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The future of work: Coding automation set to rob jobs

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Times of India | Vinayashree Jagadeesh | TNN | February 8, 2016 |

The game is afoot! Be it IBM’s Watson or Wipro’s Holmes, platforms based on artificial intelli gence are increasingly driving projects in the IT space. And industry experts predict that it will bring about a dynamic shift in the next five to seven years creating a higher demand for upskilled engineers in niche areas. This simultaneously foreshadows a gradual decrease in demand for engineers on lower levels such as coding, back office maintenance and applications testing. Industry insiders say that pressure will mount on firms to find engineers who can handle smart systems as opposed to a model that uses fresh recruits in large numbers to carry out low-wage and manually repetitive operations.

Cognizant’s ADPART automation platform has already helped reduce effort in `application quality assurance testing’ in excess of 30%. An associate vice-president in Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work, Robert Hoyle Brown, told TOI in an email interaction that the platform has extended the realm of workflow automation to include machine learning where “robots” mine patterns and intelligence from structured data. A global survey conducted by Cognizant had respondents stating that an average of 25-40% of the workflow is being automated today . Wipro, which has more than 1.58 lakh employees, reportedly plans to pitch its AI platform for outsourcing work to nearly one-third of its clients.  Automation mainly occurs with work that involves rote procedures and manual inputs, paving the way for next generation Intelligent Process Automation technology to drive greater savings and efficiency . So, how fast is automation setting in in the software business and what does it signify for the thousands of graduates churned out by India’s engineering colleges annually? “With cloud computing and analytics taking over, the need for people is coming down. A basic BTech degree may no longer suffice to survive. Engineers will have to be upskilled and focus on niche areas or be equipped to handle smart systems,” said a TCS executive on condition of anonymity .

In sheer numbers, the executive said automation and AI systems had helped the IT major cut costs on productivity , infrastructure and consumption of resources by 30-40%. TCS, which has an AI platform called Ignio, has a total of 3.24 lakh employees. The source said while operational efficiency is not yet significantly felt at present, job creation opportunities will be very different in five to 10 years. Another executive at Cognizant said healthcare, banking and manufacturing were among the big sectors using AI and automation, but said IT would still require a combination of intelligent software and intelligent people. “There is a lot of data thrown up through systems. Using the data in a way to derive patterns is a people’s task,” he said.  Sensing the change, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has initiated the process of pulling the plug on outdated courses and non-performing colleges whose existence has become unviable. AICTE says this will improve the quality of engineers being churned out to fit industry requirements in the future. In 2015, about 757 technical courses were shut down and nearly 35,000 engineering seats reduced from last year.  Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president, NASSCOM, said, “It will take about five years to see a significant impact of automation on industry , in terms of revenue growth or costcutting. But automation platforms will require higher capabilities, which all grads may not be equipped to handle. Old methodologies followed in colleges and unemployability issues have to be looked at carefully to fit industry requirements,” she said. Growth in revenue due to automation alone has so far been less than 10%, she said, but companies were investing in automation to drive higher levels of productivity . –  Courtesy       /       Cognizant’s ADPART automation platform

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