Latest developments in the area of Robotics, Machine learning and Natural Language Processing can be considered as “narrow AI” compared to “general AI”. General AI refers to computers/machines which are able to solve many different types of problems like humans can, for example a machine playing Go cannot play chess at all and vice versa. Narrow AI is defined as “a machine-based system designed to address a specific problem (such as playing Go or chess)” (Kiron 2017). General AI applications do currently not yet assist, or are not publicly known. It is expected that general AI will not be realized in the near future.
This distinction is important to describe the impact of the two types of AI on the workforce in the near future. Current AI solutions aim to take over manual repetitive activities, enhance predictive analytics and processing customer service activities. Current workforce skills related to these activities are in the area of basic cognitive and manual skills. Recent studies (McKinsey, May 2018) show that it is expected that work performed by manual skills in 2016 will drop with 14% in 2030. For basic cognitive skills this percentage is estimated at 15%. On the other hand advanced IT and programming skills are expected to increase by more than 50%. Social and emotional skills are expected to increase with 24%.
What is the impact on the Finance function?
When narrow AI solutions take over the described activities from humans there will be an increased need for financials that have the skills to monitor the different AI tooling and get more involved in advanced analytics, taking initiative for improvements and further support of AI and be the linking pin between business and software providers. These professionals need now to be educated by high schools and universities and businesses need to set up their internal training programs. Organizing “Digital Awareness Workshops” is a quick win to take in order to prepare for the future. All employees need to be made aware of the current sense of urgency and take action. Change management is key in this transformation, where organizations need to invest.