As we sit here in the UK, the media is still focussing on the impending disasters that they foresee from either Brexit, or Trump, or both. But in reality these are likely to to be minor distractions that will shape our business operations in the future, but what would happen in a paradigm shift in the way society ticks along and how it effects employment like was seen in the 70's and 80's with process automation and its impact on manual workers? It may sound like science fiction but its within sight and you only have to look around to see its impact on everyone and everything!
If we look back at society development, it has gone through paradigm shifts from a focus on farming, to industry mass production, to technology and the last big impact to ordinary people was automation when manual workers were replaced with machines. Mass unemployment for workers left with no jobs to do and having to retrain, if they were to ever work again in anything other than menial work.
Now here's the thing, last time it was the manual workers who were impacted, not the managers. So what if the next shift were to lay off thousands of middle managers and office administrators, what impact would that have on your business? Think about it thousands of highly paid workers laid off competing for jobs. Possibly more of an impact to business owners, thousands of highly paid workers who previously spent their money employing services of others in local businesses, suddenly without an income!
So what is this all about? Computers are now making the shift to being capable of thinking for themselves and to teach themselves new skills, in much the same way as we learn ourselves. They have voice recognition systems that work well enough to understand everyday conversation and are now pretty close to being able to run non face to face customer work such as over the telephone or online, not necessarily reliably or cost effectively yet, but it will come and sooner than you think. If you don't believe this, try out of the Amazon Echo system, its technical capability may be limited but its communication skills are impressive for something costing from £50
So you may be thinking, thats not a problem, that won't effect me. But call centres are actually one of the more complex tasks, as they require a conversation engaging a human beings attention. Once this is mastered imagine something like banking, where the trend to remove staff and push customers through their websites. Put a good Artificial Intelligence system in place and the customers will most likely clammer to use it rather than fight their way through a challenging website. Once the first line contact is controlled by a computer you then wont need armies of people in the back room, checking that the phone operators or cashers etc have done their jobs correctly and with no teams of people doing these roles the management and support roles for them will also be removed
What will this mean to business owners generally? Well there will be winners and looser's, those that adapt and those that will fail to adapt. But then there will be people who look for the opportunities in new markets, will take market share, making money whilst their competitors do nothing. Change is the rule of life and if there is no change there will be no opportunities. But if you don't look for opportunities, you wont find them!
Running a business these days involves dealing with market environments that are changing ever faster and success favours the prepared. So if you are not constantly planning your companies future, maybe you should consider it now