A couple of years ago I read an article that very succinctly described how autonomous vehicles would change the world. Having been at the forefront of actively finding ways for the commercialization of emerging technology I have also seen a preview of how the world would be once the likes AI, Virtual Reality, Biometrics, Manufacturing 4.0 and Quantum Computing are mainstreamed – and that is no more than five years away. In the light of that knowledge when I observe the obstinate resistance to adoption of modern technology, the overwhelming emotion is frustration. That frustration is only amplified when it takes a tragedy of planetary proportions – as we see unfolding with Covid19 – to enforce adoption of these new ways of doing business.
In between five to ten years from now, manufacturing (and agriculture) will be completely without physical human intervention, and the produced goods delivered to their destinations by autonomous vehicles – including aircraft & ships. There will be no malls because stores would be mounted on automated driving platforms that will come to you when you want, and stuff you buy online is already coming to you via drones. Virtual (and Augmented Reality) will mean that you will be able to experience meetings from the comfort of your home, the same way you do today in conference rooms & coffee shops – and the beauty is that you choose the meeting environment that suits you, so while you could be on a bench on a beach, the person you meet maybe in a corner suite of a skyscraper in Manhattan, when neither of them physically is. Consulting Services, Datacenter Management, Conventions & Conferences, Pressers – you name it and everything will be done virtually. If you think this is stuff of fantasy, then think again right now – each of these scenarios is deployable even today, albeit at costs just short of commercially viable. What’s in development is far beyond any of this. But since we are talking about what businesses need to do now, let’s not delve into that.
In a post-Covid19 world, businesses have the true opportunity to change their operating models. It is time we shifted even beyond co-working spaces, to co-opted working spaces. One of the most challenging situations I have seen in these past few days has been faced by the BPO/KPO industry. In a domain characterized by controlled & data-sanitized work environments, the inability to operate from shop floors has created havoc. If instead of alternate location-based disaster recovery (or management) plans these businesses had focused on building co-opted workpods across locations & localities, business would have continued as usual. Highly secure – plus socially distanced & physically sanitized – VR-enabled pods with AI-driven biometric video monitoring & secure computing devices within localities would have meant literally every business would have continued unhindered. And for senior managers, these pods could have been at home. The future is designed around fully-functional workstations with enclosed pod-based structures for privacy & confidentiality. And that future is the one that we need to build as soon as Covid19 is resolved. And those involved in manufacturing & logistics need to take immediate steps toward full automation.
Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate, and it will overrun traditional business operating structures within the next decade. The black swan event that we are facing today gives us the ideal platform to evolve from technology-resisting leadership to an ahead-of-the-curve one. This will help in cutting down cost of operation dramatically through co-opted & shared infrastructure as well as rationalize payrolls since on account of reduced commutes & other technological enhancements the cost bases of employees will shrink. There would also be a substantive reduction in travel, admin & overhead costs along with benefits accruing to the environment through reduced vehicular movement & other wastage. The past few decades have shown that as technology has evolved, the resistance has been high, and eventually the laggards have suffered. This time round, not only has technology itself has offered the way to business continuity, but with game-changing innovation around the corner, it is time for all of us to be early adopters.
Traditional jobs are coming to an end. The future belongs to those who will develop, deliver & operate technology-based solutions. There will be no agricultural or manufacturing workers, but those who operate the drones that take their place and manage creative aspects of the output. Routine jobs including accounting, BPO/KPO and even recruiting et al will be automated. It’s time for every job-seeker to invest in training on these new technologies of the future. Tomorrow will literally be too late.
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