Get ready, the robots are coming

Half of today's work activities could be automated over the coming decades, and it is a change that will impact nearly all of our jobs.

Automation and robotics have been big buzz words in recent years as technological advances are allowing robots to become more sophisticated and powerful.

A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055.

But it could happen 20 years earlier or 20 years later, depending on other factors such costs, labor rates, and general economic conditions.

The report is a dense but interesting read. Obviously, some of the jobs most at risk are not in IT services, but nearly all jobs have functions that can be automated.

The report also predicts that many of us will be working alongside robots or automated systems, so understanding and exploiting the technology will be critical.

There is great promise from automation. The report predicts that its impact on productivity will higher than other disruptive technological waves such as the rise of IT.

But there are risks of displaced labor and how to deploy that labor.

Another area of possible disruption is that smaller firms might be able to compete more effectively with large firms. Companies that master technology early will likely hold an advantage, no matter their size.

And of course, there will be policy implications, particularly around training and education.

Human skills that will remain at a premium: logical thinking and problem solving, social and emotional capabilities, subject matter expertise, coaching and developing others, and creativity.

I was drawn to this report because I can’t help but think of the aging workforce we face in the government market – 45 percent of the federal workforce is over 55. The contractor workforce isn't any younger.

Automation and robotics could be the answer for a more efficient and effective government over the coming decades. Understanding the technology and understanding how to manage it will likely be critical skills for contractor success in the marketplace going forward.

Another reason I was drawn to the report is that it seems to me that it goes hand-in-hand with cognitive computing, which is getting a lot of attention from IBM Corp., Microsoft and Google. 

The Internet of Things also plays a role here as well. More and more data and smarter and smarter machines.

The changes, of course, will play out over decades, but your future success might hinge on understanding the broader implications and applications of these emerging technologies.