Is Automation a Threat for IT Jobs

Is Automation a Threat for IT Jobs

By Anton Pozdnyakov, CMO, Softerra 

It is a common fear among the IT pros community that at some point automation will come for their jobs and make them obsolete. This fear is constantly heated up by the media that feed us with stories about neural networks and artificial intelligence. So, is it really that serious? Will robots eventually eliminate people in all IT jobs?

Computers have already taken over a lot of human functions. They count better than us, they build stuff better than us, they play games better than us. Recently DeepMind’s Alpha Zero has absolutely destroyed not only humans but also best algorithms at chess, shogi and go. Microsoft is actively testing an AI that finds vulnerabilities in software. All that, as well as a lot of other things, have happened in just the past year. So, if you extrapolate the progress, it’s easy to imagine that all that will rather quickly get to admin jobs.  But it’s not as easy as it looks.

 

All That Is Not New

The main point is that we’ve already been there. Our current time is no special. Automation has always been a source of fear for a lot of people, but those fears rarely did come to a meaningful conclusion. We’ve already been through three major industrial revolutions. Every time a lot of people were very much afraid that automation will take everyone’s jobs, creating massive unemployment and destroying the society. But every time the society survived and people found even more jobs.

Automation indeed eliminates some jobs, but it always brings new ones, both in the old industries and in the new, which are often created in the process.

The only thing that’s different in comparison to the past is the speed of adoption of technologies. It has skyrocketed in just couple decades. For example, it took electricity over 40 years to become a widely adopted technology in the US just a century ago. Things like smartphones or social networks needed slightly more than 5 years to achieve the same results. More than eight times faster!

 

IT Has Always Been About Automation

Same thing applies to the IT industry. Even if we’re looking at the enterprise sector, which is always considered to be slow and inert, everything is speeding up. Just have a look at Office 365, which was introduced just 6 years ago, but is already a major thing for a lot of environments.

Besides, IT is a quite special industry, when it comes to relationship with automation. They’ve always came side-by-side. The whole point of IT has always been to automate the current tasks and move to the others.

You can think of IT needs as a pyramid. It’s similar to the Maslow’s pyramid of needs: you can’t move up until you fill in the lower levels. And the main point is that there’s plenty of headroom to move up.

So, when automation comes, it doesn’t just replace manual tasks and substitute it with automated ones. Because there’s plenty of room for new tasks that you couldn’t otherwise reach. When you add more automation, you still have the same amount of effort to put in the manual tasks, but those tasks can be of a higher level.

So, will your current functions be replaced by robots in future? Definitely yes. A lot of what you’re doing today will be eventually automated.

Will it mean that IT pros are no longer needed? No, no and no. The main advantage of the IT sector is that there’s a lot of things that you can tackle once you free yourself some time from the mundane routine. IT pros can adjust and find new challenges all the time. So, unless you are just trained to push the right buttons, you’ll be able to quickly adjust to the new conditions.

Besides, any automation system is always just another IT system, which needs maintenance and fine-tuning. Somebody has to do that. And somebody must be an IT pro.

Dr. Autor from MIT points out in his research about the influence of automation on the job market, that the introduction of automation to the working process actually increases the value of human skills, making them more important and vital for the whole system. IT is a great example that proves the point.

 

Summing Up

In conclusion, automation isn’t something that IT pros need to be afraid of. Mainly, because it’s not a destroyer of jobs, but rather a transformer. It allows to shift from your current relatively low-level routine to more complex tasks that require more cognitive abilities and decision-making skills. Something that any IT pro should be constantly doing anyway.

Also, you can’t run away from the fact that automation is inevitable. It has been coming and will be coming even faster in the future. So, you either learn how to adjust or you’ll be left out on the side of the road. There’s plenty of room to move forward. Thus, machines aren’t replacing IT pros any time soon.

About the Author

Anton Pozdnyakov is the CMO at Softerra. Softerra provides Adaxes, a management and automation solution for Active Directory, Exchange and Office 365 environments. 

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