Making history with autonomous operations

The internal combustion engine revolutionized the way people experienced the world. We face another monumental technology-driven paradigm shift today.

By Jon Siegal, senior vice president, product marketing, Dell Technologies

The creation of the internal combustion (IC) engine changed society forevermore. At the time of its inception, most people would have been unaware that history was in the making. That it would birth a hypermobile society, opening the floodgates to all manner of cars, trains, airplanes. That it would pave the way for rapid trade and consequently greater prosperity. That it would revolutionize agriculture and transform farming, resulting in more food at lower prices. And that it would remove limits to how far we could travel through physical effort.

Similarly, business leaders today may not realize that they’re presiding over such a key moment in time. We are on the brink of a radical new approach to technology, driven by autonomous operations (AO), that will enable businesses to finally “take control by inversely, letting go”. With AO, businesses can radically delegate all manner of low-level, repetitive, and non-strategic IT tasks to intelligent technology and in the process, experience the thrill of reaching new heights, by exceeding limitations that were once out of reach. By partnering more extensively with machines, businesses can also improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and ultimately the customer experience.

“We are on the brink of a radical new approach to technology, driven by autonomous operations (AO), that will enable businesses to finally ‘take control by inversely, letting go’.”

You may ask: “Why now”? After all, IT automation isn’t new, so why we are claiming autonomous operations is poised to rewrite society, as the IC engine did all those years ago? Because of the convergence and maturity of the right technologies (including artificial intelligence and machine learning) at the right time.

Automation for all

It’s now accepted that companies’ IT strategy and business successes are closely bound. IT was once regarded as a back-office function. It’s been creeping to the forefront over recent years. The pandemic accelerated that creep to a jolt. IT finally commands the attention of the full Board.

Moreover, most companies’ IT infrastructures are now primed for full, intelligent automation. I’m not just talking about a few choice infrastructures for specific operations in highly industrialized businesses, where systems are ready for automation. This is bigger and broader than that. Today, all organizations across all industries will benefit from some form of AO.

Particularly as so many businesses are already burned out by the explosion in data and the expectation to wring more value out of that data. According to a Dell Technologies commissioned study with Forrester Consulting, 70% of businesses are gathering data faster than they can analyze and use it. Meanwhile, 61% say their teams are already overwhelmed. Autonomous operations are at the center of these rescue plans. For instance, in one to three years, 66% plan to deploy machine learning to automate how they find deviations in data to reveal surprising, often business-critical insights. The findings lead us to believe that now is the time for autonomous operations to propel companies’ digital transformations over the finishing line.

Automation + people = data breakthroughs

Of course, we haven’t cleared all the hurdles. Data creation and management continues to grow at a compounding rate, and so we need more data administrators, scientists, and all manner of developers to enable more innovation as a result of more data. There’s far more work to be done to close the skills gap and create more roles globally in STEM and software development. It’s a vitally important effort when you consider the part data plays in unlocking business efficiencies, ingenuity, and growth.

This is where people and technology can partner–with AI taking on more of a role within organizations to quickly analyze volumes of customer and operational data in real-time that people can strategically act on. This human-machine partnership provides incredible scale in a world where data only keeps growing and outstripping what people can manage alone. Rather than overloading an already stretched workforce, businesses can ease their burden by bridging the gap with automation and putting necessary fail-safes in place.

The growing digital economy has also paved the way for autonomous operations. According to IDC, 65% of global GDP will be digitized by 2022. Most businesses are on a digital transformation journey. The results of which are reflected in the latest Digital Transformation Index, with the proportion of Digital Leaders and Digital Adopters rising. Collectively, these businesses can take AO to the next level.

Building a new construct

Like the internal combustion engine, autonomous operations’ promise isn’t confined to delivering faster, better outcomes (although that’s a major win in itself). It will also reveal new, unchartered avenues for progress.

Henry Ford supposedly said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” As humans, we are conditioned to evaluate most possibilities within a known landscape, a familiar set of constructs. Nobody knew about cars then, so they didn’t have the vocabulary to define one. But in its wake, the IC engine reimagined whole new industries and lifestyles, ones which left horses quite literally behind.

We are at a similar tipping point in history. We know a paradigm shift is in order. We’re approaching the upper limits of what we can achieve without more automation. We also know that autonomous operations have the power to reboot the construct, to deliver a reimagined vehicle, instead of a faster car, horse-drawn carriage and any other antecedent. And we know AO will transform society, but we can only speculate as to what the ripple effects will be. Undoubtedly, some outcomes will exceed our expectations. Regardless, we can be certain that history is in the making.

Want to learn more? Watch event replay from September 22nd, 2021 dedicated to exploring how autonomous operations will pave the way to businesses’ digital future.