What would the ‘Managers’ manage in the age of AI?

Would you need a PMP certified manager to manage a workforce in the age of bots and Artificial Intelligence?

Intelligence — natural/artifical

The times are a changin. A mere 5 years ago, typical job description for an IT manager used to surely contain people management & process mapping as key skills, with a little bit of technology knowledge as a plus. The usual project management certifications were considered as icing on the cake. A resume with 5–7 years of experience managing couple of projects with people management skills and PMP certification used to be sort of sureshot succcess in job market. But are those skills really required in today’s scenario infested with chatbots, AI and Neural network? Quite a lot of discussions are happening around the new skills required for succeeding in the IT service industry, which definitely requires technology knowledge as mandatory instead of a mere plus. However not much has been talked about the IT managers on the consumer side. The IT managers on the end user industry have a difficult life ahead too.

To start with, the end user industry IT managers are always under pressure to maintain Opex, if not to reduce it YoY. So far, the supporting logic behind maintaining Opex has been — once you buy a piece of licensed software or a hardware, you need to continue the cycle of AMC, which holds a major part of the Opex budget. This scenario is now open for disruption.

Suddenly areas in Operations, Support and other repetitive jobs are under the scanner. The scope of changing the operational model is opening up rapidly. The traditional IT jobs like system maintenance, user management wont require a manual support going forward. Any and every such repititive tasks are going to be possible cadidates for automation, thanks to the immense progress on AI, Bots, computing and network. But to build this new IT platforms in end user industry, what would be the skills in demand for an IT manager?

Obviously the knack for Innovation, breaking barriers, bypassing bureacratic walls, asking difficult questions would top the list. Skills like people management, project management, vendor management would move to the 2nd bucket. The IT workforce would possibly try to justify the word “knowledge worker” to a greater extent.

Since this disruption would also cause a lot of change on how the teams work, do we also need to rebuild the EQ of the IT leaders? Much had been talked about these soft skills ealier, as job of IT manager required convincing large teams to excel in their work. But that would change soon.

The number of Individual contributors at higher end of the IT management would increase, who can draw power not by the number of reportees or the amount in his budget sheet, but by the number of business/IT services he has replaced with Artificial Intelligence and bots.

Eventually this deluge of automation should lead to a better bottomline for the organization. The IT manager would need to pose difficuly questions to the business as the business models may come under scanner. IT manager would continue to be in the eye of the storm (the social/people factors) for automating stuff which were done by manual workforce earlier.

Is it something different from the past when Operation automation had moved pen-and-paper model of doing business to data-capture-at-source via Mobile devices? Yes it is, just by the scale of it.

The opportunities of automation are going to be immense. The organizations would love to get the maximum benefits out of this to improve bottomline as well as topline.

As a last word, the IT manager should also better watch out. Once the manual repititive jobs are done away with via Automation, the next step might be to replace the very managers via bots and AI. And as Dilbert reminds, unless you are doing really complicated stuff, it would be easy to replace most of the IT workers in the coming days as well. Get ready for the times of jobless growth.

Key skills to replace

Have something to add or want to connect for more offline discussion? Connect me at Twitter /Linkedin or email me at csubhamoy@gmail.com.

Subhamoy Chakraborti, VP-IT, Magma Fincorp Limited