Sunday, September 19, 2021

Can Data Integration Replace People?

Donna Peeples is an accomplished senior executive with extensive P&l responsibility and verifiable results, leading customer-focused change initiatives in a variety of industries and known for developing markets, growing startups, and inspiring global change.

Companies have long been stashing privileged information and anything that might end up being useful in the future into data warehouses. Within such companies, specialized departments and functions did the same with their important information, making data silos the natural next progression in digital storage and security. Very quickly, however, people began criticizing and questioning the real benefits of such siloed or disconnected data systems within an organization. As usual, technology responded.

Now, instead of breaking up data silos completely, more successful businesses are looking for opportunities to integrate and make use of their stored information in more efficient ways. With the uncertainties of a global health crisis accelerating the imperative across industries to move quickly to digitization, drawing insight from integrated data to automate most efficiently will become the determining factor in business growth and success. Advancing the capacity to identify trends, threats, and ways to optimize operations through data integration will inevitably make some jobs obsolete, but it will also lead to new ones.

From Data Silos to BI and AI

Most companies today have their data scattered across multiple silos. One business might use different marketing, customer management, and lead-generating software to fill different needs, but each contributes to the company’s fragmented data model. Innovators saw this dilemma and quickly developed methods of not only integrating data, but turning it into real-time, actionable business intelligence (BI).

With greater business efficiency, employment needs will change. Eighty-three percent of businesses consider the integration of APIs, like shopping carts and payment gateways for online retailers, critical for their post-2021 strategy. Extract, transform, and load (ETL) and integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) tools automate that process to create a single, normalized organizational truth. From this, artificial intelligence (AI) analytics then turn that single data source into ways of increasing efficiency and, as a result, will eliminate extraneous positions and the need for people to fill them.

With Integrated Data, the Right Jobs Can Be Automated

Data is the key to automation, machine learning (ML), and AI, but automation is not merely about removing humans from the picture. Business process automation (BPA) allows for the better allocation of resources, including eliminating time-consuming jobs that machines can do with increased productivity. Human resources, customer service, and marketing are three of the easiest departments for BPA, but analytics from a single organizational data source can help determine other high-volume, repetitive, and time-intensive processes that automation could make more efficient.

Sixty percent of occupations could save 30% of their time through automation, according to a 2017 McKinsey report. It was estimated that AI would power 95% of customer interactions by 2020, according to a 2018 report by Servion Global Solutions. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, 88% of finance and insurance executives and 76% of IT departments reported that they sped up the transition to automation and AI. With the combined business climate of increased and accelerated digitization, data integration, and automation, jobs may be lost but time will be saved, and as a result, new and different jobs can be created.

Automation Then Benefits Everyone

Once businesses learn to leverage their unified data toward company efficiency, automation will take away mundane tasks and allow for more innovation. With automation, companies will be able to provide a better customer experience (CX), resulting in increased satisfaction and loyalty. Without the drudgery of time-wasting tasks that a machine could do just as easily, employees are more engaged in the position they actually hold, increasing their sense of value and morale.

Automation is more cost-efficient, provides more control, operational resiliency, and security, all with fewer employees — which means it frees up valuable skills that can be invested in other areas. AI incorporation results in enhanced products and services, optimized internal and external operations, better decision making, and greater employee creativity to pursue new markets and create new products, according to a Deloitte survey. Automation takes away the burden of the mundane and reserves human skills for jobs of higher value and more complexity.

The Future Is Automated

Access to an expanding quantity and diversity of data is accelerating automation, according to Gartner’s IT Automation Predictions for 2021. By 2023, access to big data and AI will allow 40% of product and platform teams to replace standard IT management with AIOps and 40% of enterprise workloads will be deployed in cloud infrastructure and platform services. By 2025, businesses that expand their physical experiences into virtual ones will outperform competitors, and 50% of businesses will have incorporated artificial intelligence orchestration platforms to manage their expanding use of AI.

While this may sound like AI and automation are taking opportunities away from people who previously did these jobs, what it really does is make way for new ways people can express their skills. For example, Gartner predicts that IT teams that better understand the needs of the organization’s customers will outperform in customer experience by 20%. This means that CIOs who can transition from managing and implementing information technologies to managing customer experiences through technology will be more productive for their company.

With more diverse data, integration became necessary, and along with it, automation became even more inevitable. Digitization will be an ongoing process of continuous improvement, and it’s everybody’s job to see it through. As more of the manual workflow comes under the umbrella of automation, both IT and non-technical business people alike should be engaged in the process. People will need to be up-skilled or re-skilled to meet new demands as the company changes, so build, buy, or borrow the talent you need to make that happen. Yes, jobs will change, but the idea is that they change for the better.

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