Workforce Automation and Content Distribution in Tech

Advances in technology continually change how humans work. Learn how workforce automation is predicted to change the tech industry in the next decade.

Published on 11 January, 2017

Advances in technology have continually changed how humans work. For instance, printing presses replaced traditional printers and calligraphers, mechanical looms made artisan weavers obsolete and factories revolutionized how most products are manufactured. More recently, computers have shifted the work of secretarial pools, stock market traders and increasingly, even taxi drivers.

While most of these changes have taken place gradually, the rapid development of technology today and the nature of that technology promise a greater degree of workforce automation across more sectors and in a much shorter timeline. One of those sectors is the tech industry itself.

Predictions of IT Professionals

In a recent survey of 3,200 technology professionals from 84 countries, 45 percent reported that they believe that a significant part of their job will be automated within the next decade. About 65 percent of those professionals with more easily automated skills, such as testers and IT operations staff, predicted their current skill set would be redundant in 10 years, while only about a third of executive and program management believed their jobs would be replaced by automation.

Regardless of these predictions, IT professionals aren’t planning new careers or anticipating unemployment. In fact, despite the likelihood of automation of IT jobs in the near future, such professionals — particularly developers, programmers and big data analysts — remain in high demand in the workforce. To remain competitive with both their peers and their potential robot officemates, the vast majority of the surveyed IT professionals are actively teaching themselves new skills in order to adapt.

Likelihood of Workforce Automation in Other Industries

According to several recent studies, the technologies that currently exist are capable of automating about 45 percent of the tasks that people are paid to do in the United States. This automation is possible across industries and pay scales. An estimated 60 percent of all occupations, for example, could see a third or more of their essential activities automated using just today’s technologies. Jobs most susceptible to workforce automation are those involving predictable physical work, data processing and data collection, while those involving management of others, application of expertise and certain interactions with people are the least susceptible.

Just because the technology exists does not necessarily mean that technology will be used. Not all activities benefit from automation, even if possible technologically. In general, at least five factors contribute to the likelihood of workforce automation in a particular industry or position:

  1. Technical feasibility
  2. Cost to develop and implement the software and hardware needed to automate
  3. Relative scarcity of skills and labor, and the impact of that labor supply on costs
  4. Benefits of automation beyond labor costs, such as reduction of errors, increased output or improvements in performance
  5. Societal acceptance and regulatory environment

Historically, workforce automation has displaced workers. Automation also has improved the working conditions of workers and raised the standard of living for society overall. While the automation of significant portions of the workforce is inevitable, so is the human ability to adapt.

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