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.