Automation and AI are coming for IT jobs. Here’s how to keep yours.

BrandPost By Sidharth Suri
Mar 14, 2017
Enterprise Applications

Automation will replace 22 million jobs by 2025. What can IT pros do about it?

Cloud computing was the first major attack on IT teams.  It shattered our role as “procurement gatekeepers” for every new technology purchase, forcing us to find new ways to add value to the business.

Now, an even greater threat is coming.  Forrester predicts that by 2025, technologies like robots, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation will replace 7% (or 22.7 million) jobs in the US alone.  

It won’t just be blue-collar jobs operating factory machinery, either. Any career with repetitive tasks is ripe for automation. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, many front-line IT jobs fit this description. As bots hit the front lines of IT, it will be increasingly hard to justify spend on large IT support headcount.

The good news? AI and automation will eliminate the most mundane tasks, freeing IT to think more strategically. The bad: They eliminate or reassign jobs. So, how can you make sure yours isn’t one of them? How can you evolve your skills to stay relevant, upwardly mobile, and employed?

First, don’t resist automation — embrace it

AI is already changing IT jobs.  Bots can answer common questions and point users to FAQs and knowledge base articles. They provision access to systems and handle more complex tasks like ordering new laptops. A recent survey on the future of teamwork, commissioned by Atlassian, revealed that nearly 87% of workers think that AI will change their job by 2020 — and 76% believe that at least “some” or “half” of their job could be performed by a robot, algorithm, or AI device.

Since change is inevitable, why not take an active role in making it successful? Work on developing skills that will be in high demand well into the future — like assessing a problem and figuring out the best way to use technology to solve it. Learn to bridge the gap between business and tech-speak, and translate ideas into reality. In short, don’t worry about the job you will be leaving behind: focus on the opportunity that automation brings, and raise your skill level to be ready for it.

Be visible, vocal, and valuable

According to a recent McKinsey study, the job activities that are least likely to be automated are those that involve interacting with stakeholders, applying expertise, and managing others. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of a job if you don’t manage a team.

Make it your goal to become valuable to a wide variety of people across the business — and not just by resetting passwords. To get there, embed yourself within the different business teams you collaborate with. Live their lives and feel their pains. Buddy up with your marketing, sales, and HR peers, work closely with their teams, and build a reputation for delivering improvements and new ideas.  

IT professionals must become indispensable. A front line support rep may soon be a commodity. A person that is intimately familiar with the company’s processes, who has the trust and support of a wide variety of business constituents, and who can navigate and advise on a changing and complex technology landscape is irreplaceable.

If you do manage people, look for leadership training opportunities that evolve your skills from just tracking tasks and deadlines (automatable) to putting in the culture, and processes that can help your team be successful.

Learn to bridge the human / machine divide

IT teams aren’t going away, but they may be a lot smaller than they are today. Low-interaction, lower-skill roles that handle data entry, ticket routing, and similar tasks will take the biggest hit, while talented people with diverse skill sets will become more valuable than ever.

One thing that won’t go away: teamwork. Developers and operations experts will still collaborate to build highly complex  applications the market needs. Project managers who can consistently guide complex projects with many moving pieces (and stakeholders) to the finish line on time and on budget will still be highly prized.

A common theme here? The best IT jobs will go to people who learn how to collaborate with both people and technology. Humans are still better at negotiating SLAs and project budgets, and most importantly brainstorming big ideas that change the face of business. Machines will take over repetitive administrative tasks, freeing up our time for what we’re best at.  The new stars of IT will be the rare few who know how to speak both languages, bringing humans, technology, and AI together for stronger collaborations with even better business results.

Make AI work for (not against) you

The next wave of automation is coming, and IT jobs will be in the crossfire.  But, yours doesn’t have to be. Instead of fighting the inevitable, help usher in the era of intelligent systems instead. Build human relationships, immerse yourself in business pains and processes, and look for ways to automate the tasks that you probably already don’t want to do. Pretty soon, you’ll be a trusted technology advisor — and that’s a job with a huge future.

Interested in learning more about the latest IT trends? Check out this infographic.