Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the buzz words continue into 2019

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IT is changing everything. Telegram has been laid to rest, thanks to revolution in communication technology, the most recent disruption being brought by the likes of WhatsApp. Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality is changing the way training is delivered and product demonstrations are held. Virtual Assistants have started to impact shopping experience positively. Cassettes are a thing of the past, and digital distribution channels have taken over the process which was once human resource intensive.

Nortel Networks was a giant in the telecom industry; it had more than 90,000 staff and enjoyed a huge installed base. With over 100 years of history and proven products in the market world over, Nortel appeared to have everything right. But it couldn’t respond well to the changing marketplace as it was too afraid of cannibalizing its installed base and succumbed to the competition from soft-switch vendors. The story isn’t different from those of Kodak or Digital. Someone within Kodak did develop a digital camera but the company was too averse to change and adapt and hence eventually failed.

The IT Landscape has been changing rapidly as well. Be it the internet, email, smartphone, SMAC (social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud) or the most recent trend of digital technologies, IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), there have been disruptive innovation from time to time. Only those who have invented continually have survived, be it products or companies.

Some countries have been leading this disruptive innovation by building a supportive ecosystem. Today when we hear about Israel what comes to our mind is technology. Nice Systems, Selenium, SecureLogic are all from Israel. Who knew about Stockholm’s technology prowess but now with Skype, Shopify and Candy Crush, we know that Sweden is revolutionizing the technology space. India too is undergoing an entrepreneurial transformation with startup initiatives gaining popularity. Born deep-tech companies such as Flipkart are changing India’s positioning from a technology perspective.

Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning will rule the roost. Automation and Artificial Intelligence are surely a part of this and is going to impact the way technology is implemented and used in the years to come. With the automation of processes taking center stage, focus has moved towards products & applications as well.

Digital economy is pushing software companies to refresh products in short order; the reasons are many such as User Experience, Mobility, and SaaS enablement. Companies are under tremendous cost-and-time pressure. They are increasingly adopting agile, lean processes and automation. Not only automation of processes, even the resource intensive software development is being disrupted by auto-coding. Faster time-to-market with no compromise on quality & reliability, at a lower cost, is the need. Companies that took several years to bring out a product, now want to shorten the cycle to a couple of quarters, between ideation, market testing and product release. Speed has become critical.

In the wake of these rapid changes and the need to quickly adapt to the changing market requirements, automation and AI are here to stay. Organizations must plan for adoption of these technologies in order leverage its benefits and stay ahead in the game. Adoption of automation and AI cannot be treated in isolation in the business context. They need to become a part of the transformation strategy and need to be treated with the overall transformation initiative in mind. Outcomes need to be clearly defined and implemented in a manner that the complete lifecycle of these initiatives is benefited.

For organizations, communicating the automation and AI initiatives is also critical. The perceived notion about automation and AI is the displacement of jobs. But this is not always necessarily true. People with updated skills in these areas will continue to deliver value-added work. According to McKinsey, globally, automation can improve productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent. A recent report by a recruitment startup states that less than 4 per cent of the AI professionals have worked on actual deeply involved AI-driven projects. People need to reskill themselves to remain relevant and employable. There are some encouraging signs with industry veterans taking up jobs in universities and investment by NGOs but not adequate given the size of the industry. Companies also need to create talent pools by placing mentor programs that dedicate time in training and developing people in this space.

All in all, it’s an opportunity that exists than never before. With an effective automation strategy that is goal-based and not budget based will surely help organizations tap into the potential and benefits that automation and AI have to offer.

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