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AI in the workplace: A boost for productivity, job creation

Will AI kill jobs? Yes, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, but it'll likely create many more. At the recent AI World in Boston, Kerravala explained to SearchCIO the biggest barriers to enterprise adoption of AI. The technology's perception as a job-killer ranked at the top of Kerravala's list, along with IT leaders simply not knowing how to employ AI in the workplace. In this video Q&A, Kerravala discusses the strengths of having AI in the workplace, which include better organized meetings and the ability to create jobs.

What are the biggest barriers to enterprise adoption of AI technologies?

Zeus Kerravala: One of the biggest barriers to enterprise adoption of AI is just not really knowing what to do with it. I think there's a great interest in it, but I think the possibilities are almost limitless right now. It reminds me a lot of the early days of the internet. Companies really weren't sure what to do with it and then as soon as they started to see some good examples, it really took off. We're at that point right now where there's a lot of experimenting going on. I think as soon as we start to see some really good use cases of how to improve customer service, how to improve meeting efficiency, how to make us more productive and how to help us find information better, that's when you'll see it really accelerate.

I think the other big barrier is just the perception that AI's going to kill jobs, so there's a lot of hesitation in bringing it in. I think that perception is wrong, but it certainly is acting as a barrier right now.

Will AI kill jobs?

There'll be an initial period of time where there might be a net decline, but I think at the back-end of it we'll have many more jobs than we have today.

Kerravala: AI will kill some jobs, but I think it will create more jobs in the back-end. Obviously, there are a lot of jobs today that could be automated and AI will help with that. But if you look at every major industrial trend, there's been more jobs created on the back-end of that trend than there were killed in the front-end. I know Forrester issued some data that said that, "AI will kill about 17% of jobs," and I agree with that. But then they followed up with, "It'll add about 10% for a net decline of 7%," and I think that is completely wrong. 

I think what'll happen is we'll create entirely new organizations within the company around data management, data integrity, AI best practices and things like that. That will stimulate job growth. I think AI in the workplace and AI as a customer-facing tool is really exciting because it's going to create many more jobs. There'll be an initial period of time where there might be a net decline, but I think at the back-end of it we'll have many more jobs than we have today.

How will AI impact the workplace?

Kerravala: I think we're really at the point of infancy for AI in the workplace. It's something that's been theorized by companies like Microsoft and Cisco for a while. There are a lot of CIOs interested in it, and I think they're still trying to figure out what to do with it. The most immediate place that I see AI in the workplace is helping companies run meetings better. If you think about the way meetings are run today, they're very disorganized and it takes a long time to get the technology up and running. But if you could walk into a meeting room and tell your AI, "Start my meeting, start my video call, mute this person," great benefit would come from that.

We're at the very early stages of [AI in the workplace], but over the next couple years we're going to see tremendous innovation for AI in the workplace. It's going to make us more productive. And the place you'll see it first is in corporate meetings.

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