Today’s workforce: augment or bust!

  • Posted on March 2, 2017

As you may have seen in Avanade’s TechVision 2017, we believe that the era of the augmented worker is upon us. In the following few paragraphs I’ll talk about why I think this is needed, how I see this impacting business and how you can get started in your own organization. Because even though we are talking a lot about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), many of the technologies needed for an augmented workforce have been around for years.

We’ve all heard sayings like “millennials are lazy” or “the younger generations have no work ethic.” You may have even made similar statements yourself. While most of this perception seems to be driven by the belief that those younger than yourself have had it easier than you did, studies show some interesting trends in worker habits and expectations.

Workers want to make a difference – or will look elsewhere

One thing the studies seem to agree on is that workers currently in their 20s and early 30s want to believe that their personal contribution “makes a difference” at work and they are willing to change jobs frequently in an attempt to fulfill that goal. I believe that the majority of workers of any age would agree that mindlessly filling out forms, manually searching multiple data sources (including Google) for the same information and endless hours of meetings that don’t accomplish a goal is a waste of our human potential. And when it reaches a certain level we may consider other employment options. At the same time, companies have long acknowledged that hiring and training new employees comes at a major cost to an organization, both in money spent and lost productivity.

An augmented workforce can help address these issues. Please note that augmenting a workforce does not necessarily result in the loss of jobs. What it can do is make your employees more productive and more satisfied with their jobs. Humans add certain aspects in decision making that computers are simply not capable of, which is why we advocate augmenting human workers, not replacing them.

A great example is an employee who must review a multi-page application and make decisions based on the information within. When manually reading the entire application, she may only be capable of a few reviews each hour. After augmenting the process with data parsing, machine learning and “next best action” analysis, the reviewer, instead of reading the whole form, is presented with a summary of the contents and a set of recommended actions. She can then make a decision on only the relevant information but has access to the full application if needed. This process combines the AI-enhanced processing and analytical capabilities of the machine with the emotion and reasoning of the human: an “Augmented Worker.” This setup not only allows for faster decision making but also maintains the accountability and compliance required in many industries.

Start with redundancies and repetitive tasks

How does a business get started down the augmenting journey? Below are a few example actions a company can perform to begin creating its own augmented workforce.

  • Review current systems that support business processes and look for redundancies, disconnected systems and unnecessary steps. These issues are addressable through proven application modernization practices.
  • Look for areas in your business where there are highly repetitive, rules-based tasks. These are prime targets for the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
  • Examine all current and potential areas of customer service and experiment with the use of chatbots and other AI-powered tools to handle the basic or simple interactions in a user-friendly yet automated fashion.

Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of what an augmented workforce is and how to get started in your organization. Helping companies improve by updating their systems and augmenting their workers is something we at Avanade are passionate about. If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you transform your business please contact your Avanade representative; we would love to help.

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