By Frank Slootman - 2014-02-25
In my public speaking venues, I often mention how IT is chronically over-staffed and under-automated. In large institutions, IT budgets measure in billions, and IT staffs reach tens of thousands. These numbers seem off the charts. However, technology is driving a fundamental shift that is accelerating the substitution of staffing for automated systems. And ServiceNow is certainly at the forefront by enabling services to be executed at light speed and lights out. Basically: no hands. The mantra of the cloud is automation.
Increasingly, this observation is striking a chord. The other day I received an email from an industry colleague who reflected on the societal implications of this shift from people-mediated services to fully automated processes. The economy is charging ahead, leaving some people unemployed long term, caught in the chasm between old and new, and unable to adjust at the speed necessary to stay in the game. The author questioned how we feel as a company being a catalyst to this change.
There is not an easy or comfortable answer to this question. Our business is based on enabling automation and efficiency. It’s what we do. Historically, people have adapted to any new normal, but the dislocation can be generational and gut wrenching. In free societies and markets, it’s not a choice. We can’t stop it. Economists refer to this as “Luddite fallacy” (or technological unemployment). The economic imperative will rule, and we are left with policies to soften blows and (re-)tool generations of workers for the new reality.
In the fullness of time these trends increase prosperity for society as a whole, but change can be uneven and exact hardship in the short term. Change is only accelerating: we have seen more technology change in the last 20 years than in the previous 100.
As a free and innovative society, we are best off embracing change and thrusting ourselves into the future rather than trying to resist or slow it down. We have to learn to live and work in a dynamic world where we may have to shift gears multiple times during our lifetime. This is the new normal.