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Three Steps To Prepare The Enterprise For The Digital Workforce In 2020

Article originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

There’s no longer any uncertainty or ambiguity. Automation absolutely, positively will impact the way every one of us works. The degree to which that impact occurs will vary, but make no mistake: Humans in every industry and position, from warehouse workers to C-suite executives, will someday soon be working alongside digital workers (a.k.a. virtual agents).

Just what will this future digital enterprise look like? The answer to that lies in how organizations implement artificial intelligence.

The ‘How’ Vs. The ‘What’

For many workers, the way that automation and artificial intelligence technologies are adopted will be more effective than the technology itself. The same goes for organizations as a whole. To succeed in the digital age, business leaders must begin to shift their viewpoint from opportunistic to a more systematic approach. In years past, automating on an ad hoc basis was sufficient. Over time, however, that strategy led to silos that were not adequately governed, nor were they scalable.

The future of automation in tomorrow’s workplace must be rigorous and robust, policy- and data-driven, and, above all, enterprise-centric. In other words, it’s not so much about the “what” as it is about the “how.” This will be the main differentiator between organizations that succeed in achieving digital transformation and those that fall irreparably behind.

Three Steps To Success With Intelligent Automation

1. Build. New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will inevitably affect some workers in adverse ways. This has always been the case, as people continue to be displaced from one economic sector to another. In fact, according to one estimation by McKinsey, up to 30% of the global workforce (and between 400 million and 800 million workers) could be displaced by automation by the year 2030.

But while some jobs will ultimately be eliminated, the current and ongoing technological innovation we are experiencing will simultaneously create new opportunities.

Perhaps it is more than fitting that a fictional Borg from the futuristic Star Trek series uttered the infamous words, “Resistance is futile.” Like it or not, AI and automation technologies are already having an impact on the workplace, and they’re not going away any time soon.

The future of work will ultimately belong to those individuals who are willing to embrace and leverage artificial intelligence to their advantage. This may come in the form of self-automation — that is, the foresight and desire to automate portions of one’s own job in the interest of productivity and efficiency. Organizational leaders can and should meet them in the middle by seeking out key employees who show promise, optimism and a willingness to adapt and reskill, if necessary.

Investing in human capital with the ultimate goal of developing an automation center of excellence will create a compromise between top-down mandated automation and bottom-up, enthusiastic support and participation. This is the ideal scenario and one that will drive ongoing innovation and success. Some key roles to focus on for the future include:

  • Automation architects.
  • Automation engineers.
  • Site reliability and DevOps engineers (SRE).
  • API product managers.
  • Data scientists.

2. Standardize. With the right people and teams in place, the next step toward leveraging intelligent automation for digital transformation should involve the standardization of processes and the creation of best practices.

To start, the focus should be on delivering continuous value rather than aiming for one major change. This is achieved via strategic increments.

Centralized governance will then help to ensure ongoing compliance and support future growth and expansion.

3. Invest. Many will find it surprising that technology is actually the final piece in the automation puzzle. This is due in large part to the old-school, opportunistic way of thinking. The new recommended approach is one that involves a strategic cultural change and focuses on people and processes first, and then tools and technology.

Once these first two factors have been determined, the search for the right automation platform can begin. Ideally, the criteria should include no-code or low-code solutions that are both robust and agile. This will enable the eventual proliferation of automation across the entire enterprise while also supporting the future growth and changing needs of the business and/or industry.

Closing Thoughts

What will the workplace of tomorrow look like? For human workers, it will be markedly different and require new skills and greater adaptability. For the enterprise, it will be a composite of real and artificial intelligence — humans and machines — working together toward a common goal of innovation and success.

Dare to take risks despite your fear. Organizations and their employees who approach these challenges with eagerness and optimism, a willingness to adapt and evolve, and the ability to strike the ideal balance between humans and machines will ultimately be the ones who rise to the top.

Is AI Killing Jobs….or Creating Them?

Ask a roomful of people how they feel about artificial intelligence in the context of jobs and you’ll undoubtedly received a mixed bag of responses. Some will undoubtedly express their concerns that AI is poised to destroy employment as we know it today. Others will take a more optimistic approach, viewing AI as a tool to help us work more efficiency and accomplish things we couldn’t do with human workers alone. Even the various analysts and economists range widely in their predictions of what role AI will ultimately have in the future of work.

