Cloudy with a chance of automation

By Arjun Pratap
Location: Bangalore, India

Artificial intelligence is a driving force in the new employment economy and could be key to embracing the future of work.

The future is AI

Businesses are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) in a big way, not only because it is making them more intelligent and efficient but also because it is increasing their workforce productivity. A recent TCS Global Trend Study showed that 68 percent of companies use AI for IT functions. However, 70 percent believe that by 2020, AI’s greatest impact will be to areas outside of IT, such as marketing, customer service, finance and human resources.

AI can learn employee capabilities, help them to understand best practice and allow them to perform higher-skilled jobs with enhanced quality and higher productivity, more effectively and efficiently. As it becomes more and more mainstream, it will become an integrated component of business strategy and workforce management.

Professor Kai Riemer is a disruptive technology expert. He talks us through the risks associated with AI and what can be done to avoid them.

Building strong foundations

The foundations of my career were built in Sydney just after the dot com bubble had burst, and it was a volatile time to enter the workforce. It was exhilarating; we were trying to survive and grow against the odds. It was my first taste of failure. I was forced to be adaptable and went through a process of unlearning.

At this time, I learnt to wear many hats and this first got me thinking of the future of work. It was an experience which left an impression that I knew I would need to replicate in the future.

It was when I returned to India in the early 2000s that the entrepreneurship bug within was stirred. I worked for emerging technology organisations such as SpeedERA Networks and Akamai Technologies, where I built their Indian and international businesses. I headed up sales at Dexler Information Solutions and provided strategic direction to build the company. These experiences led me towards founding EdGE Networks in 2012, a next-gen technology startup focused on the search for talent.

Recognising AI’s potential

I recognised the scope and need for a talent decision platform powered by AI – and how it would help organisations build future-ready workforces. Looking at the rapid pace of change taking place in India and the world at the time, it became clear to me that talent decisions powered by AI, data science and machine learning would be the best route to enable workforce transformation.

I saw that AI was gaining ground in the talent management domain. I knew the time was right to build talent decisioning solutions for large enterprises who wanted to take their workforce to the next level.

In the talent acquisition space, AI had started to change the speed, accuracy and timeliness of delivery. Auto-sourcing, just-in-time hiring, and self-serve hiring were expected to improve utilisation and drive revenue growth.

AI as a weatherman for HR

AI-driven applications can act as a weatherman for HR. Like early HR analysis, 20th-century meteorologists relied heavily upon crude tools such as thermometers, barometers and hydrogen balloons. These basic tools were unable to detect approaching hurricanes or heat waves.

Now, meteorologists have access to sophisticated technology like satellites and Doppler radar to foresee extreme and mild weather events. Likewise, HR can rely on AI to help them analyse employee engagement, determine flight risk and uncover great talent in the frontline, improve utilisation and drive revenue growth.

Today, the challenges of managing large workforces is where AI and data science are coming into play. These challenges are not unique to India – many companies with large workforces, operating over the world are facing the same issues.

Leaders can use AI to better understand workforce challenges. They can make informed decisions in an effective and timely manner, and ensure higher productivity, lower attrition, upskilling and reskilling and better employee experience.

Artificial intelligence, data science and analytics together can be used to identify the skill gaps in employees and train them accordingly. It is the future and is a critical request for most companies across the world.

Growing by leaps and bounds

Many milestones and barricades later, our startup EdGE Networks is today a successful talent decision platform powered by artificial intelligence. We believe in placing people at the heart of every business decision. With this as our driving force, we simplify decisions in talent acquisition and workforce optimisation.

Staff at EdGE Networks office in Bangalore, India

What sets us apart is our skills graph: EdGE Graph (800,000 nodes), a neural network of skills, demographics, industries, occupations and courses that have read and analysed more than 35 million resumes and 10 million job descriptions. The EdGE team has expertise in AI, semantic analysis, data science, machine learning, deep learning and predictive modelling. All of which are geared to enable organisations to lead with data and intelligence – and significantly improve workforce availability, billing, allocation and drive recognisable bottom-line impacts.

We engage with our customers to understand the convergence across sectors as technology jobs get more pervasive.

My advice

AI is positioned to be a game-changer when it comes to problem-solving, including workflow problems. My advice to entrepreneurs is that combining AI-powered technologies with human experience and judgement will set you apart.

AI has the power to help organisations become even more people-centric by creating happier employees, reducing bias, enabling more valuable programs and allowing more time to focus on talent development. In other words, AI will help companies embrace the future of work. In my opinion, anyone planning on entering the artificial intelligence sector should know that it is a very exciting space to be.

Arjun Pratap

Arjun Pratap

Arjun is the CEO and founder of EdGE Networks and Master of International Business alumni. His company has been recognised globally and has won prestigious awards for its technology and offerings. It was selected for Google’s 4th edition of the Launchpad Accelerator Program and is currently a part of the Microsoft Scale-Up Program.

Kai Riemer

Kai Riemer

Kai is Professor of Information Technology and Organisation. His research interests are in disruptive technologies, enterprise social media, virtual work, collaborative technologies and the philosophy of technology. Professor Riemer is also one half of The Future, This Week podcast produced by the University of Sydney Business School.