Think your management job is safe? Beware: the 'iCEO' is coming

Upper-level positions may be much more amenable to automation than you think

The prospect of automation has long sparked fears of jobs lost to robotic replacements, but typically such worries have focused on blue-collar and other low-level positions. Well, the Institute for the Future has a message for all those in the upper echelons feeling complacent about their job security: The iCEO is coming.

In an article published Thursday in the Harvard Business Review, IFTF research director Devin Fidler described the results of an experiment he and his team recently conducted. Specifically, aiming to investigate the possibility of automating upper-level management, they created prototype software dubbed "iCEO."

The software is essentially a virtual management system that automates complex work by dividing it into individual microtasks and then assigning those tasks to workers using tools such as oDesk, Uber and email or text messaging. "Basically, the system allows a user to drag-and-drop 'virtual assembly lines' into place and run them from a dashboard," the article explains.

Fidler's team then put the iCEO through its paces, including a project to oversee the preparation of a large research report on graphene production for a hypothetical prestigious client.

For information on how graphene is produced, iCEO asked workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk to curate a list of articles on the topic. The resulting list of articles was passed on to technical analysts from oDesk; Elance writers then used them to produce a coherent text. That went on to a pool of experts for review, followed by a sequence of oDesk editors, proofreaders and fact checkers for finalization.

iCEO routed tasks across 23 people from around the world; it created, formatted and prepared 60 images and graphs.

"We stood back and watched iCEO execute this project," Fidler wrote. "We rarely needed to intervene. ... We were amazed by the quality of the end result -- and the speed with which it was produced."

As opposed to taking several weeks for the research portion alone of such a report, iCEO did that piece in just three days. Creating the full report took just weeks rather than months.

IFTF also ran pilot tests focusing on sales, quality assurance and hiring, and the results were surprisingly positive.

The bottom line: "It will not be possible to hide in the c-suite for much longer," Fidler wrote. "The same cost/benefit analyses performed by shareholders against line workers and office managers will soon be applied to executives and their generous salaries."

IFTF will need a year or two to make the technology ready for full-fledged enterprise adoption. How to prepare in the meantime? CIOs should begin by thinking more about dynamic resource routing, since that's at the heart of how technology like iCEO gets things done, Fidler said.

On a broader level, organizational management is on the verge of a major disruption, he added. "We'd love to see people beginning to think through the future of work on a deeper level."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governancebusiness managementsoftwareroboticsIFTF

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?