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Even as technologies such as video conferencing and messaging platforms adopted during forced remote work are now widely accepted, some workers still remain wary of technology in the workforce. New research shows us that only 50% of employees see technology as a strong asset for efficiency.
IT teams are currently drivers of technology innovation implementation for their organizations, and IT optimization is slated to be the third largest AI use case by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 29.7%. However, with pop culture spreading doom and gloom over AI’s role in taking jobs, does this mean IT teams should be concerned about their job security? Will they be another casualty of obsolescence due to AI?
A knee-jerk reaction to AI in the workforce is that the need for IT teams is eliminated as machine learning (ML) can more efficiently and cost-effectively serve the team’s core purpose. Fear of automation is not a new concept: Today, 37% of workers are worried about losing their jobs due to automation.
Automation and unemployment not synonymous
However, they can rest easy. The truth is that automation does not lead to job loss in the way we think; it may be the opposite. South Korea, which is the most automated country in the world, saw its unemployment rate hit a record low in August 2022. Singapore and Japan, the next two most automated countries, also have unemployment rates well below the global average, indicating that automation and unemployment are not directly correlated.
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How can we explain the discrepancy between perception and actuality? It’s not job loss; it’s job evolution. Automation will allow for IT teams to carve out a more strategic place for themselves within their organization. AI can play a huge role in reducing the volume of routine tasks that must be manually completed, such as troubleshooting applications or responding to service tickets.
The less time teams can spend on these, the more they can spend on projects that will move the needle within the organization — such as developing new applications that allow businesses to enter new markets, increasing manageability, and cutting hardware costs. These changes in roles will give these employees a better sense of fulfillment and purpose in their organization and allow them to be seen as more valuable assets.
The question becomes, “How do we get there?”
The value of AI in IT
IT cannot be completely automated, nor should it ever be. Employees seek out human interaction to feel their problems are being heard and that support is personalized to them. IT employees should be used to their greatest strengths: interpersonal communication and long-term strategy/innovation. These are two concepts that AI will never be able to replicate.
The true value of AI is its ability to identify problems proactively and provide actionable insights that IT teams can leverage to attack problems before they occur and optimize their systems for long-term performance.
One goal of AI is to improve the digital employee experience. Employees lose hours of working time through technology issues, and these issues also lower morale when employees feel under-supported by their companies.
Automation alleviates this: Detecting an issue before an employee can flag it saves time and resources; in turn, employees feel better connected to the organization. In the long run, this helps slow employee turnover, support innovation — and by extension, help explain lower unemployment rates amid automation.
So, where does this leave IT teams? The answer is in strategy sessions with senior leadership, where they belong. The days of responding to service requests as the dominant IT responsibility are moving further away. With more free time, they can focus on proactive activities and strategies for better workflow. Automation paves the way for IT to be seen as the strategic leaders they are rather than putting out ad hoc technical fires — they won’t be out of business; they’ll be propelling the organization forward and advancing its digital transformation initiatives.
AI is not a threat to IT teams. Instead, it allows them to better showcase their value and importance within their organizations. As difficult economic conditions continue to be top of mind, business leaders will consider where to cut down on costs. Some will, unfortunately, enact layoffs.
However, teams that can showcase their value to the organization and its bottom line may be better off when it comes to those decisions. Rather than viewing AI as a threat, IT professionals should be viewing it as their new favorite co-worker, one that is going to free them from menial tasks and to focus on what provides the most impact and allow them to grow within their company.
AI will not be eliminating IT’s role; it will be transforming it. Both IT departments and entire organizations will reap the rewards.
Yassine Zaied is chief strategy officer of Nexthink.
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