The truth, as is quite often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. There’s no question that intelligent automation will eliminate some jobs, impacting just about every industry and sector across the board. At the same time, however, AI will create new jobs, both in categories we’re familiar with as well as many more that have yet to be developed.

AI = Job Killer?

Automation is nothing new. It’s a technology that’s been embraced and lauded by organizations for decades upon decades. The key differentiator here is the introduction of the word “intelligent.” It’s the cognitive abilities afforded by AI and machine learning that will ultimately enable businesses to optimize their use of human labor. And that’s where the shakeup will inevitably occur.

In fact, a shift has already begun – particularly in areas where the work is highly repetitive, regulatory intensive and prone to error. Why pay humans to perform work that could easily be carried out by an intelligent bot – especially when that bot is capable of understanding the meaning and context of the information at hand?

So, does this mean people are being eliminated from the workplace entirely? Not so fast. In fact, there are plenty of categories of employment that will remain relatively untouched by AI. For instance, many professional services categories will remain intact as they still require a level of responsiveness that cannot yet be replicated by artificial intelligence.

AI = Job Creator.

Studies indicate a surprisingly positive view of AI’s role and ultimate impact on tomorrow’s workplace. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 75% of U.S. workers do not view their jobs as being at risk of elimination – at least not within the next decade.

Additionally, the vast majority (87%) of workers say they wish their employers would automate more tasks and processes. Why? Because they recognize the promise that AI brings in terms of improved efficiency and increased productivity. In other words, most people understand that AI will make their work lives better, not worse.

But, what about those repetitive, error-prone tasks that are already being shifted from human to machine? Won’t those workers end up in the unemployment line? Not if they are willing to change gears. In fact, the rapid adoption of AI and intelligent automation is already creating exciting new roles and opportunities.

Part of the challenge here is that it’s difficult to fathom jobs and employment categories that may not yet exist. Thinking back 20 years, the concept of a role such as social media manager was completely foreign, yet today it’s something most organizations have. Likewise, looking forward 20 years into the future, there will undoubtedly be whole new sectors of the economy that do not exist today. And along with those emerging opportunities, human workers will also need to adapt and evolve.

Without question, the world is experiencing a revolutionary shift, thanks in large part to artificial intelligence technology. Thankfully, the magnitude of the impact that shift will have on the future of work is still largely within our control. Those who are at the greatest risk of redundancy can provide themselves with a safety net by proactively reskilling and reinventing themselves.

Not sure where to begin? Our Automation Academy is a great place to start. Enroll today!

5 Ways Intelligent Automation is Shaping the Future of Work

5 Ways Intelligent Automation is Shaping the Future of Work

In terms of disruptive technology, intelligent automation has gained tremendous ground. In fact, according to Statista, more than half of today’s business leaders say they expect to implement automation in the coming years. And for good reason. While technologies like traditional workload automation, cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) reduce costs and provide the flexibility to perform routine tasks and workflows, artificial intelligence (AI) brings these benefits to a whole new level with the capability of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence.

Intelligent automation software enables businesses to perform much more diverse and complex activities without the need for human intervention. Furthermore, thanks to machine learning algorithms, this type of platform is capable of learning and improving entirely on its own based on data from past experience. Artificial intelligence can also provide valuable insight and decision support for management. But how does all of this translate into actual, tangible return on investment? Let’s take a look.

Drastically Saving Time and Money

When a good portion of business processes are shifted from human to machine, the operation runs far more efficiently. Work is performed faster and more accurately, which equates to greater productivity and higher service levels. Fewer man hours results in tremendous savings for the organization. (In one recent case study, one global enterprise slashed man hours by 1,500 in less than a year simply by adopting intelligent automation. That reduction resulted in an overall savings of nearly $500k.)

Distinct Edge Over the Competition

Staying a step ahead of the competition is the key to success – especially in today’s global marketplace. Every company is chasing digital transformation and hoping to claim their spot at the head of the pack in their respective industry. The use of intelligent automation can facilitate this transformation, not only be streamlining processes, but by empowering human workers.

When the mundane tasks and workflows no longer require human input, employees are able to apply their skills, time and effort toward more important business initiatives. The freedom to be creative breeds innovation which can provide the competitive advantage companies are striving for.

