Will Automation Take All the IT Jobs?

Mitch Wagner
7/28/2017
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Automation is a constant thread running through enterprise cloud. IT leaders are using cloud technology to reduce the amount of time and budget needed for maintenance and operations. That means fewer jobs in those areas. What will happen to all the people who work in those jobs?

Steve Saunders, founder of Light Reading, which publishes Enterprise Cloud News, addresses the point in a recent column. He's speaking from a telecom perspective because telecom is the subject matter for LR. But the questions he raises are equally valid in the enterprise. The Hidden (Human) Cost of Automation:

Automation is the next big thing for the communications industry, but it's set to have an equally profound effect on automobile manufacturers. In the car world, they use the term "autonomous," rather than "automated." But in both industries, the end point will be the same: massive reductions in the human cost of running a business.

That's demonstrably the end goal for a company like Uber, which has shown over and over again that it really doesn't hold human beings in very high regard in the first place. The opportunity to use automation to eliminate all those pesky human drivers, currently devouring 80 cents of each dollar it collects from carrying passengers, explains why Uber has invested heavily and repeatedly in developing autonomous tech with its auto partners.

Telecom players, meanwhile, are getting equally excited about automation (essentially, automation is the end game for virtualizing network infrastructure and services using NFV and SDN).

In a virtualized and automated network, things happen, well, automatically, and carriers are talking up the benefits that this delivers to their customers via making services more reliable (by eliminating human error) and faster (by eliminating the need for their employees to do network and service "stuff").

What they don't tend to talk about is potentially the biggest benefit of all. It's one that benefits the service providers themselves, rather than their customers, in the form of huge savings in operational expenditure (opex) from using automation to eliminate staff currently employed to manually manage and administrate their networks and services.

Pundits say the people working on maintenance and operations can shift over to innovation and developing new products. But can they? Or will those jobs simply go away?

So far, for at least some companies, IT is finding opportunities to retool. Recent examples from the pages of Enterprise Cloud News (and one from LR in the pre-ECN days):

Just this week, we wrote about how 86-year-old Allstate is transforming its IT culture to promote innovation and compete with digital upstarts. (See Allstate Learns to Innovate With the Cloud.)

Liberty Mutual is using Cloud Foundry and agile methodologies to transform the technology it uses to deliver software and services to customers and employees, even as it uses cloud services to drastically grow IT infrastructure while keeping headcount flat. (See Liberty Mutual Aspires to Be 'Software Company That Sells Insurance' and Liberty Mutual: Cloud Reins in Costs of 'Exponential' Growth.)

The Royal Bank of Scotland is looking to IT and the cloud to transform after being hammered by the financial crisis and service outages. (See Royal Bank of Scotland Banks On Cloud .)

Retailer Walmart is working to make open source a part of the day-to-day work of IT. (See How Walmart Builds Open Source Culture .)


What are the hottest jobs in the cloud? Get our special report to find out:
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And Target sees open source as a means to control its own destiny. (See Target Looks to Open Source to Hit Bullseye.)

All this digital transformation is enough to keep IT busy. But will that be the case in the long term? In a few years, will companies that are going through digital transformation start shedding unneeded IT jobs? It's an important question to anybody hoping to build a long-term career in IT.

While you ponder, read the rest of Steve's column: The Hidden (Human) Cost of Automation

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News


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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2017 | 12:52:11 PM
jobs
<Pundits say the people working on maintenance and operations can shift over to innovation and developing new products. But can they?> 

