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© Zizhe Wang

In a previous blog, I discussed the report by Oxford University on how our jobs might be computerised in the next two decades. A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey touches upon the topic, but from a slightly different angle.

It does not focus on jobs per se, but on job-related activities that could be digitised.

According to the Oxford report, 47% of US jobs are at risk of being computerised; while the McKinsey study concludes that 45% of the activities we are paid to perform could be digitised.

Despite different approaches, both studies confirm the scale of the impact digitisation would have on our daily jobs, and both conclude that digitisation will not only affect low-skilled, routine jobs.

For example, the McKinsey study estimates that up to 20% of a chief executive’s working time could be digitised. This provides great opportunities. When systems take over part of daily activities, we will get more access to a resource which is becoming increasingly scarce: time.

Here’s just one example: each day, countless air cargo professionals are supposed to make commercial decisions based upon limited, unpolished and fragmented data. It should not be a surprise that, because of the time pressure they work under, these professionals seldom get the chance to make use of this data.

There are short-term solutions to address this – there are systems, algorithms and apps they could employ to provide quick analysis. But by not digitising their working processes the gathering, cleaning and interpreting the data would still take too long, relative to the workload they have. Digitising these activities ought to result in these professionals having the data and insight they need within 10 seconds rather than 10 minutes.

This improvement is not just a time-saver – in today’s hyper-paced world it makes the difference between data being either used, or not. Setting a benchmark that data must be available in seconds rather than minutes means that it should be interwoven with, or closely connected to, the cargo company’s operational system. Building large data warehouses is therefore not an objective in itself – it is merely a first little step in the process of digitisation.

Digital processes bring multiple benefits. They provide air cargo professionals a much-needed bit of space to reflect about the challenges they face. And they provide a new source of data that will help these professionals to make better decisions with less effort.

During my days as a consultant, we often described our job as 90% Excel, 9% PowerPoint, and 1% discussing the options. Would it not be great if the digitisation of the many humdrum activities in our jobs could flip this balance and we could instead spend 90% of our available time on thinking through and analysing the options before us?

I am sure our jobs would be more fun.

Niall van de Wouw is managing director of CLIVE, he can be reached on nvdwouw@useclive.com

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