Artificial intelligence and machine learning are lightening the workloads of help desk, IT security, and other typical IT tasks. Alongside the obvious benefits for companies, this trend is raising considerable concern about the long-term impact on jobs.
And the concern is not groundless. According to a recent report by Tata Consulting Services, in 12 of the 13 major vertical industries, IT is the segment that makes more use of AI, with over 46% of the IT teams of large companies that integrate artificial intelligence into their applications.
This does not mean that artificial intelligence will replace IT professionals, but that their daily activities will evolve together with AI and may require new skills.
The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) experience
This is already happening at the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the multinational chain that includes the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.
Two years ago, when Scot Whigham was appointed the director of IHG’s global IT support service, his team consisted of 35 first and second-level technical support staff. The team helped hotel employees and company staff solve problems with reservations and other back-end systems, as well as general hardware and software problems.
The staff had difficulty keeping up with the needs of society and managing emergencies. Then, at the beginning of 2016, the company undertook a major transformation to offer better self-service and scalable options as needed. Artificial intelligence was part of our transformation strategy.
IHG has implemented IPSoft Amelia, an AI-enabled service desk agent that can conduct intelligent conversations, answer questions, perform support tasks, and above all learn from experience.
The company has not fired personnel. On the contrary, it has increased staff from 35 to 115 people. However, without the platform, IHG would have to hire an additional 120 operators to meet demand.
IHG’s experience is an example of the future impact of AI on IT work, where productivity is improved, new career opportunities open up and, above all, some tasks and roles emerge that may no longer be performed by human beings in future.
Unlike most chatbots, Amelia is not merely based on a list of questions and answers. With Amelia managing this “zero-level” support, humans can concentrate on more difficult problems and unusual situations. Some employees have also started to change roles: instead of answering calls, they are monitoring and training Amelia.
For employees to become familiar with the new technology, IHG used the training offered by IPSoft and other vendors, including IBM.
The opportunities offered by the AI are growing
For IT professionals, artificial intelligence technologies present significant opportunities. The ability to implement AI technology and integrate it with other tools and services to achieve maximum business value opens up new career paths. But even at a basic level, AI frees IT professionals from repetitive tasks by allowing them to devote themselves to something of higher value.
Artificial intelligence is particularly useful in heavy and repeatable tasks. On large quantities, for example, human beings get tired and do not get satisfactory results in pattern recognition. Any repetitive task, even if it seems creative, if it is based on pattern, could be done by the AI.
Nintex, for example, is adding third-party AI components, such as Microsoft’s sentiment analysis service, to its workflow automation offer. This allows companies that are not necessarily artificial intelligence experts to add these capabilities to a wide range of routine tasks.
Until a few years ago only companies with many skills and resources could afford artificial intelligence technologies. Today it’s not like that anymore; artificial intelligence is within everyone’s reach, you just need to know where to look. 2018 will be the year when artificial intelligence can be exploited by any company that has vision, motivation, and strategy to use it.
According to Gartner, by 2019 more than 10 percent of IT customer service employees will write scripts for interactions with bots, and by 2020, 20 percent of companies will dedicate part of their workforce to monitoring neural networks.
Some companies will also benefit from a broader use of artificial intelligence, which may require specific training.
PayPal uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to ” add efficiency to everything from risk management to customer life cycle management. But today there is a lack of talent in artificial intelligence compared to the question.
A new economy based on AI
For most companies, it is preferable to use Google, Microsoft, IBM and other vendors to develop their own translation, chat, or image recognition engines.
Companies also need to consider whether artificial intelligence can be applied to their core business. A manufacturing company, for example, can use AI to derive useful insights for the creation of its products. Today, AI technologies offer opportunities for companies, business models, products and services that once did not exist.
Prepare for the age of AI
In companies that take advantage of new technologies, artificial intelligence can free IT professionals from routine activities. This means that they can engage in higher value activities, which may also require additional training.
According to the TCS report, 80 percent of the executives surveyed are currently investing in AI, and nearly 100 percent expect to do so by 2020.
Experts suggest to IT professionals who want to secure a brilliant career of expanding their preparation including business and communication skills, focusing on growth areas such as cybersecurity or developing greater expertise in their industry.
In cybersecurity, in the next few years there will be about two million jobs that will remain vacant. But artificial intelligence will become an important component of information security, since it is a technology that can support cybersecurity professionals.
According to McKinsey, the AI could help create 20 to 50 million new jobs globally, both as internal IT staff to companies as external consultants or outsourced.
Cloud and automation are the real threats
Some traditional IT jobs could disappear, according to experts, but not because of artificial intelligence – not for the time being, at least.
Automation, outsourcing and cloud technologies will have a much wider impact on the short term. Consider CRM systems. Companies used to develop CRM internally or with on-premise software. When they moved to Salesforce, all the internal support and administration tasks related to the CRM disappeared.
Many companies still operate legacy systems, systems that work and companies have invested heavily. But at some point these systems will collapse under their own weight. Either the company goes bankrupt, or decides to start over with a new infrastructure. And the cost for developing and starting something new has decreased substantially: it’s just a matter of time before it is forced to update itself.
With all the news about recent advances in speech recognition, linguistic translation, image processing, pattern recognition, and of course, in self-driving cars, many people predict a cataclysm based on artificial intelligence, a scenario in which human beings will become obsolete.
Manual, repetitive and routine activities will be automated. And when all these things are automated, it’s important to be ready where we can add value.