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Emerging skills and roles in AI-powered businesses

Per Sedihn, CTO at Proact IT Group AB

When the world wide web was made publicly available back in 1991, people were already questioning whether connecting computers all over the world into one giant network would eradicate many peoples’ jobs. Now, nearly three decades later, we know that this not only created many new careers but that the web revolutionised the concept and process of starting a business.

Similar discussion now surrounds the effects that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) may have on the existing workforce. Reports in some quarters claim that as many as 57% of jobs could become obsolete as AI automation comes to maturity, while Gartner data suggests that up to 2.3 million new jobs could be created by the technology – at a net gain of 500,000 jobs.

But what is guaranteed is that AI, just like the web before it, will have a significant influence on the future job roles that people will do, both in IT and across the wider business. It will see predictable, routine tasks become automated, as distinctly human skills, such as judgement, creativity and leadership, become priceless.

AI fosters new job roles

As AI creates new responsibilities and opportunities for businesses, we’ll see new job roles emerge. The obvious include positions like AI architect, AI product manager and software engineer, but more senior roles will also become increasingly central to businesses deploying the technology on a day-to-day basis. For example:

Chief Data Officer: The CDO is one of the newest arrivals to the boardroom, which was introduced to help businesses take control of the mass of data they continue to accrue. The CDO uses a variety of skills and services, from business intelligence, data mining and advanced analytics through to AI. AI is crucial to the CDO’s task of ensuring data is secure, while also providing insights that help businesses to gain a competitive advantage.

Data Scientist: As data volumes continue to rise and businesses become ever more reliant on customer data, data scientists are now crucial to understanding and solving complex business issues. These unique individuals combine the skills of a mathematician with those of a computer scientist and trend-spotter, making their insights invaluable to businesses. This role will evolve as AI becomes more widely used and business-critical.

AI Ethics Officer: As AI deployments become more commonplace, businesses need to carefully govern their development processes to ensure bias is minimised and diversity considerations are incorporated. Furthermore, the ethical and social issues of AI taking jobs away from humans, which nearly every business will need to consider and manage over the coming decades, should be considered long before implementation. The AI Ethics Officer is likely to become a common role tasked with aligning AI plans with the organisation’s codes of ethics and standards.

Evolving skillsets emerge

It will become increasingly important for business leaders to understand the relationship between AI and IT if they are to make informed decisions. The rise of AI will demand that businesses are equipped with an arsenal of new skills at all levels, with greater emphasis on executive and C-level understanding and even technical knowledge of AI.

Managing AI technologies effectively requires expertise in data science, neural networks, machine learning, deep learning and data mining. But it also demands an ability to manage and process data in a wide range of software and languages, such as Apache Spark, Python, R, Java and Apache Hadoop.

Businesses will also need to upskill existing staff. The key to this will be encouraging people with and without technical skills, as well as new recruits, to work together and develop and be open to new ways of working – which again is reliant on strong leadership.

Skills growth leaves gaps

The demand for highly skilled individuals such as data scientists will outstrip supply as AI is used more widely. Indeed, we are already seeing the volume of job postings increase at a higher rate than the number of people with the skills to fill them.

As a result, highly trained individuals will get their pick of the best jobs and will inevitably be lured towards innovative, most likely digital businesses – such as the likes of Google, Facebook and Spotify – rather than seemingly less ‘sexy’ businesses or industries. The onus is therefore on businesses to find ways to attract the best and brightest talent, which is where buy-in from senior management will be required. They will need to sign the budgets required to build a team and create a structure that provides them with the autonomy to experiment with AI solutions. Organisations need to have a strategy to train staff for these skilled roles as the demand is very high in comparison to the available people in the market.

Hiring and training the right talent extends beyond simply having skilled data scientists at your disposal. This team must also understand your business if they are to help you reap the most value from your data and deploy AI in the most effective manner. It’s therefore important for your in-house AI team to be connected to business experts to ensure their solution is aligned.

The good news is that the technical skills required to architect an AI platform aren’t as high as they were five years ago. The growth of Platform as a Service (PaaS) enables businesses to access and deploy the building blocks of AI without having to build it from scratch, as it simplifies one substantial aspect of the process.

Proact has been providing data centre infrastructure solutions and services to enterprises for almost 25 years, and managed cloud services for more than a decade. We bring together a partner network of cloud service providers to help our customers adopt the innovative technologies that are driving the future of enterprise AI.

Within this network, we work with our partner NetApp to deliver the data management services essential for customers’ successful AI implementations. These include NetApp’s ONTAP AI packages, which combine NetApp’s data management capabilities with state-of-the-art networking and compute to deliver an AI platform architected for super performance, the lowest latency and cost-efficiency.

A positive AI future

Like the invention of the internet, AI and automation are exciting prospects that will continue to cause debate as the technologies evolve. While the rise of intelligent technology is unlikely to render humans redundant, we can be sure that work as we know it is set to change dramatically.

Hundreds if not thousands of new jobs that we haven’t even thought of yet will emerge, and our daily tasks and general skillsets will evolve beyond recognition. The onus is now on organisations and business leaders to understand the technology, consider what value it can add to their organisations and build teams and skills that enable them to implement it successfully. Just as the world wide web created new opportunities nearly three decades ago, AI will have a major impact on not only how we do business but the types of businesses we run.