3 Management Practices Technology Has (Almost) Taken Over
Research by McKinsey (1) indicates that few occupations or industries will be lost to automation – instead their analysts believe that artificial intelligence, sensors and algorithms will transform “activities”. This is a welcome shift for many of us, with 48% of employees feeling positively about the replacement of repetitive work with “automation, smart machines, and [artificial intelligence]”, according to ADP’s study The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workforce (2).
The cutting edge of innovation in this area involves replacing human services with what Peter Reinhart (CEO of Segment) calls a “software layer”. As consumers, we’ve already experienced this transformation with Uber and Lyft, for example.
In the workplace, automation is also set to replace tasks traditionally reserved for management – and HR professionals need to be aware of how this shift will impact business operations. Here’s a look at how things are changing in three common areas of management:
- Data-Driven Decision Making
One traditional duty of management is measuring human performance. It is, however, inherently data driven, and the use of algorithms for recruitment, promotion and productivity measurement is already a significant part of management and HR technology. For instance, according to The Economist (3), Google uses a “human-performance analytics group algorithm” for interview design and compensation matters.
Very few managers have the data analysis skill set necessary to replicate the work of a well-designed application for managerial decision-making. In fact, it’s arguable that the use of algorithms for data-driven decision-making can introduce important objectivity into employee performance measurement and other managerial activities.
Ultimately however, data is just one factor to take into consideration when making decisions about personnel, clients or processes. Department heads will be responsible for filtering algorithmic outputs to ensure suggested decisions are sound. Perhaps more importantly, management will be responsible for providing unbiased feedback on data and applications to verify that algorithms are reflective of cultural values and priorities.
- Automated Project Design and Tasking
A key responsibility of department heads and team leads is project conceptualisation. Management is responsible for taking project scope documentation and breaking it into tasks and metrics, which are distributed among team members. Existing technologies have already begun to replicate this process on a minor scale. Harvard Business Review (4) (HBR) recently published a case study on a “prototype software” known as iCEO, which successfully automated the project design and tasking necessary to complete a “124-page research report”.
Despite its remarkable capabilities, software such as iCEO is only as intelligent as the processes it’s built to replicate. While management may not be responsible for tasking, they will still play a crucial role in providing input on project requirements, removing barriers and suggesting process improvements to enhance efficiency.
- Sharpening Strategy with Data Analysis
Automated reporting technologies have already been adopted by many enterprises and the job of the data scientist, dubbed the “sexiest” position of the 21st century by HBR (5), presents a powerful opportunity if it’s coupled with the experience of the management suite. When department heads and executives provide guidance on theories to talented big data analysts, there is significant potential to build insights that would deliver a competitive advantage.
As data analysis tools become more sophisticated, the need for management’s input on data will no doubt diminish. Algorithms and applications will become more adept at providing “auto-suggestions” on product development and other strategy actions, based on user-generated social media content, mobile devices and sensors. Management’s key role would then be to work closely with applications designed for strategy discovery, providing critical feedback and “training” filtered through knowledge.
Clearly businesses stand to benefit from the automation of tasks because of the projected cost savings and the potential for technology to introduce objectivity into business processes. And as a result, while the role of middle management is likely to shift significantly in coming years, it’s unlikely to disappear.
For more information on HR technology, click here: Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace
Written by: Jasmine Gordon