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Digital Transformation and the Future of Work – Good or Bad?

Andrew Medhurst

by Andrew Medhurst

Digital Transformation and the Future of Work

Technology seems so entrenched in our modern lives that most of us don’t even give it a second thought, whether shopping online, catching up with friends via social media, or watching Netflix. Until, that is, people start talking about artificial intelligence (AI), robots taking over jobs, and what the future of work may look like.

Just How Advanced is AI Anyway

While advocates of AI are quick to expound on the benefits of AI and similar digital tools, others find the idea of robots in the workplace somewhat unnerving. Just how much control will humans retain, which jobs will go and which will stay? Does anybody really know for sure?

Currently AI is being successfully implemented in areas where there are vast amounts of data to be processed. There’s no doubt that machines are able to process data volumes far more efficiently. Those in support of AI claim that machines provide the digital tools to take over the mundane repetitive jobs that nobody really enjoys doing anyway. This may be true. It may also be true that AI is creating new opportunities in terms of design, application and implementation and that humans are still very much needed in this field.

Some companies are leading the way in terms of digital transformation by implementing AI and attracting top technology talent in the process. Amazon is embracing the future of AI in terms of creating better customer experiences, and sales of Alexa, their AI assistant, have soared. This could be viewed as an indication that as long as people recognize the benefits that technology has to offer, they will easily adopt it. Is this an indication of what the future holds, or is it just a small segment of the market willing to embrace digital tools to that degree?

Are the Benefits of Technology Blinding Us to the Risks?

There are some who have concerns that as technology becomes more entrenched in our lives it opens us up to more risk. Maintaining privacy is becoming increasingly difficult, both in a personal capacity and for businesses that collect and use personal data. There are also questions being raised as to what degree should businesses be allowed to use and share the personal data they collect?

In 2018, both Google and Facebook came under fire for exposing user’s personal data and selling it. Information is fast becoming a commodity worth trading but what does this mean for the IT industry? Is it an opportunity or a threat?

The EU GDPR regulations that came into force in 2018 are aimed at protecting privacy and are possibly some of the most comprehensive regulations to date. While they only apply to the EU, they have set a high benchmark for other countries to emulate. It also indicates an area of opportunity in terms of work. As much as there is a demand for using data, there will be an even greater need to ensure a level of security can be maintained for the good of both businesses and customers.

Will Some Jobs or Industries Become Obsolete?

As with every evolution in the marketplace, there will be casualties. Empty retail stores are obvious casualties to the demand for online shopping. Banks stand empty or are occupied in the main by pubs or pizza chains (there’s no code yet that can replace beer or pizza!). The reality is that as digital transformation ushers in change it will impact the skills needed in the marketplace, in the same way that the creation and subsequent demise of the typewriter ushered in a new wave of jobs. Jobs that are basic or repetitive in nature are most likely to be taken over by digital tools and new jobs created (or so we are told). We’ve already seen this happening to a large degree in the manufacturing industry, and other sectors such as retail and customer services are replacing people with software. Will new jobs be created and how many of those who lose their jobs will be given the opportunity or support to re-skill?

The advantage for humans, for now, resides in developing skills that cannot be easily replicated by lines of code. Innovative thinking, creativity, strategic development and human interaction are skills that digital technologies have yet to master. Machines can process data according to how they have been programmed, but people are still needed to set those processes up and be involved in the design of digital systems. But even then this advantage could be short-lived.

There is no doubt that digital technology is going to usher in some innovative and interesting changes, the benefits and risks of which have yet to be discovered. Does digital transformation, automation and AI excite you? How do you see the future of work? Will new technologies such as AI be an enabler, providing digital tools for you to get ahead, or the thin edge of the wedge in the demise of the human workforce?

About Inspire People

Inspire People is a boutique IT recruiter specialising in Digital Transformation, Platforms and DevOps.

We work in partnership with a diverse range of employers who utilise technology to make a positive impact on society; from managed service providers to private, public sector and not-for-profit organisations, finding the fit between the employer and the employee.

If you would like to discuss your next career move or are looking to attract the right talent, speak with one of the Inspire People team on +44(0)20 7871 8550 or email hello@inspirepeople.net

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