Recently, there’s been quite a buzz around intelligent automation somehow leading to the image of some dystopian world in which humans are slowly being forced out and replaced by technology. With the increasingly widespread adoption of everything from smart devices and drones to self-service kiosks and even cars that can drive themselves, many people are becoming equally uncomfortable with the idea of artificial intelligence – particularly as it relates to the workplace.
The fact is, automation isn’t going away. In fact, we’re seeing this technology that in its infancy was only capable of handling simple, repetitive tasks now infiltrating even high-level jobs that would once have been considered off-limits. For instance, rather than making an appointment with your financial advisor, you can now rely instead on software algorithms for investment guidance at a fraction of the cost. And with Gartner predicting that 1/3 of all jobs will be replaced by automation and smart machines by the year 2025, it’s only going to get more complicated.
So, then, it only stands to reason that people in every industry and at every level should not only be aware of what intelligent automation is, but how and when it will ultimately affect them in the end. In simplest of terms, this technology involves the automation of business processes that were once performed by humans. It can be applied to basic, rules-based activities, such as data entry or assembly work. Or, as mentioned in the above example, it can also be used to automate and streamline even high-level, complex tasks and workflows.
What does this mean to the human workforce? Will people have no choice but to sit back, wait and watch as robots take over their jobs and render them obsolete? Considering Gartner’s prediction, it’s obvious that some jobs will, indeed, be eliminated. How many? Well, there are plenty of estimations, but according to a recent Forrester report, we may be looking at the elimination of 9% of jobs in the US alone.
But that doesn’t mean that humans will cease to exist in the future workplace. To the contrary, many experts predict that the workplace of tomorrow will involve the peaceful coexistence of machine and personnel. In fact, Deloitte predicts that the adoption of intelligent automation will actually create some 3.5 million new jobs.
Finally, it’s important to remember that while most of us accept and even embrace automated technology in our day to day lives (think ATM machines, IVRs and other self-service options), there will always be a place for the human touch, especially in the area of customer experience. Intelligent automation can eliminate the day-to-day drudgery and free up front-line personnel to become better critical problem solvers and relationship builders. In reality, customer service will likely never be completely outsourced to robots. It can, should and will, however, be influenced, supported and enhanced by automation technology.