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Smart tech: will it displace or replace us?

  • Posted on June 22, 2016

Smart Tech

What impact will smart tech have on the workplace?

Picture the scene. It’s 2030. You are ferried to work in your driverless car. At the office, your AI personal assistant schedules all your meetings for the week in seconds. Your email app has machine-learned your tone of voice and writes your emails for you. Your ‘robot’ boss is a complex algorithm that calculates who works on what in order to maximise efficiency.

With the recent explosion of smart technologies in our personal and professional lives, is this what we can expect of the workplace in the future? Or is there a more troubling future in store, one in which more and more of us are replaced by machines? These were some of the themes discussed in the latest of our Reality Exchange Debates between Avanade and CloudTalent experts around topical IT issues. We covered a variety of topics around smart technology, including whether it will have the impact analysts predict and what the ethical implications could be.

When discussing the impact of smart technologies on workforces, Mohan Naidu said organisations are already investing in smart technologies such as AI assistants. This will inevitably result in the automation of tasks and processes currently carried out by people which, understandably, makes employees nervous. Will we lose our jobs to machines? Will millions of us report to robobosses as predicted by Gartner?

Perhaps not. Mark Corley had a less dystopian view. He believes the impact of smart technologies won’t always be as huge as driverless cars and will instead be felt more incrementally.

Smart technology in the workplace, at least in the immediate future, is much more likely to take the form of automated, context-aware assistants we can have natural interactions with. For instance, you could ask the assistant to schedule a meeting with your colleagues and have it search its calendars to confirm everyone is available.

And, as pointed out by Roger Bennett, smart technologies will take on the cognitive functions we have as human beings. So, we are more likely to be displaced rather than replaced by smart technology. The first human tasks that will become machine-automated are more than likely to be the vast array of monotonous, process-driven ones. Free from these kinds of tasks, employees will be able to focus on the activities that generate real value for their business.

Over time, certain roles will inevitably become the responsibility of machines rather than people. But this change will be incremental, meaning that there will be plenty of time for businesses and individuals to consider how they develop new skills. What’s more, even if some jobs are rendered redundant by smart technologies, these same technologies will create new roles and opportunities for human employees that we haven’t yet begun to imagine.

This kind of technological innovation is the cornerstone of what we call the New Economics of IT. On the one hand, it consolidates and simplifies core IT processes, freeing resource for more business-critical needs. And, on the other, it creates new ways of working, building market differentiation through new approaches to work.

To hear more about our thoughts on the wider impact of smart technologies, watch the full debate online here or learn about the New Economics of IT by visiting our microsite.

Participants in our debate were:

Tracey Hill - Head of Managed Services UK, Avanade

Roger Bennett - IT Services Management Practice Lead, CloudTalent

Andrew Hutchins - Senior Director and Enterprise Technology Architect, Avanade

Mark Corley – Digital Lead and Enterprise Technology Architect, Avanade

Mohan Naidu - European Banking Technical Architect Avanade

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