of employees when computers assign work. It was surprising how easily workers accepted the idea of taking direction from an algorithm.
Experts also believe that the next decade of IT will be an ‘age of shared cognition,’ that will be driven by the increasing adoption of cognitive technology, need for independent arbiters of trust and, ongoing concerns about the scarcity of human attention. A Forrester report emphasizes the melding of humans and computers at work over the next decade, rather than merely attrition by automation.
However, regardless of computers wiping out wide swaths of low-cognitive work, for example, perfunctory middle management functions and routine data processing, there appears to be broad agreement on what tasks will be left for workers. Experts opine that there are many aspects of management that AI cannot yet accomplish. There is a relational and an emotional aspect of management that is required for relating to employees, which includes motivation and dealing with difficult situations. Though technology is getting closer to sensing the human emotional state and understanding the natural human language to carry conversations, we are still far from replacing the relational aspects of management.
With AI and automation, the concept of work will continue to be redefined, with the combination of availability of computing resources, commoditization of machine learning and falling costs, to drive efficiencies.