Robots, augmentation to replace BI roles

Read time 2min 30sec
Dr Barry Devlin, founder and principal at 9sight Consulting.
Dr Barry Devlin, founder and principal at 9sight Consulting.

As robots and machine learning replace some elements of business intelligence (BI) functions, we need to ask tough questions about how these technologies will impact the jobs of BI teams.

This is according to Dr Barry Devlin, founder and principal at business intelligence firm 9sight Consulting, speaking at ITWeb Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit 2019, in Johannesburg yesterday.

Discussing how artificial intelligence (AI) and augmentation will redesign and re-engineer certain aspects of BI processes, Devlin warned this transition may result in a human cost.

"AI can play a crucial role in decision-making support through automation of human cognition, helping organisations to deliver valuable insights. But we need to ask what will happen to the role of BI teams?

"We know they will stop doing their daily duties - the grunt work, the preparation work and lower level work - to focus on more important things, but how many more important duties will there be to do, that will allow the same number of people in BI to still have jobs to perform?"

Augmentation in BI, he continued, is about eliminating human intervention where possible and is often useful in making sense of highly complex data, exposing insights and proposing alternative solutions. Automation, on the other hand, is helpful, with data preparation and context discovery helping to speed up business processes.

"Yes, it is wonderful to reduce the grunt work and take people away from doing mundane tasks, but what will they do as more businesses augment and automate the more menial pieces of BI and analytics?" he asked.

He referenced the mining industry, where robotics, automated equipment and driverless vehicles are taking over the jobs of workers at mines.

"Automation is a viable way for companies to increase their likelihood of success, but as more mining jobs get replaced, in future we may see fully automated mines."

In terms of its impact on BI teams, Devlin noted automation is taking over the three major types of BI: operational, strategic and tactical intelligence.

Operational BI is a process of reviewing and evaluating operational business processes, while tactical intelligence deals with how the strategies will be implemented.

"A certain part of operational BI is going to be automated. Tactical BI is beginning to implement pieces of AI to provide insights and guidance into the outputs of analytic tools. So, in the next few years, we will see a large part of tactical BI being automated and a smaller part being automated at strategic level, which involves data information, identification, collection and organisation," he concluded.

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