Of all the jobs that are threatened to be replaced by AI, big data, and the rise of digital labor it stands to reason that IT Manager might possibly the only job that is completely safe from being automated out of existence.
Or is it? Specific to an in-building scenario, with everything from HVAC systems to lightbulbs being a candidate for closed loop automation, could the IT manager role just become one more line item in a facilities manager’s job description (or vice versa)? Ultimately, every job that exists today could, someday, be replaceable. But, in the near term let’s examine the factors that facilities managers and IT managers will face as buildings become more intelligent.
Jack of all trades AND the master of all
Without question, as analog systems became digitized, and now automated, it is incumbent that all job roles that interface with technology to learn more about technology. In today’s world, this constitutes a long list of job titles that need to be more tech savvy than ever. Oftentimes, this results in most job roles carrying a dual responsibility. Be an expert in your domain, and know “enough to be dangerous” about how technology can improve your ability to do your job, and add value to your organization.
At the same time, this does not mean that facilities managers will need to subsume the IT manager’s role, even in a completely modern, intelligent building. In fact, as more and more job roles become increasingly tech savvy, the need to herd the proverbial cats will become more important than ever. Governance and oversite of the IT systems that not only automate company systems, but also impact the entire workforce in a digital labor world will represent a mission critical activity.
Job security vs. job success
If we can agree that IT managers aren’t going anywhere, then a potentially more important question becomes one of how they can be more effective in a fully digital, closed loop automation world? First and foremost, the answer to that question relies in the data that automation solutions produce. If AI, big data, and deep learning software will touch every role in a company, then helping people to use that data the data will be vital. Some relatively straightforward best practices for helping facilities managers get the most out of automated systems they use include:
- Structure your data. One perpetually recurring theme that I’ve heard from line of business managers across a broad spectrum of industries is the one about being buried alive in data. If new, automated systems are going to collect petabytes of data, then it should be the IT department’s goal to help use that data for pointed, value-creating purposes. At a high level, this means structuring data sets so as to help deliver actionable insights to business leaders. In a facilities management sense this could include reports related to traffic patterns and room usage statistics that can be used to create profiles that make the act of tuning HVAC and lighting systems more predictable.
- Leverage 3rd parties. One problem with data is that is that it takes time to make sense of. Oftentimes, this time must come at the expense of performing the task that one was hired to do. This is where a little help can go a long way. Companies exist to help just about all stakeholders across nearly every industry to make sense of big data and use it as an effective management tool. To put a fine point on it: if you are an IT manager today, you probably need help with big data, AI, et. al. Seek that help, and and let it help you.
- Empower your stakeholders. Recently, I heard a talk given by a chief data officer at a very large N. American telecom service provider. The key message in his talk was two-fold: embrace Shadow IT as a means of empowering people throughout the organization, but be sure to establish clear DIY protocols for people to follow. By doing so, he found that by removing the stigma attached to shadow IT, his department was able to respond to requests much more quickly, and did so in a way that kept the shadow IT episodes in line with overall IT governance policies. Depending on an organization’s overall level of “tech savviness” or risk tolerance, this may or may not be advice to follow. In any case, the idea of taking measures that are appropriate for your organization to empower facilities managers to have input in to the process of how to best leverage automation technologies in the buildings that they manage is a practice that IT managers should embrace.