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The Ant, the Elephant, and Automation

One of my favorite bedtime stories is about how an arrogant elephant was brought down by an ant in its trunk. To draw a parallel with what’s been happening over the past few months, a virus has brought arrogant mankind to its knees. It’s my belief that, in the future, several such ‘ants’ will cause havoc.

Over the last 50 or so years, humans have been a ‘predictive’ and ‘proactive’ race. We have predicted things that can save lives and we have been proactive enough to take futuristic action to thrive on planet earth. However, when it comes to pandemics, epidemics, and virus outbreaks, we tend to be rather ‘reactive’ – and this is not by design. These ‘ants’ are so different, so unpredictable, and so dangerous that humans can only be reactive!

While it’s not the end of the world, we can surmise that when the ice covers start coming off, we will be left staring at more and more ants, which are going to challenge the adage ‘Man is a social being’.

I have been practicing automation in Information Technology (IT) over the last decade. The effort has always been to take IT from being reactive to proactive and then to predictive. Automation has played a phenomenal role in what the world is today. Let’s look at how automation will play a future role in coping with these kinds of pandemics.

  1. Humans out of the Loop – Automation has always focused on bringing a human into the loop for handling exceptions. But given these unprecedented times, the focus in the future will be on taking humans out of the loop to handle business effectively. Don’t be surprised to talk and interact with automated bots more than ever before. Don’t be surprised to be greeted by bots at customer support desks. Don’t be surprised to see more and more bots perform surgeries and fly planes. Humans not in the loop will be the focus of automation for the next decade.
  2. From BCP to PCP – Everybody, I quote everybody, will (and should) now have a pandemic continuity plan. This will be an overhaul to the existing business continuity plan. Automation will be a big player in deciding continuity plans when there’s an outbreak. Some key things that will thrive in the future during an outbreak will be (a) chatbots/AI-based conversation platforms; (b) mandatory self-help and self-healing bots; (c) AI-based operations with intelligent co-relation systems; and (d) predictive systems for applications and critical infrastructure.
  3. Cloud Periscopes – With everything ‘up there’ on the cloud, there will be more automated periscopes to secure vulnerable data and personal information, and protect you from cyber-attacks. Cloud automation to ensure availability and performance is expected to boom in the next five years.
  4. Agile Normalcy – One of the positives of the current situation is that many procedures and processes are being sped up. Innovation cycles and testing periods for medical devices have shrunk from months to just a few weeks, primarily because of automation. Of course, the special rules being applied now will rightfully be rescinded when the current pandemic is over; but the swiftness we are currently witnessing will serve as a lasting benchmark and will ultimately give rise to agile new normalcy.
  5. Automation Acceleration Units – Be it in an enterprise or be it in the community, automation acceleration units and cohorts will be the new normal. Automation labs with AI and Robotics at their core will form the cornerstones of every enterprise. Domain dictionaries will improve, especially in healthcare. Anomaly detection algorithms will be beefed up in healthcare, information security, etc. Automation evangelizing and automation in enterprise architecture will get the utmost attention in the next few years.

Humans will rely on jugaad (Indian slang for innovative and improvisational methods of solving problems)!

Humans will find a way to handle the ant in the ear!

Humans will automate!

Humans will thrive!

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