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The introduction of computers, the Internet and mobility underpinned marked and sustained improvements in productivity. Yet, for all the progress these advancements helped realize, even they could not escape a core law of economics: diminishing returns. More importantly, IT fell victim to a highly counterintuitive “productivity paradox:” as more investment was made in information technology, worker productivity could quite as well go down instead of up.1

We live in a world, where – in every industry sector – IT decisions determine a company’s business model, but IT investments simply no longer deliver the same exponential benefits they once did. Our world may have been transformed, but until recently we seemed to have reached an IT productivity glass ceiling. How companies adapt will determine their future – and even survival.

Now this glass ceiling of IT productivity is finally set to be shattered, thanks to the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace. IPsoft recently commissioned a report – FuturaCorp, Artificial Intelligence and the Freedom to be Human – to investigate how AI will transform the relationship between humans and machines. One core finding stands out: the path towards the development and integration of AI capabilities is a path towards an organization more empowered by its core human qualities.

The true productivity X factor that will shatter the glass ceiling is simply not only a function of the technology, but of the human potential it helps to realize. The FuturaCorp organization will not simply find greater efficiencies by increasing the return on human input, it is an organization that has leveraged AI to largely free employees from deterministic, repetitive tasks, so that they can focus on those most human of qualities: creativity, innovation and cross-functional reasoning.

According to the research, job roles are comprised of a series of tasks. Soon, more than 80% of the deterministic, repetitive tasks will be done by machines. The probabilistic, efficiency management and simple problem solving tasks will be done by approximately 50% human and 50% machine, while humans will continue to do more than 80% of the exclusively human domain of cross-functional reasoning.

To understand how the symbiotic human + machine organization will underpin sustained competitive advantage, we need a new way of thinking about productivity. An equation that goes beyond a traditional measure of inputs — labor, hours worked, number of workers engaged or overall cost — measured against quantity of products produced and/or the financial value they generate.

By enabling companies to transfer repetitive tasks to AI and use the productivity gain to invest in higher-skill roles, FuturaCorp doesn’t just shift and replace work but turbocharges its business; the report measures this productivity potential through a sophisticated equation, which accounts both for the efficiencies generated, and the reinvestment in uniquely human skillsets.

Where repetitive tasks are the realm of the machine, humans are empowered to pursue roles most unique to our capabilities – the actualization of our greatest asset, the unencumbered pursuit of innovation. This leads to exponentially greater capacity to realize capabilities, strategies and greenfield opportunities.

Take the example of the telecommunications industry. During the last 5 to 7 years, Telco providers have been focusing more and more on infrastructure and less on content provision and service enhancement for their customers. As a result, their operating margins have been eroding, relying on cost reduction measures to sustain shareholder value. Going forward, Telcos will need to invest on customer experience enhancement. AI will allow them to handle multiple concurrent interactions through all available interfaces (voice, chat, social media) at an unprecedented level of service quality. At the same time, the advent of new / enhanced technologies will necessitate the constant increase of live interactions with users and telcos will be able to respond armed with AI capabilities.

The integration of AI will significantly ease the human burden of basic infrastructure upkeep and advancement, helping to plan, manage and schedule maintenance and highlight areas where development is needed.

Beyond this, emergent intelligent technologies can have a profound impact on location-based marketing, selecting and packaging the right content to the user at the right time. AI will help OTT companies provide targeted content and user experience through consistent, algorithmically defined offers, ultimately growing telecommunication companies’ revenue streams.

As enhanced infrastructure contributes to the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), AI can help handle complex processes between billions of connected devices and optimizing performance for tasks yet to be envisioned.

Where human minds are increasingly freed from repetitive processes, the telecommunications company not only enhances revenues, it gains more innovative human cognitive capacity to be an active participant in realizing the future. Beyond a facilitator, the company becomes an active leader towards the future of infrastructure, content and the Internet of Things. In any competitive and fast-evolving industry, anything short of industry leadership is demise.

This kind of productivity gains can be found and applied across many industries; after all, nearly every single company or organization is a technology business now.

Enhanced automation, realizing efficiencies that are directly invested into human potential – that is how AI empowers the human X factor and, in so doing, holds the potential to shatter the glass ceiling of IT productivity.

1The IT Productivity Paradox