Every organization wants to build their future on digital technologies, but what does it take to make it all happen? To get a better sense of the skills and talents that will be in demand, I reached out to experts and entrepreneurs across the landscape to get their views on what it takes to build a career in this new world. This is part of an ongoing series.
It’s well understood that learning digital, AI and machine learning skills is a must for information technology professionals and data scientists. But, it’s going to be just as important for non-tech business professionals to at least understand the power of digital and AI technologies as well. With it will come re-designed and re-oriented job roles.
The impact of digital and AI may even be more profound on business professionals than it is on their technology counterparts. “Digital and AI technologies have definitely disrupted the business mindset and delivery models, but has not necessarily required any landslide shift in skills and titles,” says Brad Fisher, partner with advisory services at KPMG. The primary changes in technical roles include “the evolution of data engineer into cloud engineer, data scientists into full-stack developers, and product manager into digital product manager.”
The big difference is now being seen downstream from the data center, Fisher continues. “Downstream businesses now have to embrace the need to engage machine learning elements in their business processes. This includes skills like annotation, labeling, and itemizing every step of the decision-making process so that they are machine learning ready.”
The next generation of jobs will need to “focus on taking subject matter experience and translating them into machine learnable labels and annotations,” he continues. “Today, these activities are being done at a very low-wage, daily knowledge management level, but soon there will be need for highly qualified subject matter experts to engage in this work. A potential job role for these highly skilled, subject matter experts, such as ‘AI instructors,’ who train complex machine learning systems, could be seen as a necessity within each subject matter area — like medicine or legal.”
Along AI and machine learning, the hybrid workplace that now has sprung into a very pronounced existence will also call for more roles to help employees and managers cope with it. Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle, predicts more companies will requires “heads of remote work,” not necessarily as standalone roles, but added to existing management roles. It’s also likely these leaders will be remote workers themselves, he adds. “They have already been working remotely full-time for many years and have a unique perspective and insights into what it takes to make remote working successful.”
Companies will also need people who can delve deep and understand the productivity implications of hybrid work culture. This is an area that is not yet well understood. “As companies yo-yo back and forth between fully remote and hybrid working models,” there may be greater demand for something called industrial psychologists, Profico predicts. As the title suggests, this is a role that applies psychological principles to the workplace. “A person with this title would explore what motivates employees to do great work, how training can bring out leadership qualities in employees, how to cultivate alignment with cultural values and even be part of the candidate screening process.”
Related to this is will be professionals adept in the areas of organizational development and learning. “Companies will need people who can adapt extremely fast, and those who are self-disciplined to function on their own,” says Dr. Ted Sun, president and chief innovations officer of Transcontinental University. “This calls for much redesign of existing organizational structures, processes, and tasks. The organizational learning aspect will be a key piece to keep people loyal to a company, while proactively learning from multiple sources. This will drive the continuous innovation that all companies need.”
This is recasting non-technical careers such as financial, marketing, sales, or HR. “We’re already seeing digital technologies become a major part of non-technical careers,” Profico says. While roles in sales and marketing aren’t technical in nature, “they rely heavily on digital tools and automation for their success. In many instances, marketing and sales teams are using 20-plus different digital tools for CRM, marketing automation, website analytics, SEO, conversion-rate optimization, email marketing, content management, website development, scheduling, database management, webinars, social media management and PR measurement.”
A growing number of non-technical teams “are also using project management tools to stay organized, collaborate with team members and manage the development and launch of projects,” he adds. “Rather than keeping these tools at a distance, people in non-technical roles will find themselves in a better position for career growth and development if they look for ways to integrate technology into their everyday processes.”
With the emergence of the AI push “comes the change management that every role will need to embrace,’ Fisher says. “For example, with HR services embracing AI, most of the mundane low-complexity tasks will get automated away through algorithmic decision making. This will allow the HR representatives to now focus on more complex and engaging tasks.” Similarly, he adds, “areas like legal and medical professions that need hundreds, if not thousands of hours of historical assimilation of knowledge, could benefit from having AI technologies do the heavy lifting, thereby making their jobs easier, if not very efficient. Preparing for greater AI adoption will require professionals to fundamentally understand where these technologies excel and where the human element – judgement, perspective, problem solving, etc. will be important.”
Digital means new roles for executives and managers “who not only understand how the digital technologies work, but deeply understand and appreciate the business drivers and how to scale exceptional services exponentially,” Fisher says. At the middle-management level, it’s essential “to understand the value of low-code and no-code automation capabilities and engage them as needed within their workforce.”
There will also be changes in corporate culture at all levels, Fisher says. Corporate leaders will need to “inculcate digital product ownership in their teams. It will be important to recognize how digitization is changing the skills needed at the individual level. With opportunities to automate certain functions, skills like critical thinking and problem solving will be essential to thriving in the digital economy.”
To succeed and advance, managers and professionals need to adopt greater systems thinking – “knowing how different systems are interconnected and learning to design new systems,” Sun advises. This is important, “since those who design systems can always be successful, while most others only play a part in someone else’s system.”
Profico also urges a “mindset shift” for people to prepare for the digital world ahead. “When people have been doing things a certain way for years, it can be daunting and uncomfortable to even think about changing processes,” he says. “If non-tech workers want to advance in their careers in a digitally-driven world, then they need to prepare themselves mentally for it first. The best thing they can do is to lean on the guidance, feedback and recommendations of tech professionals.”
At Doodle, provider of an online scheduling tool, “we recently hired agile specialists to help other teams who aren’t so technically agile to find ways to use technology to become more nimble, improve their project management skills and increase collaboration between teams,” Profico says. “If you’re a non-tech professional, don’t try to figure it all out yourself. Ask people in your team who might already be using digital technologies more holistically for tips and advice.”
That’s the key to today and tomorrow’s organization — working as a team, closely collaborating, drawing on the skills — technical and non-technical — every team member brings to the table.
Credit: Google News