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  • Writer's picturePhilip Ammerman


I'm going to go out on a limb and share something I've just discovered. I'd love to compare notes with anyone in the same situation.

About five years ago I started taking a series of online learning programmes / certificates, in fields such as fintech, start-ups, startup finance, etc. I'm now enrolled in a digital business master's programme. I also started a series of more technical training courses in areas such as analytics, digital advertising campaigns, etc. (The latter has been going on for well over a decade now).

I just completed the hardest component of my master's so far: procurement and intelligent procurement. It's not hard in terms of level. It's hard in terms of visioning just how fast things are changing and what the future holds for us.

The standard logistics / procurement / supply chain management function is still heavily driven by lean management philosophy and ERP platforms. But when you apply machine learning and AI, robotics process animation, SDA and equivalent functionality, you realise that baby, we aren't in Kansas anymore.

Completing the latest half-module has me thinking of the following:

1. I live and work in a region (Greece / Cyprus / SE Europe / CIS) where most enterprises are already 10-15 years behind current state-of-the-art in "standard" ERP / lean thinking. They use error-ridden and waste-ridden processes, have very little transparency on stock control or logistics functions or values, and look at the entire process as a cost centre that is alleviated by cheap labour. What happens when the process is digitally transformed and we add intelligence to it?

2. I realised that as a consultant, I need to be doing the equivalent of a masters' every 3-4 years, and certificate-level programmes every year (if not twice per year) to keep up. And even that is in addition to scanning news and keeping up with technical publications and incremental adjustments to tech, platforms, and standards.

So, my thoughts right now are pretty much ... devastated, in a way. I love learning. And I love challenges. But I never could have imagined we would be entering into an environment where so much knowledge, acquired at such a high price, would become obsolete so fast.

I'm exaggerating, of course. We learn to learn. Knowledge is accretive.

But I've never been more aware that the responsibility I have, as a knowledge worker, is immense. In the old system (and I'm simplifying it), we could do a Bachelor's, do a Master's, and that was about it, apart from some supplemental learning, trade fairs, etc.

In the new system, technology is evolving so fast that unless we specialise in a niche, we need to invest really significant amounts to keep up. Like I said, the equivalent of a Master's every 3-4 years. I don't think I'm exaggerating.

Does anyone else from my part of the world face the same challenges?

Am I overthinking the process?

How fast is your knowledge becoming outdated, if you were to express it as a percentage? Or, to reverse the question, how fast is the demand for new knowledge taking place?

How sure are you that you are really keeping up with real knowledge advances?

We also keep seeing these reports that come out every so often about how robots will replace humans. I used to have a more sunny disposition about that. Now, it's one of a large number of items added to my worry list. They really will replace humans. Today, we have literally no need for about 90% of effort done by accountants, lawyers, and so many other desk-based jobs. I would say that probably 50% of public service jobs could be automated overnight.

My own profession as a consultant will no longer require huge volumes of number-crunching and analysis: eventually all that will be automated. Consultants will either be taking commercial risk alongside their clients (working in an ecosystem of value drivers) or will be supporting decision-making and situations where human emotional intelligence, empathy and human-sized experience is needed.

We will also be leading tech initiatives in companies or other clients, as we are today.

It's hard to emphasise how much and how fast things are changing.

Does anyone else feel the same mix of awe, fascination and unease as I do?

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