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Author: Ayushman Baruah |09/25/18

Automation isn’t a silver bullet, it must be a way of life

If the IT industry needs one buzzword to live with, currently it can’t live without automation. According to an IDC report, the worldwide spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems will reach $19.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 54.2% over the amount spent in 2017.

Of all the automation you hear in and around your surroundings, some of it is real and some of it may be hype but one thing is certain. Automation isn’t a silver bullet, it must be a way of life. It will neither take away all jobs in one shot, nor will it create plenty of them all at once. But, there’s no way you can escape it. If you don’t learn to live with it today, you may not be able to live without it tomorrow.

Why Now?

Automation itself is not new in the sense that it had always been prevalent since the industrial revolution. There have been ample use cases of automation in manually-intensive sectors such as manufacturing. Robotics have been used in the automobile industry since long.

The change today is automation touching the so called 'knowledge worker' related areas which was once thought to be non-automatable, says Rajesh Kumar R, head of Automation at Mindtree. “With technologies maturing in the areas of Machine Learning and Artificial intelligence powered with the knowledge of the internet is making certain human intensive cognitive tasks automatable with advantages far surpassing human abilities and interestingly enough this is just the beginning and far more cognitive tasks will be automated in the coming years and that too the automation will happen more rapidly as we progress.”

Building the Culture

So, what are the challenges to building and sustaining an automated workforce? The foremost challenge is the cultural change and mindset to adopt to the new experience in automation journey, without any fear, says Rajesh Kumar. “In order to bring awareness of automation strategies within Mindtree, employees are encouraged to build automation solutions in their monotonous activities. Similarly from the client’s perspective also, there are healthy discussions and proof of concepts are built bringing them to safe and comfort zone. Post this, everyone is fervent to ideate, innovate and implement solutions to make their life easy.”

He cites an example of the IT support team providing production support off business hours, especially during weekends. Instead of them monitoring for alerts every now and then in order not to miss SLA and invite escalations, they can simply rely on BOTs. BOTs can monitor, detect anomalies and inform the engineers on critical issues immediately and even with the probable solutions from the past experience. Engineers will obviously welcome such BOTs to be part of their teams sharing their load with them.

Mindtree’s clients, partners and customers have achieved direct benefits such as higher efficiency, reliability and quality –from automation and related activities. For example, “in infrastructure and application maintenance projects, we could achieve saving anywhere between 20% -40%. In some cases, we have reduced the turnaround time by 75%. In few cases, it has helped reduce the critical issues by 90%,” says Rajesh Kumar.

Given the hype in the industry, several companies are jumping in to join the automation bandwagon but it can’t be the pill for all ills. Just like cloud, it’s also not a one-size-fits all approach. It’s a journey and companies need to accept it as part of the evolution process and tailor it to meet their specific requirements. “It is a matter of how well we adapt to the new ways of working and it is certain that automation will eventually open up lot more opportunities and jobs than it is taking away, that is what history proves as well…be it agriculture modernization or industrial revolution, it has only enhanced the opportunities for people and opened up new avenues.”

What are your thoughts on automation? Do let us know your views.

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