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As automation advances and outsourcing increases, businesses will cement their reliance on contractors rather than salaried employees.

Science fiction has long imagined a future where robots will take over the work humans do. As science advances, its feeling a lot less like fiction.

While we may not see sci-fi-style robots sitting at desks anytime soon, artificial intelligence is already here. Voice-activated assistants remind you about your 9 a.m. meeting and answer your research questions. Automated tools process payroll and track your accounts payable activities. That’s just the beginning.

Even as technology has displaced workers in some areas, it has created a demand for top-quality professionals to develop apps, support end users and drive the general direction of business operations.

For startups, reliance on tech can be a double-edged sword. Automation lets you accomplish what once might have required a full-salaried team, but if you need specialized work, it will cost you. Since highly-skilled employees often command six-figure salaries, this means those skills may be out of your reach, especially in the early days when you need them most.
Through outsourcing, startups can often access top skills for a minimal fee. Here are a few of the areas where startups will be going outside the office to find the tech skills to help them thrive in the coming decade.

Website updates and content: Yes, businesses have plenty of DIY tools at their disposal today. However, many of the interfaces available still take up too much of an entrepreneur’s time. The best tools let professionals push updates to website sections, social media pages and email subscribers all at the same time. But, these can be limited in terms whether or not they reach the right audience at the right moment.

In the coming years, startups will be outsourcing to skilled individuals who can get the mix right, delivering updates to the most appropriate audiences that get the most mileage for your company in terms of signups or conversions.

As for content creation, there’s been a lot of talk about the role artificial intelligence (AI) will play in years to come. Founders who don’t have marketing expertise may appreciate the higher-level vision that such tools will offer for overall strategy. However, when it comes to scaling up inspiring, quality content that people won’t pass up, you’ll still need to hire writers (and people to manage them) for years to come.

Applications testing: Usability is a top priority for startups, but testing can often be rushed to get an application out. As with website updating and content, automation will continue to help in this area, with applications that can detect general issues with software.

However, there will be heavy demand for usability experts who can apply human logic to the user experience and provide the customer perspective. Startups will also be hiring people who can manage such testing operations and extract the right information from them.

In the years to come, teams will use a combination of automation and outsourcing to test their applications before making change recommendations.

Tech support: This has come a long way in recent years. In most cases we’re long past the days when someone would move from computer to computer, updating antivirus definitions or installing software. AI will make it easier to automate tech support, but startups will still need the periodic help of tech support experts. Even outsource service providers will use a combination of AI and human representatives to troubleshoot software and hardware issues.

For the foreseeable future, startups must outsource or hire smart people who can run the right mix of automation, some of which is now letting devices diagnose their own issues or even walk end users through fixing things. Outsourced experts will also pick and execute the right chatbots, many of which will become more reliable in providing information on technical issues as well as resolutions.

Development: Software development has always been a popular area for outsourcing and this trend will spike well into the future. Millennials have already expressed a preference for the flexibility that the freelance lifestyle provides, and startups will capitalize on that more by partnering with young developers to work on their projects.

In the future, entrepreneurs won’t need to hire developers full time, but rather use services or organizations that give them access to professionals. Right now, if a startup founder wants to modify their existing app, they often still go through the process of hiring the right coders themselves or requesting, overseeing and paying for the piece of software to be customized.

This will become less common, with tech firms outsourcing the work to experienced programmers who in many cases they won’t even know. For example, a nameless contractor (or team of them) working for a third-party company will modify an out-of-the-box solution for an existing app, which will be a more affordable option to the business owner.

Network administration: While businesses hesitate to outsource network security administration now, there are daily administrative duties that can be handled by lower-tier employees. Automation will help with some of those tasks, including future tools that will be able to reset passwords and report incidents. However, experts predict a “great cloud migration,” which means that businesses of all sizes will eventually see all of their files and applications hosted by a third-party provider, with all security and support handled by experts at the cloud hosts they pay each month.

Automation will continue to become more common, but there will still be tasks for humans to do. This is because startup founders will see the need to hire people who can oversee or execute complicated technical operations, whether it be coding or content creation. But, they’ll want to do it without breaking the bank. This means outsourcing is probably the entrepreneur’s best bet and will grow in popularity as the Internet makes it easier for startups to connect with top talent.

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