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View: Dont panic, robots are not job snatchers

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

 By Phil Fersht

Remember the panic about jobs getting shipped off shore? Well, that is child's play compared to the emerging tumult of fear being generated by jobs being completely eliminated by robotics. Net-net, people are frozen stiff with fear, and it's the responsibility of respected analysts, consultants, academics and journalists alike to educate and world using real, substantiated facts.

Sadly , the likes of Gartner, McKinsey , Oxford University and our beloved Stephen Hawking, all seem hell-bent on capitalising on the panic to grab the headlines, as opposed to dispelling much of the scaremongering such as:

McKinsey believes 45% of cur rent jobs could be replaced using technology that already exists

Forrester claims 1 m US B2B sales jobs will go away by 2020

Gartner predicts 1 in 3 jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025

According to an Oxford University study , 47% of total US employment is at risk

Stephen Hawking warns us AI would be the biggest and possibly the last event in human history The beauty of all these wild predictions is that few will remember who made them in a couple of years or the fact they were made at all. That's the beauty of being an analyst in today's market you can make up any old fantastical claptrap and never be held accountable for it in the future. At HfS, we believe here is likely to be modest downsizing of 9% over the next five years as low-end tasks are increasingly automated across major service delivery locations. And this 9% will be immersed in natural attrition and redeployment of workers to other industries, as global services streamlines and matures as an industry. So why are so many automation and AI claims factually incorrect and irresponsible?

SPEED OF INTERNAL CHANGE IS SLOW
The tendency from clients with automation is to pilot first, than to go full scale, and every ambitious forecast is always waylaid by the reality of interacting with legacy systems. Most of today's Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools are simply being retrofitted into smoothing over manual processes within legacy technology environments with obsolete processes. They are adding efficiency to broken operations, which may , in the future, lead to a lesser need for headcount in low value work areas. Talking about today's enterprises being so close to investing in Robo bosses is just very wide of the mark.

COGNITIVE TOOLS ARE ONLY JUST EMERGING
While IBM has done a stellar job aligning its Watson capabilities with the healthcare industry (read our report here) and software experts such as IPSoft's Amelia and Celaton have some compelling client stories to tell, the focus on self-learning and intuitive cognitive solutions are mainly confined to customer service technology and virtual assistant chatboxes. Talk to the call centre BPO providers and they're only just figuring this out.... forget robobosses, we're still just trying to see some basic software to make chatboxes work better.


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