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Rise of the Machine Learning

The Future of Work?

My daughter, Molly, (the Google Home mini expert) has recently completed her GCSE mock exams. For those who don't know, the GCSE or General Certificate of Secondary Education is a set of exams taken in England, Wales, Northern Ireland by children ages 15-16 and are the final exams before leaving high school. After leaving school next year, Molly will be going to a 6th form college where she will have to decide which 3 subjects she wishes to study for her A-levels, the qualifications required before attending a University.

Why do I mention this?

Well, a few months ago we had to make the decision on these 3 subjects, which in turn will likely set her on a potential career path. This got me thinking about the future of work, and what jobs our kids may be doing in this future, and which once coveted jobs are likely to disappear?

With the rise of Artifical Intelligence (AI), and in particular Machine Learning (ML), "robots" and other new technologies the world is likely to look very different over the next 5 to 10 years. The University of Oxford, Oxford Martin School researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. From this study, there are several occupational groups, which surprisingly, have been estimated to be at the highest risk of automation. Skills that would once have given individuals a career for life are now slowly declining as business owners start looking at how today's technology can improve the efficiency within their organisations. So my advice to Molly and other school leavers, who wish to succeed in this new world, is that they should ideally no longer be training for a specific career but should instead be equipping themselves with general STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, while also throwing in some creativity subjects such as music, drama or art. Those individuals who have just started out in the workplace should evaluate what they currently bring to a business, and where possible move up the value chain.

Administrative Roles

The research estimated that over the next few years, those in the back office are going to see one of the highest rates of change due to automation. According to Accenture, 80% of accounting and finance tasks will be delivered with automation. Most businesses will be able to afford exceptional CFO advice without the need of a full-time employee. Businesses should expect to see productivity within administrative departments significantly increase as all of those mundane, time-consuming, accounts payable and receivable, inventory control, auditing and several other tasks go – all thanks to automation and ML.

Sales & Marketing

Just as we see structured tasks in finance department being given to ML, a middle manager whose main function in the business is to report on figures will also see themselves being replaced completely by machine learning algorithms. Salespeople selling products and services via a website, providing specifications, pricing and availability etc will see themselves being overtaken by chatbots. Businesses will use ML to reduce the overall cost of sale, requests for proposals, quotations, and even order fulfilment will and can be done via ML algorithms. If you think you're safe in your sales or middle management role because you have a unique insight into your specific industry think again. Today's machine learning applications can and will most likely replace the majority of what you do on a daily basis.

Human Resources

As ML and other AI-based technologies start to enter the workplace and the company CEO and the board start to "hire robots", what does this mean for HR? Now there are plenty of ways this technology can be deployed within HR and recruitment to streamline the talent acquisition process. Candidate screening, sourcing and assessments can now all become automated. However what if HR departments or even recruitment agencies start to offer the most appropriate combined "man and machine" solutions too? Afterall, they have a wealth of knowledge as to what is going on within a business, a sector, and can also take into account the culture etc. It would make sense to have a keen interest in this new area of technology and see how best it can be utilised.

Back in the day

Now, when I was at school and even when I entered the workplace, there was no World Wide Web, no Google, no Facebook, I initially trained as an accountant (yeah I know right!!), yet here I am a veteran of the Internet age. During my career, I've had to adapt to changes in technology and the market. I've been a director of successful software companies, saw the rise of the cloud and created a business from it, I've created software solutions used by over 10,000,000 people. But while the place of work will always evolve, I feel that the next 10 years will see a seismic shift in what call work. Will there be a new digital revolution which will create more jobs, or will it displace them, only time will tell?


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