HfS: Welcome to the age of Digital cruelty, where two-thirds of operational jobs are under threat

InsightaaS: In just six years, Phil Fersht’s Horses for Sources has become the standard for outsourcing research — and one of the world’s most influential analyst firms. Serving a community of 140,000 subscribers, HfS provides deep, original research used by providers and consumers of sourcing services.

One of the key trends in outsourcing (and consequently, in HfS research) is automation, which has both positive and negative effects. In February, Across the Net highlighted a post by HfS’s Charles Sutherland extolling the upside of automation. Today, we’re featuring a post by Fersht that looks at the downside. He begins by recalling when “‘outsourcing’ was a truly dirty word” that spurred street protests against the global distribution of jobs, and then fast-forwards to the current day, when SaaS-based automation is actually eliminating jobs. “Cloud-based platforms,” Fersht observes, “are being developed with allow us to share these capabilities, re-invent the way we run services and process transactions that require such a lesser amount of human intervention and oversight…people need to do a lot more thinking, and less executing.” The bottom line, he says, is “the business world is becoming a harsher place to be? – a fact that is already apparent to many of those who have been displaced by automation, or whose skills are poorly-aligned with the evolving needs of the digital economy.

Has anyone noticed a much harsher mentality towards “labor” these days?  I can recall presenting at an HR Outsourcing conference in 2004 where there was a large gathering of anti-globalization protestors outside the hotel bearing placards and shouting obscenities are us through the window.

“Outsourcing” was a truly dirty word, and shame on any callous corporate executives for instigating the use of low cost foreign labor to substitute their own. Even poor old Mitt Romney was associated with evil “outsourcing” practices during his corporate days at Bain Capital, which hurt his (unsuccessful) attempt to become elected US president.

But all of a sudden, noone really seems to care about protecting jobs anymore — if people are just performing “transactional” tasks, for chrissakes automate them quickly, or buy a SaaS platform to get rid of the unnecessary waste. Where are the demonstrators outside of SAP headquarters in Waldorf, or Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores as these firms desperately try to convince the world they are cloudifying their products so their clients can start to do away with some of those unnecessary jobs on-premise software provides.

And what about that evil Workday, which only provides cloud-based software and enables its clients to do away with HR admin people making a living cobbling together archaic hire-to-retire processes? And where are the tears shed for all those lovely marketing admins who used to earn a crust managing customer databases…

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