Main image of article Managers Should Learn A.I. and Machine Learning Skills, Too

Given all the focus on building A.I. and machine-learning applications, you might be forgiven for thinking that these technologies are largely the providence of software developers and engineers. But while those technologists are certainly building the next generation of “smart” apps and services, it’s important to note that A.I. and machine learning skills are going to become increasingly important to everyone—including managers.

“A.I. is not going to replace managers but managers that use A.I. will replace those that do not,” Rob Thomas, senior vice president of IBM’s cloud and data platform, recently told CNBC.

While Thomas and IBM certainly have a vested interest in having managers adopt A.I. tools—after all, Big Blue’s business model is increasingly centered on A.I. and machine-learning services—it’s increasingly recognized that everyone within a company will need at least some familiarity with how these technologies work. For managers, the possibilities of A.I. are enormous, from automating administrative work to offering insights from complex and messy datasets. 

In theory, chatbots and other A.I. tools could help with internal-facing management tasks, such as dealing with employee questions or evaluations. That could free up managers to actually spend their time on high-level tasks, such as strategizing.

However, managers see some obstacles in the way of A.I. and machine learning adoption. According to a 2017 survey by Deloitte, some 47 percent worried about how to integrate such projects into existing processes and systems; another 40 percent worried that the technology and expertise would prove too expensive; and 37 percent didn’t understand how the technology worked. 

Those challenges can be largely overcome by planning and education, however. If you’re a manager or team leader, it’s worth keeping up-to-date on the latest in A.I. and machine learning, even if you’re not involved in building products. If the time and resources are available, you may even think of having your company pay for some classes in A.I. and machine learning—because chances are good that your company will use these technologies sooner rather than later.