Remember when cruise control was just on flash cars? When a Mercedes stunt to demonstrate automatic emergency braking went terribly wrong and the car failed to stop and instead hit the car in front of it? You have to feel for the people involved. They genuinely wanted the car to be safer.
The thing is, it wasn’t that long ago. Now cheap cars have adaptive cruise and lane departure, and expensive ones pretty much drive themselves.
This is all clear and sensible progress but what us humans often find difficult to understand about automation is that progress is often very slow for a fair amount of time and then accelerates very quickly. It’s not the way that we are used to changes like electricity, rail, cars, etc. My grandmother witnessed the introduction of electricity to her world, radio, household appliances, TV, and the internet. She loved all the change, I suspect I get that from her.
But lots of people are telling us now that progress will be on very different time scales because of automation. It took over 10 years for the IBM program, Deep Blue, to beat a chess world champion but they said at the end of that period, 1996, its learning speed was increasing exponentially.
The economist Rudiger Dornbusch said “In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.” It looks like reality might approximate economics.
So what does all this mean for your work life? I’m assuming here that you don’t work for a big company, rather running an SME or helping people that do.
Clearly big companies will develop even more ways to price gouge using AI, as well as reduce their costs and frustrate us with crap service. Like the big online retailer in Australia that tells you if you reply to their automatic support email you will go to the end of the queue and your request could be further delayed by days.
But for the rest of us, dealing with clients as people, there is a huge amount of potentially brilliant stuff you can do that will save you time and help you better serve your clients. Things like some of the marketing programs I use, Hubspot, Buffer, Mailchimp, The trouble is they all take quite a lot of time to set up. Plus you have to put yourself in that headspace when you do it. That can be really draining, it uses up thinking think that could be better spent on client problems.
I think, for what it’s worth, the way this is all headed is toward increased specialisation. A growth in the use of outsourced service providers that do the setup and maintenance of key processes for you. A lot of you will be doing this already, finding specialists on places like Upwork, but I think the use of such services is going to increase dramatically soon. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are and early adopter in one way or another.
It’s seems clear that, for a while at least, work life is going to get more complex rather than less. I don’t know about you but I feel I have enough complexity going on already. I’d hate to have to document it all.
And then we get to the cost of all this, managing the cost of software services is hard enough now, increasingly, you will probably have many outsourced service providers to manage as well. It can be difficult trying to compare the costs of internal vs external costs for all those small tasks. There is probably space for someone to provide an overall management service.
We have a client that provides great outsourced Hubspot setup, content and management. They are legends at it because it’s all they do. And they tell me that lots of people pay big money for the software but struggle to get good results from it, for the reasons mentioned above. These folks charge a lump of cash each month, that some people baulk at, but it’s less than half of what it costs to have an in-house social media/marketing manager who might struggle to keep up. Plus it’s very hard for us non-marketing types to measure and assess their performance. Leave it to the experts I say.
Of course, providing an outsourced service is what we do, and we think paying big money to have an in-house CFO do day-to-day management stuff is crazy but a lot of people don’t see that.
Trying to map out all this stuff seems daunting but maybe it’s not so hard. Grab a big sheet of paper and draw lines for top level key processes: sales, marketing, client service delivery, people management, billing, payroll, accounts, etc. Imagine you have been asked to start a business from scratch. What would you do?