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Smart Machines, Code Halos and Digital Transformation

I am excited to share a guest blog article today from my colleague Rob Brown who works at The Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant.  In this article he shares his insights on the future of smart machines, analytics and code halos.

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Gartner’s Tom Austin presented a webinar titled “The Emerging Era of Smart Machines Changes Everything” recently (www.gartner.com).  The scenario he paints canvasses where automation and robotics will be taking business processes – not to mention society and employment – in relatively short order.  

As we've been saying – seemingly forever – in this industry, efficiency gains through automation are fundamental to the future of Business Process Services (where “the platform becomes the process”, etc.).  But the explosive information yield against complex algorithms (“Analytics”) that comes from automation are where the REAL action and value lie; as a result, analytics is now the biggest buzzword in the IT services industry, for better or worse.

In so many respects, Gartner’s Smart Machines scenario harmonizes perfectly with our Cognizant Code Halos thinking, and I especially like its exploration of the marriage of automation and analytics (“Smart Machines”: can be platforms, devices, and literally anthropomorphic, C3PO-type robots).    Collectively, Gartner’s work segments flavors of automation into “Movers” (autonomous vehicles, like the Google Car), “Sages” (information-based helpers), and “Doers” (machine-focused helpers).  Cutting edge endeavors like Google Deep Neural Net, IBM’s Watson, and Microsoft’s Research Elevator showcase where the confluence of automation/ analytics are headed.

Why is this happening now?  Gartner notes these forces are accelerating due to better hardware and algorithms.  As an example, Gartner cites the thinking of Ted Horvitz’s work in Artificial Intelligence here, in aerospace, healthcare, and learning (via TedTalks) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpoVh9xwdD4.

In our Code Halos work, we’re also emphasizing both these attributes (automation to “make processes cheaper, make processes smarter”), but also highlighting UX and interfaces, e.g., “make processes beautiful”.    It is in the mix of these forces that makes Code Halos (and “Smart Machines”) resonate so powerfully.  Layering analytics and “meaning making” on top of the resulting data is where the future lies.

What are the consequences?  What really struck a chord for me was some of the data that Tom presented on the impact on employment as business processes and functions are disrupted.  The “dark side” view is presented in the form of Frey and Osborne’s work at Oxford (Per Frey and Osborne: “About 47% of total U.S. employment is at risk over the next decade or two”).

Arresting to be sure – but is it time to prepare for the Human Zoo just yet?

Per Gartner, what Frey and Osborne’s work doesn’t take into account is that net-new jobs will be created as a result of these trends, and also that current jobs of today will actually be enhanced by the transformation automation through technology brings (in keeping with the “Song of Hope” theme we see in work on Code Halos).   While Gartner’s models DO see a scenario of ~17 percent of “routine”, repeatable tasks being truly disrupted by 2020, they also show that 49% of jobs are patently unaffected, and the remainder actually being ENHANCED by the confluence of automation and analytics.   So, lots to think about there – especially how routine, repeatable business processes will be transformed.

So what’s next? In the short-term, Tom advises keeping on the lookout/engaging with Digital Personal Assistants in the next 2-3 years.  In doing so, he also recommended reviewing a rather compelling video from Apple on the subject, circa early 1990s, showing just how far we’ve come, and still have to go... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bjve67p33E

Robert H. Brown
Global Director, BPS Strategy
Cognizant Center for the Future of Work

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Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict serves as the Senior Vice President, Solutions Strategy, at Regalix, a Silicon Valley based company, focused on bringing the best strategies, digital technologies, processes and people together to deliver improved customer experiences, journeys and success through the combination of intelligent solutions, analytics, automation and services. He is a popular writer, speaker and futurist, and in the past 8 years he has taught workshops for large enterprises and government agencies in 18 different countries. He has over 32 years of experience working with strategic enterprise IT solutions and business processes, and he is also a veteran executive working with both solution and services companies. He has written dozens of technology and strategy reports, over a thousand articles, interviewed hundreds of technology experts, and produced videos on the future of digital technologies and their impact on industries.

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