The digital revolution and why “digital" jobs will become obsolete!

Everywhere you turn in today’s world you are faced with tech in some form or another. Whether in the real world or in the cyber environment, technology is affecting every aspect of our daily lives.

This is nothing new, technological advancement fuelled the industrial revolution and built empires all over the world. The introduction of the mobile phone, the networked computer and automated manufacturing have all had a major part to play in the continued development of the life we take for granted today.

However, everywhere you turn currently the world seems to prepare us all for a digital revolution, as if it was something new and a change in the world beyond our wildest dreams. Whichever industry you turn to, the message is the same “Change is afoot”. Some unimaginable percentage of future jobs across all industries are roles which don’t exist today.  Whilst this is probably true, I feel some of the thinking is fundamentally wrong.

Yes, technology and the so-called digital revolution will change the way we all work in future. But I don’t think the number of new roles will be created as suggested. I suspect that new digital skills will be incorporated into existing roles rather than new roles being created.  I’m sure there will be some exceptions to this, especially around new industries which are truly breaking into new markets but for most, I expect it will be integration rather than addition.

Take for example, the role of a pilot; the aviation sector has been affected massively by technological development from all sides over the years. From the Wright brothers flying the first powered aircraft back in 1903 to today’s Airbus A380 which is almost unrecognisable from its predecessor. However the role of the pilot hasn’t changed, the job is fundamentally the same even though the environment has changed around it.

More recently we see many firms are looking to build their digital marketing teams to maximise their sales and marketing presences over the social and online media formats.  Whilst the vehicle to market may be different, I see no fundamental change in the role from a more traditional marketing remit. In looking to identify candidates for such a role, I imagine you would look for someone with a marketing background and marketing degree, not someone with computer science experience or degree. Because the technical skills will be incorporated into the marketing training and development.

This is similar to the recent rise of sustainability roles. Whilst I am completely behind the sustainability agenda and everything it sets out to achieve, the fact is that sustainability is only achieved by championing sustainable thinking throughout all aspects of business. These aren’t stand-alone roles but should be entwined across all functions.  In many ways this mirrors technology, to get the most return or reward from it, it should be included it as part of a function rather than as an add-on.

I expect, in future, technology will become less of a separate role and more of a tool. Used to make day to day duties more efficient or safer.  I also feel the best people to enable a technical solution within a specific market are those who work in it day to day. They know the needs and limitations of what is currently available.

There have been huge developments in computer science recently to make users achieve more, enabling them to act as developers without the technical background previously needed to create software solutions.  Whilst there is still a way to go to cover all industries, the precedent has been set.  Today within a few hours, anyone can create an online presence with full e-commerce and user interface from an online, off the shelf design solution. Effectively turning you into a fully functioning web developer within a couple of minutes!

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