Disruption spurs opportunity, and the workforce solutions ecosystem is inundated with an abundance of new possibilities. That note of optimism was one of the major takeaways from the keynote address at SIA’s annual CWS Summit. More than 670 enterprise buyers and 393 companies attended the event this week in Dallas.

“Uncertainty is nothing new, but what is new is what’s driving this uncertainty,” said Peter Reagan, SIA’s senior director, CWS Council. Geopolitics, economic unpredictability and technology — including AI — are just some of the changes that have recently upended the contingent workforce industry, according to Reagan.

While uncertainty has a negative connotation, Reagan lauded the opportunities it can bring. For one: Consider how the pandemic brought about the increased acceptance of flexible, remote and contingent work.

Among the many topics highlighted as we head into the future:

New frontiers in job automation. Artificial intelligence is not only accelerating automation, it’s also creating a host of new job roles. Automation and AI may generate up to 97 million new jobs by 2025, according to a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum.

“Automation is nothing to be feared,” Reagan said. “Throughout history, automation has always disrupted. It causes challenges, but it’s always resulted in more jobs, a larger economy, a bigger pie. It’s always resulted in something good. So, the future ultimately is very, very positive looking forward.”

Economic trends favor contingent work. Gross domestic product in major world economies — an indicator of the staffing industry’s outlook — is positive. Unemployment is also relatively low, marking another positive for contingent workforce programs as organizations struggle to fill full-time roles. And SIA’s own research projects global staffing market growth for 2024.

“Everything looks pretty positive,” Reagan said. “You can make your own decision as to whether you think that this bubble is going to burst on the back of what we’ve gone through over the last few years and what’s going on in the world today from a geopolitical point of view, but it’s all looking pretty good in our eyes.”

What’s next? Prepare for an automation boom and a paradigm shift in the way work gets done in the next five to 10 years, Reagan advised.

A sneak peek at soon-to-be-released SIA research finds cloud computing will lead to more remote working, lower costs and improved efficiency. Artificial intelligence will bring more automation, better matching and more personalized services, while big data will provide real-time data analysis with improved insights. And these are just a sampling of the changes technology will bring to the industry.

Technology will bring “exponential growth,” Reagan said. “The tsunami’s coming, the disruption’s coming. Ride the wave or get crushed by it.”