Venkatesh Ganesh Mid-level IT employees in the software services sector could be staring at another round of job losses as Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over their roles, especially in the area of project management.
In the $167-billion Indian IT industry, project managers constitute 5-7 per cent of the 3.8-million workforce. Though all of them may not be rendered redundant, a large chunk of them might struggle to retain their jobs because of the increasing role played by AI.
Role of project managers
Project managers play a key role as they are in charge of a specific project or projects within an organisation. Typically, their job entails ensuring that projects are completed on time, carrying out analyses across a range of projects from maintenance to application development, giving updates on the status of projects, and sharing insights on the number of people required for the project and other factors such as kind of expertise needed, explained AV Sridhar, CEO and co-founder of Digité, Inc, an application lifecycle management company.
All that can change quickly. Project management tools, which have been gathering data over decades and now have an AI layer as well, may eventually reduce the dependency on project managers, making many of their roles redundant.
“In effect, what this means is that the machines will do a majority of our tasks,” said Syed M, a project manager with one of the top 10 outsourcing companies in Bengaluru.
Most project management products show a rear-view mirror image of projects. Companies now look for technology to predict and enhance employee productivity, said Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO, Headhunters India.
The top five software majors — TCS, Infosys, HCL Tech, Wipro and Cognizant — work on 9,000–12,000 projects. While companies do not provide granular data on how many project mangers are deployed for each of these projects, industry watchers believe a project typically requires between three and seven such managers depending on the complexity and the value.
AI’s benefits can be gauged from a Deloitte case study, which said that with technology, a bank can expect to save $40 million in three years as the use of automation is directly linked to margin improvements, 70 per cent cost reduction (against employing people), and higher productivity.
According to Vasumathi, President of Forum for IT Employees (FITE), Chennai chapter, the association does back the use of technology as the nature of jobs changes rapidly. “However, we believe that the benefits (which companies accrue from technology) are not shared with employees,” she said.
According to FITE data, around 60,000 employees in the technology sector were forcibly asked to leave in 2017.
But according to industry body Nasscom, around 1.8 lakh jobs were added in 2018, which opens up the debate of whether employees made redundant by technological advancement should be allowed to go or retained because of their age profile.
Source: The Hindu