The next generation org chart: humans and robots working together
- Posted on August 1, 2019
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
You could soon be sharing your coffee break with a robot. But wait – they don’t take breaks. They’ll go on working tirelessly so you can focus on more interesting and innovative work – and might even free you up to take some occasional downtime.
The intelligent automation continuum
Over the next couple of years, intelligent automation will be the most significant driver of enterprise transformation. It will help us move beyond routine workflow-based process automation that focuses on operational efficiency towards artificial intelligence-powered automation that enables optimized decision making.
Here’s how, by leveraging the right tools, intelligent automation will transform workflows from rule-based tasks to self-learning processes:
Desktop automation: At one time or another, all of us have used desktop automation tools – like scripts and macros to move data from spreadsheets to apps.
Robotic process automation (RPA): The next step involves software robots that mimic human actions by automating highly repetitive and rules-based processes. This brings tremendous elasticity since it’s so easy to scale up the number of robots to meet demand, then scale down after the workload spike has passed. However, these robots lack the fundamental ability to make cognitive decisions, so they’re limited to routine processes (such as invoice matching).
Cognitive RPA: By taking RPA one step further and combining it with computer vision, AI and machine learning (ML), we get cognitive RPA – and that allows us to drive the automation of more complex processes.
Virtual agents: Add to that virtual intelligent agents, such as interactive conversational agents that intelligently help us with information discovery and analysis, we can automate more complex processes where human judgement is typically key.
Machine-based process execution: To round out the continuum, we have machine-based process execution, which takes a look at automating entire process chains. Self-driving cars are a perfect example.
Intelligent enterprise (or cognitive computing): This leverages the powerful combination of AI, intelligent automation and human reasoning to fundamentally change how organizations capture and deliver value.
The virtual workforce will profoundly change tomorrow’s org chart
Let’s take another look at cognitive RPA and virtual agents. Together, those introduce a virtual workforce of software robots and agents that will work side by side with human counterparts. By automating repetitive tasks, they increase volume and productivity, improve the quality of processes and free up people for more innovative work.
The augmented workforce is a current reality
Virtual agents and other forms of intelligent automation are in action today – performing audits in the healthcare space and helping with corrosion detection in the insurance industry.
One of Avanade’s clients, a global telecom company, has seen dramatic results by employing RPA. Its human agents were manually indexing 150+ orders per day with five to ten line items per order, across multiple applications. By deploying RPA across SharePoint SAP and Excel, with all business rules and exceptions handled through automation, they have achieved:
- 75% reduction in human effort
- 100% process accuracy
- Only 5% orders require human intervention
Reaping the benefits of RPA
In the developed world, staying competitive is a challenge. For example, it costs more to produce goods in the US than it does to outsource production to less costly workforces in developing countries. But RPA will change that dynamic. By employing intelligent automation, we will start to see a leveling out of the economic disparity between onshore and offshore production and manufacturing. And that’s a good thing for our local businesses.
Is your job in jeopardy?
The inclusion of robots in our workforce causes concern about job security for some people. While certain roles will become obsolete, many new roles are being created that require similar skillsets. Robots will free up time to allow employees to expand their intellectual abilities and perform more interesting tasks. There will be roles for more behavioral scientists, people to develop automated agents, and other jobs that don’t even exist yet. So, we shouldn’t fear these technologies; we should embrace them.
We only need to look back at previous Industrial Revolutions – advancements like mechanization, mass production and computers changed and displaced some jobs, yet most people survived and even thrived as they adapted into new roles.
Putting our trust in tech
Finally, it’s critical to understand the purpose of intelligent technology in order to design and teach it to operate in a safe and ethical way:
- Security – how do we ensure these augmentations don’t provide attack surfaces for bad actors?
- Ethics – what are the societal and cultural implications?
- Trust – do we feel comfortable in ceding more and more control to machines?
- Legal – how do we ensure compliance with emerging legal frameworks that govern the use of intelligent automation technologies?