8 jobs ripe for automation

From customer service to the warehouse, opportunities for automation abound. Where should savvy CIOs looking to boost productivity and cut costs turn first? We've got answers.

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Amid a frenzy of innovation in robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, CIOs are scouring their enterprises for tasks that can be automated. In a recent survey of tech-sector business leaders, the Consumer Technology Association found that just 10 percent of respondents aren't planning to automate any job functions over the next five years. That means that on the order of 90 percent of firms plan to automate at least some job functions.

"Automation with AI is being valued not just for the efficacies it delivers but also the experiences it makes possible," says Bridget Karlin, vice president of automation and CTO of IBM's Global Technology Services Business. "You'll see that it is freeing up mundane tasks that essentially enable the practitioner or the person to handle more interesting work"

Karlin urges CIOs to think strategically about automation, understanding that they won't be able to automate everything at once. To get started, she suggests, look at your business and identify where employees are still relying on spreadsheets to do their jobs.

"I always recommend trying to avoid random acts of automation," Karlin says. "That's because what you really start to realize is automation with AI is very much a journey."

So where should CIOs start on that journey? Here are the top eight areas where business leaders are looking to introduce automation.

Back-office operations 

More than any other type of work, back office operations are the most likely to be upended by automation in the next five years, according to CTA's survey. And it's no wonder that 52 percent of respondents are looking to automate basic administrative support tasks such as low-level IT functions. McKinsey reports that automation in the back office can sharply reduce a firm's operating costs while greatly driving up efficiencies, predicting that back-office automation will be a defining factor separating businesses that thrive from those that fall behind in the coming years.

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