With the advent of the Millennium Trends (SMIC) and their associated enabling technologies, the skills of IT professionals must evolve too. Image Credit: Rex Features

Technology has changed the workplace in an extraordinary way. It has allowed some jobs to be mobile that were previously desk-bound, and enabled many workers to do their jobs from almost any location at any time.

Whenever there is any kind of a ‘work revolution’, there is a related and required shift in skill sets. As technology evolves and replaces traditional ways of doing work, it not only changes the very nature of the work, including tools, practices and processes, it also impacts the skills required to adapt to this paradigm shift.

Original jobs that were created or enhanced by technology, such as telemarketers and contact centre agents, ironically will soon find themselves phased out as technology evolves. Telemarketing applications are already beginning to replace the physical person making outbound calls, and soon they may replace the contact centre agent who answers inbound calls.

In fact, studies now show that modern technology users prefer to ‘self-care’ if given robust technology-based support, seeking human intervention only if those resources are inadequate to meet their needs.

So what is changing?

There is a lot of talk in the press about the ‘Millennium Trends’ — also referred to as SMIC, an acronym for social platforms, mobile applications, information (“big data”) and cloud computing — which are transforming the way we define business, the way we do business and the way we interact with each other and deliver work.

Embedded in these trends are the associated underlying enabling technologies which are bringing about major advances toward digitisation. For example, the rate of change in terms of machine to machine (M2M) communications, mobile device penetration, and the evolution of broadband speeds in recent years has been extraordinary.

Among the advances, a few technologies are having the most dramatic impact on the evolution of the workplace. These are cognitive systems, robotics and the ‘internet of things’, or connected machines.

The evolution of the workforce

As in previous workplace revolutions, the skills required to deliver the same work or deliver new services must change and adapt to new technologies and new business models. With the advent of the Millennium Trends (SMIC) and their associated enabling technologies, the skills of IT professionals must evolve too.

IT professionals have always been at the forefront with innovative skills, but with the advance of technologies such as cognitive systems, robotics, and connected machines (IoT), not only are the required skill sets changing more than ever and at a rapidly accelerating rate, such as social media skills and more, but there will also be skills required from outside the field of traditional IT, such as those of gaming experts who now develop new user interfaces.

At the top of the IT organisation is the CIO and much has been written about their changing role, but today’s CIO needs to not only drive technological change within his or her own organisation but must also fundamentally educate the entire organisation about how technology can help move it towards entirely new business models.

Today’s CIO needs to dramatically alter the ways in which they interact with people — there is a need for digitisation right across the board, with peers, with employees, with customers, and with partners up and down the value chain.

Jobs of the future will require people to be technology-savvy, to engage with customers and partners in flexible and dynamic ways, and to be capable of quickly adapting as business becomes more nimble and optimises for each new opportunity.

Technologies such as cognitive systems, robotics and connected machines have made the workplace more dynamic than ever and will continue to do so. A new generation of IT-related skills are required to deliver the profound benefits that such technologies can bring.

The writer is Senior Vice President — Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, Orange Business Services.