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Man and Machine: Maximising AI and Automation
John Gikopoulos, Global Head of AI and Automation, Infosys Consulting
AI will create as many jobs as it displaces and a recent McKinsey report states that AI has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030. This ought to give the public pause for thought. Perhaps there’s less reason to fear the impact of automation on jobs than we thought. Perhaps we should be thinking and talking more positively about the ways in which AI will transform both businesses and the economy as well.
AI and the skills gap
When it comes to hot topics in tech, there’s only one that might beat out automation and AI: the skills gap. Just as we need to treat AI and automation as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the same goes for skills. In fact, the two should go hand in hand. Business leaders should be focused on how best to bring automation into the enterprise without robbing us of our livelihoods.
Instead of worrying about the political fallout of redundancies, then, businesses should be thinking positively about the opportunity to develop a more skilled workforce – one that can wring the most value out of new technologies. Luckily, there’s no short of examples of how they can do exactly that.
Putting automation into action
Some organisations are already delegating repetitive tasks to machines through RPA and predictive analytics. Finance provides a number of great examples. Incoming invoices can be automatically processed and actioned by machine, creating efficiencies in a department fraught with mountains of paperwork and mounting deadlines.
In supply chain management, we can see predictive analytics forecasting customer demand without human intervention and communicating this to pickers and packers on the warehouse floor at the touch of a button.
We need to treat AI and automation as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the same goes for skills
Working in harmony
There, it seems, is the rub: if robots can perform these tasks faster and more accurately than people, where is the benefit in employing humans. The answer is that by taking up the drudge work, it frees employees for much more creative, valuable work that uses human capital to its best advantage.
With AI and automation in full swing, we can see human job roles start to become less ‘functionary’ and more ‘visionary’. While technology will perform tasks of ever-increasing complexity, humans will be needed to guide them, match capabilities to business strategy, and provide the all-important vision for the future.
Bots may be brilliant at predicting demand, but only people can turn data into real insight –the sort that wins new customers and generates long-term business value. Finance professionals can spend more time on financial planning and product development or customer service, again feeding value back into the business that only a human can provide.
Those who question if we’ve got the skills, might be onto something. We are often fixated on core technical skills, from coding to advanced topics like data science and machine learning. There’s no doubt that these are important to the future of industry and businesses.
But have we lost sight of the softer skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and applying insight to business strategy? AI can find facts and can even recommend prescriptive or proscriptive actions – but what it can’t do is formulate a watertight strategy based on the insights it discovers. To truly make AI work for your business, ensuring your employees’ human skills are honed to perfection is as crucial as technological investments.
We want business leaders to foster an atmosphere of experimentation and innovation, and constantly question how they can deploy smart technologies such as AI to solve today’s challenges. But to combat the threat posed by automation, we need to do more. It’s not enough just to understand the different technologies on the table; they should also understand what new value these technologies can bring to their business, their customers, and their employees.
Adopting AI and automation in your business will require both a drastic cultural shift and the acquisition of new skills and technology. Considering which processes will benefit most from AI and automation, as well as thinking practically about how you can maximise the capabilities of these new technologies, will be key for a successful strategy.
An AI strategy must consider the ways that we can marry the number-crunching, time-saving power of AI with the human skills of reason and lateral thinking. Businesses replacing human capital with AI are missing the sweet spot where humans and robots can work together to transform a business.
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