Modern technology – from consumer devices to enterprise software and cloud computing – it’s changing our world, for the better, most would argue. Indeed, every business is constantly on the lookout for methods of improving workflows and processes to create more efficient operations. In many cases, automation plays a significant role in creating more efficient businesses.
This trend towards process automation had led to an opportunity for automation vendors, consultancies, and workforce analytics companies, all with a mission to help businesses achieve greater levels of efficiency through automation.
For instance, IPsoft was founded on the belief that automation would allow IT infrastructure to run more efficiently, behaving as an emancipator of sorts. Through automation, engineers, developers, and others would be allowed to focus on their core businesses, not their infrastructure, which would be in a constant state of optimization. With the third version of its IP Center software currently available (and v4 in development), Thomas Young, vice president of business services at IPsoft says the company estimates 60 percent of trouble tickets can be automates in the IT service supply chain (which is substantially higher than the 47 percent reported by other studies).
At its heart, this isn’t surprising, and the automation trend is largely being fueled by the big data explosion and the use of data analytics to build businesses. Many are using the concepts to understand customers better, but it’s equally important to know your own business and its inefficiencies. According to Young, the idea is to allow employees to perform intelligent, cognitive functions, rather than information processing.
As I spoke with Young, I realized this wasn’t the first time I had been engaged in a conversation of this nature. Four years ago, when Interactive Intelligence launched is IPA product, Joe Staples and Tim Passios visited TMC’s then-headquarters at Technology Plaza, describing exactly the same concept. At the time, the concept of CEBP was starting to gain some traction, but Passios was quick to note that, while CEBP is a step in the right direction, CBPA (communications-based process automation) is the real key to efficiency and operational excellence.
Basically, it’s a way for businesses to monetize the data they collect, not externally through increased customer spend, but internally, which can create a highly destabilizing force in the market, and a potentially demotivating one within the workforce.
Young says IPsoft recognizes the impact automation can and will have on the workforce; its goal is not to increase unemployment lines, but to help businesses not only automate to increase efficiency, but to also help create career plans for those employees that will be impacted by automation. To that end, it is building out its consulting practice, which will focus less on the technology and more on its implementation and deployment.
Frankly, the effort must be collaborative in order to be effective. Employers must create not only actionable development plans for displaced workers, but the workers, themselves, must be motivated to become newly educated in order to perform new functions. It’s not as much a question of should they learn new skills as it is an imperative. Many in today’s workforce were trained to perform certain tasks, ones that are now becoming obsolete thanks to technology. This isn’t new; it’s been happening since the Industrial Revolution, the driver of unprecedented economic and social change across the globe.
We know the changes during the 18th century carried with them a period of poor work conditions, particularly for unskilled laborers, who had few options until government reform introduced labor unions and other workforce benefits. Today, not only do many of those institutions still exist, but the opportunities for education are well within the reach of most employees. Many businesses will even pay for their employees’ job-related education. Why not? It’s in their best interest to retain quality employees who seek growth and development, and are already familiar with the business.
As Bob Dylan sang, back in 1964:
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roamAnd admit that the waters
Around you have grownAnd accept it that soonYou'll be drenched to the boneIf your time to youIs worth savin'Then you better start swimmin'Or you'll sink like a stoneFor the times they are a-changin'.
Those words hold true today as much as they ever have. Technology is the rising tide, and it brings with it both opportunity and challenge with its excitement. Regardless of current skillsets, though, opportunities abound for anyone with the motivation to dive into the tech waters. There are those who blame business for job loss due to automation, others will blame the employees, and many will blame government. The truth is, all three play a role but, when it comes down to it, no government or corporate program will be successful if the employee doesn’t want to learn to swim.
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