@Mitch you hit on something very central here. Obviously, not everyone who has worked in maintenance and operation can move into innovation and develoment. One: there are never as many positions to fill in those area as there have been in day-to-day work. Two: those positions require more advanced skills and abilities that not everyone displaced by automation will possess.
JohnMason
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JohnMason,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2017 | 5:27:13 PM
universal income
I understand there are some experiments going on with guaranteed universal income, in Finland, for example. That would be one solution. Someone in IT right now, or planning to enter, shouldn't count on that, though.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/29/2017 | 9:44:56 PM
Re: universal income
@JohnMason you refer to this? http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/02/news/economy/finland-universal-basic-income/index.html That's only as experiment for 2,000 people now. That number of people is really small in a whole country, especially in the US.  Also $587 a month doesn't really go far in this country. You would still need food stamps, Medicaid, Section * housing, and other subsidies to just survive. So it's hardly a solution to replace jobs that give people a real living wage, not to mention a sense of purpose and pride. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
7/30/2017 | 5:32:50 AM
Re: universal income
Ariella – Here is a video explaining the reason of the universal basic income in Finland: https://youtu.be/8xPAlEkT0kk The sample of 2,000 people chosen at random to participate in the trial are not taken from the totality of the population, i.e. 5 million people. The 2,000 are part of the umenployment group of 170,000. All of those people are already receiving unemployment benefits, housing, and everything else. The problem that is presented many times is that those who are unemployed and receiving the benefits, housing, etc., can be too comfortable and not accepting a job that will pay them less than what they already get for doing nothing, or if the income they can earn doing some part-time work, or some freelance work will result in the reduction of the unemployment money they receive wthout the certainty that such part-time income will be stable after their unemployment money was reduced. So, the easy and safe way for keeping that money is not to take those jobs. What the experimental universal income proposes is to give the 560 Euros to those 2,000 people in the trial on top of the housing benefits they already have. If the current unemploment benefits they receive is higher than the 560 they can apply to receive more to equal the amount. The money is not taxable and they keep on receiving the same amount during the trial even if they get a part-time job, a freelance gig, or anything else. They keep all the money they get plus the universal income money. What they expect to see in the experiment is if with this universal income people are more motivated to look for employment and to accept part-time jobs which could put them back into the working life, and therefore increasing their confidence, social life, health, and motivation to get more work and stay employed. If it works, the current social system will be upgraded. The experiment is not intended to replace jobs lost. Its intention is to free people from stress and to give them support and motivation to have the right mind to look for emploment, to accept work even if it’s a partial income, to upgrade their skills according to the current labour market, and to get back into a working life.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
7/30/2017 | 5:34:45 AM
Re: universal income
John – I think you would be interested in reading what I wrote here below about Finland’s universal income experiment.
mhhfive
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mhhfive,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/1/2017 | 3:25:25 PM
Re: universal income
There are several UBI experiments going on:

http://archive.is/2017.08.01-191016/http://www.businessinsider.com/basic-income-experiments-in-2017-2017-1/

The results will probably be scattered successes and failures, as most economic experiments are. But hopefully, we'll just create a generous AI that can day-trade and create wealth from thin air to fund a UBI system that we can all benefit from.... 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
8/1/2017 | 6:24:38 PM
Re: universal income
Mhh – Yes, I know there are several more universal income projects. There is one in Ireland as well that is not mentioned in that article, which, by the way, has a few inaccuracies. I explained how the one in Finland actually works because it was the one mentioned in the previous comments. Again, the point of the one in Finland is to improve an existing system which already gives money to the unemployed so there will not be much difference to how it is today. There are no homeless in Finland. The government takes care of the unemployed, reason why the current experiment is a variation to improve the existing system at the same time that tries to activate employment.
mhhfive
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mhhfive,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/1/2017 | 6:46:58 PM
Re: universal income
> "There are no homeless in Finland."

That is awesome. I didn't know homelessness had been solved anywhere, but apparently Finland did it. I wonder if their solution can be expanded anywhere else? How does Finland avoid a flood of immigrants...?
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
8/2/2017 | 6:00:40 PM
Re: universal income
Mhh — Yes, it has been solved by providing immediate permanent housing. It’s also a way of preventing health related issues. The government takes care about this. Studies have shown that providing permanent housing is more cost-effective for the government and is a humane way of dealing with homelessness. It’s heartbreaking to see people sleeping in the streets in countries where the problem exists. Finland doesn’t avoid taking immigrants. Free language courses are available to immigrants. There are also some projects that provide skills to help immigrants integrate into the society and find a job. With working and language skills they can be integrated rather than becoming a burden. There are some centres as well where they can participate in social and cultural activities related to their culture. This is very much promoted and supported. When you integrate people you don’t have problems. Once they are integrated they also become tax payers. Have a look: here http://www.caisa.fi/en/frontpage and http://www.caisa.fi/en/about
mhhfive
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mhhfive,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/2/2017 | 6:45:32 PM
Re: universal income
Very interesting info! I agree that immigrants can be a net benefit to any Economy once they've been integrated into society. I have to look into US case studies of Vietnamese refugees again. If I'm not mistaken, they have been a model example for how the US can absorb large numbers of immigrants with positive outcomes.
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