The future of work and global business discussed in Brno

The business services sector has grown by 12% in the past year in the Czech Republic and is now represented by 112,00 employees. Another 5,000 jobs are being carried out by intelligent software robots. And it is robotic automation and artificial intelligence technologies, which are generally viewed as a threat to human work, that provide opportunities at Czech service centres, because growth of this sector has been confronted with a shortage of talents. Further development and maintenance of attractiveness for parent companies and new investors from abroad depends on the speed with which local centres manage to implement these technologies. This is what is indicated by a survey by the ABSL Association presented at the Future in 4D conference, which welcomed over 500 attendees from among investors and leaders in this sector to Brno.

“This year’s survey showed the fundamental change that has taken place in the role of local business services centres. Multinational companies originally established these centres in our country for a slightly different purpose than the one they have now. They wanted to establish a base where they would process the accounts and provide IT support and other activities that are not visible at first glance, but which no company can be without. Like a house without a foundation,”

Jonathon Appleton, Director of the ABSL Association, which associates business services providers in the Czech Republic, explains. “However, it is now apparent that business service centre employees become perfectly familiar with the way their parent companies function thanks to such supporting activities and best understand what should be changed and how in order to improve function and increase effectiveness. And so the foundation has gradually become the brain and centre of innovation, linked to adoption of new technologies, such as digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence.

Robots now perform 5,000 jobs

The technologies of robotic automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence are used at least partially by 82% of Czech business services centres. These technologies currently replace 5,000 people in work processes. “This is still not enough to meet the needs of our sector. Over 10,000 new jobs will be created in existing centres next year and we already know that it will be difficult to find candidates for these on the exhausted Czech labour market. Recruitment of experts from abroad helps us to some degree, but this is complicated by the prolonged administration process related to arranging visas and work permits in most cases. This is why technologies are absolutely crucial for our sector and for maintaining the competitiveness of the Czech Republic,“ says Jonathan Appleton. According to the most recent ABSL survey, 43% of the people employed in this sector are now foreigners, which is eight per cent more than last year.

Education is essential

“In order for centres to be capable of supporting development of their parent companies and also their own growth they need to focus on education, without which they will not have enough qualified experts who understand the most modern technologies, realise innovation projects or automate routine processes,“ Jonathan Appleton warns. The ABSL supports its members from this aspect by operating its own ABSL Academy and ABSL Fusion education programme for the top management of centres. It will be necessary to prepare not only ordinary employees for the era of automation and artificial intelligence, but also the managing employees. A survey by the Future of Jobs World Economic Forum states that it will be necessary to provide additional training or requalification training to more than half of all the current employees within two years.

The growing ABSL supports development of the sector

The ABSL Association is growing along with the business services sector and now has over 100 members, the newest of which include the IBM Company or Oracle for instance. The ABSL’s chief task is to create a platform for better cooperation and for sharing experience between members, defending their interests and creating a better business environment. The association also has the goal of promoting the Czech Republic as a suitable destination for operation of the service and innovation centres of global companies and supporting newly arrived investors.

Experts from this sector meet every year at the annual ABSL conference, which is called Future in 4D this year and is being held in Brno.

“In this case 4D not only means a multidimensional view of the entire sector but also the 4 spheres that currently form it and influence it: disruptive strategies, digital technologies, diversity and development, or education. And this is what the main part of the programme at this year’s conference is about,” says Jonathan Appleton.

The Mayor of the city of Brno, Markéta Vaňková, has assumed patronage over the conference. The conference, at which over 80 experts will appear, attracted over 500 attendees from among foreign investors and the managements of local business services centres this year. The ABSL Academy, which is intended for employees and students who want to develop their career in this sector and prepare for work in an era of robots and artificial intelligence, will take place in parallel with the conference.

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