Back in 2011, global business and technology think tank FutureWorld created several scenarios for business life “Beyond 2020”. One of these proclaimed that:
“Everything that can be automated, has been. 90% of business processes are online and audited in real time. Business has moved onto ‘digital steroids’.”
In a keynote presentation around the same time, Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner said that in the next four decades, analytics systems would replace much of what the knowledge worker does – and systems like IBM’s ‘Watson’ would be your boss.
“The species known as middle management – will go extinct,” he remarked.
Shocking stuff – and even more so because that’s exactly what happened today! Smart software, proliferation of devices, cloud collaboration and a new paradigm of openness and transparency has literally wiped out an entire layer of middle and lower management jobs, particularly in government and services industries.
No more surly bank-tellers, no more cheeky audit clerks! Machines do the dog-work seamlessly, in real-time and customers love it.
Sounds like a crisis for those former workers, doesn’t it? But the reality is that after a few years of adjustment, the newly disenfranchised managers have turned to entrepreneurship.
Remember the days of corporate ‘de-layering’ back in the Eighties? It’s happened all over again, as millions of former employees set up their own small businesses to serve their former corporate masters, new markets, or to do completely new things.
“We’ve inadvertently unlocked a whole new age of innovation and human energy,” says business anthropologist Jade Johnson. “After the initial upheaval and adjustment, I think the world is a better place, with real value-add being the new-age price determinant.”