Agility and Scalability

The ebb and flow of business has long been a challenge for organizational leaders. Scaling up as needed based on sudden changes in market demand is not only difficult, but it’s also quite costly. Conversely, in situations when finances are lean, such as during economic recessions, the ability to maintain an expected level of production on a limited budget is incredibly problematic.

The deployment of intelligent automation resolves both of these issues by enabling businesses to scale up or down at a moment’s notice. Seasonal or other business influxes can be met seamlessly thanks to the ability of software robots to take on some of the workload. And when it comes time to tighten the belt, automation can help skeleton crews operate as if they were fully staffed. Every business leader understands the importance of agility like this.

Maximizing Uptime

Another way intelligent process automation can deliver tangible benefits to a company is through improved system operability. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. Due to variations in how businesses operate, experts estimate that on the low end, downtime can cost as much as $140k per hour, while at the high end, can run upwards of $540k per hour.

Regardless of which end of the spectrum a business happens to fall on, system outages can be, without question, downright disastrous. Enter intelligent automation and suddenly there’s an army of robots monitoring the infrastructure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Furthermore, artificial intelligence is capable of identifying threats that could take days, weeks or longer for humans to spot. When incidents can be pinpointed quickly and the platform itself is capable of addressing and remediating those issues, downtime can be dramatically reduced and, in many cases, prevented altogether.

Data-Driven Decision Support

Because intelligent automation is powered by AI and machine learning, it is inherently capable of analyzing massive amounts of data and extracting value. Furthermore, AI-powered automation can then turn that data into actionable insights that can be utilized by business leaders to make better decisions.

Incorporating advanced business automation technology into the mix enables the analysis of overall organizational performance. With these intelligent analytics, business leaders can more effectively identify and implement the right approaches to achieve improved performance over the long-term.

Could your organization benefit from any of the above? If so, adopting intelligent automation should be on your list of priorities for the coming year. Get a jump start by taking Ayehu for a test drive today.

Augmenting Your Human Workforce with Intelligent Automation

Augmenting Your Human Workforce with Intelligent AutomationWith global technology spending at an all-time high, more organizations are looking to technology to augment their human workers. But convincing humans to work alongside robots is still a challenge for many, particularly those who view AI as a threat to their livelihood. According to many experts, including Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder, intelligent automation will create new jobs and also transform existing ones.

The Forrester report predicts that over the course of this year alone, “bots” will impact approximately 311,000 administrative roles and 260,000 sales jobs, either replacing them altogether or augmenting them in some way. Those remaining human workers will find their capabilities enhanced by these bots. For instance, more and more employees will begin to shift their rote, repetitive tasks and workflows on to intelligent automation, enabling them to become more strategic in their roles.

As Gownder also pointed out in his report, the key to implementing intelligent automation as a tool to augment human workers is to start with focused business problems. Let’s take a look at how to accomplish this in a three step process.

Segment the workforce to target specific roles and/or workflows.

Decision-makers should evaluate their workforce and divide it into segments to identify which business problems could be most easily solved with intelligent automation. It’s true that AI can be leveraged across the entire organization to some degree, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be implemented everywhere right from the get-go. Instead, it should be strategically applied where it will quickly produce the highest returns. Then it can be rolled out more extensively.

Develop and nurture solutions in a piloting environment.

Augmenting human workers with intelligent automation technology requires a very structured approach. Utilizing an innovation lab or other type of test environment will enable new solutions to be designed and tested before they are implemented. Start with small pilots and iterate at every step, tweaking the process as needed until a realistic, feasible solution is reached. Once the most effective solution is determined, it can then be introduced into the live environment.

Add robotic coworkers with specific competencies to the team.

While bots are beginning to augment human work, they are still best used in very narrow, specific contexts, the Forrester report noted. As intelligent automation is introduced into human teams, it’s best to focus on employee experience. It’s also important to recognize that a certain investment in upgrading, improving and reskilling human workers will likely be necessary in order to facilitate a cohesive environment in which both people and robots can work side-by-side and complement one another.

Ultimately, the way human workers perceive their role and impact within an organization will affect their engagement and productivity. As they begin to view intelligent automation as a tool to help them be more productive and engage in more meaningful work, they will begin to recognize the value that AI brings to their lives.

See intelligent automation in action. Schedule a live, personalized demo of Ayehu today!