What tasks can machines do for us? That’s what business leaders were pondering back when automation and AI were still new, cutting-edge technologies. Now the question has changed. What tasks can’t they do?
We used to think of automation as a useful method to avoid doing the repetitive, menial tasks that require so little of our brain power and take up so much of our days. But automation has come a long way – with new tools emerging every day that promise the capability of completing intuitive, creative tasks. Apparently the robots are even learning how to write – with AI-powered copywriting apps boasting more than half a million users.
As the capabilities of AI solutions have evolved, worldwide adoption has been steadily on the rise. While this trend predates COVID-19, the pandemic did cause a massive surge in investments in AI and automation technology: 55% of businesses say they’re accelerating their AI strategy due to the pandemic.
This wave of automation investments might’ve been aimed at solving specific problems brought on by the sudden change to remote working, but it’s not a temporary fix. The pandemic merely expedited what was always inevitable: automation solutions are fundamentally transforming nearly every aspect of the workplace — including the IT teams who work with these technologies firsthand.
The growth of automation has naturally stirred a certain anxiety among workers in all fields, including IT. It’s true that many IT positions have disappeared over recent years, and this trend will continue as businesses adopt more IT automation technology.
A number of traditional IT responsibilities – receiving and completing support tickets, incident remediation, reporting, and so on – are now tasks that can be largely automated. So yes: we’re slowly saying goodbye to the classic image of an IT worker manually tinkering with a laptop or troubleshooting a faulty network connection – but this change has been a long time coming.
And though IT pros may no longer be needed to perform these traditional support tasks, they will absolutely be needed to accomplish a number of innovation initiatives that will be essential to future business success. In fact, an optimist would say that AI isn’t taking jobs away from today’s IT workers – it’s opening the door for them to evolve into the IT workers of tomorrow.
Consider this: the number #1 hiring challenge for organizations exploring AI is that they have trouble finding people with skills in AI, machine learning, and data science. IT workers who familiarize themselves with these technologies will be in high demand for years to come as companies seek to hire AI Analysts, Machine Learning Engineers, and other specialized IT roles.
The same goes for cutting-edge technology like virtual and augmented reality. Companies are growing more aware of the benefits of these futuristic solutions – but they can only make them viable business tools if they have the right experts on their IT teams.
Automation has opened the door for IT professionals to take on even more impactful roles, beyond just operating new technology. By spending less time putting out fires, future IT teams will become less isolated and more ingrained in overall organizational strategy.
IT workers have always known the importance of managing Digital Employee Experience. Now, they’re finally able to focus the majority of their efforts on DEX initiatives – initiatives that maximize productivity, wellbeing, satisfaction, and other experience factors that drive the success of a digital workplace.
These initiatives rely on IT workers’ ability to collaborate across departments, balancing their technical expertise and (human) communication to better understand employees’ needs, preferences, working styles, and overall psychology on both a granular and big-picture level. These things might not sound like the concerns of an IT department, but they should be – as these are the factors that influence the entire flow of a workplace.
We’re already starting to see this shift take place, as the demand for DEX roles has steadily increased over the last several years. With automation handling more of the day-to-day issues, these reimagined IT teams will focus on:
New technology will help make these initiatives possible, but not without the expertise and empathy that only human IT professionals can bring to the table.
The debate around automation is far from settled; experts will continue to speculate on whether it’s enabling better work, stealing jobs from human workers, or somewhere in between. But IT professionals shouldn’t view the growth of automation as an omen, but an opportunity: by familiarizing themselves with automation and AI, they’ll cultivate skills that are in high demand as companies evolve to meet the demands of the future workplace.
More importantly, these skilled IT professionals will learn to balance the capabilities of automation with their own human expertise. Striking this balance will be the key to creating the best possible experiences for employees in a rapidly evolving workplace.