Robot hand touching human hand

Taking the bot out of the human

Creating the Hybrid Digital Workforce

An odd topic I know, yet popular in its current trending. I am not totally convinced it’s the right message as it seems to immediately, to me, position the human as the disposable element in the equation. This in itself has been one of the negative messages in the adoption of automation by it’s misperception of what automation wants to achieve – it’s not automating the human.

What in fact good intelligent automation is about is discovering, mapping, making compliant and auditable, then automating and measuring the success of business processes. Designed by humans but performed automatically with human supervision – The Hybrid Digital Workforce. This then gives the opportunity for humans to further develop their existing & new skills, career opportunities, explore new ideas and to take advantage of a new way of working.

The perception of human tasks being “robotisized” destroying jobs and career prospects is hyped. It is suggested that in 4 out of 5 companies the opposite is the case. In this Forbes article, by Paul R. Daugherty & H. James Wilson back in July 2017, the new roles and opportunities that will be created are discussed. It would be interesting to know how many corporations are investing in AI/Automation skills or have identified these individuals within their own organisations. In addition, due to the success of automation projects, are these corporations developing a culture that will encourage and nurture personal growth resulting in corporate success? 

With so few corporations planning to skill up in AI/IA where will these skills come from – Automation Academies? Not the vendor initiatives promoting their own core technology, but the technology agnostic institutes offering frameworks for good or even best practice.

I think companies succeed and indeed projects succeed when they have the right level and type of governance, creative room and executive leadership that reflects the importance of this. Without creative, incentivised (morally and financially), supported and encouraged enthusiastic humans (with the right skills) the outcome can be very different. EY recently made a change to their recruitment policies which reflects some bold and fresh thinking. Maybe they will launch an automation academy and flood the market with these much needed services and skills – how refreshing that would be.

This then asks what are companies and their executive leadership doing to prepare for this? A recent blog from the Accenture Talent Organisation blog suggests that only 3% of executives plan to significantly invest in their skill development in the next 3 years! Automation and digital transformation is, and has been for some time, the key to being an agile and successful business and has been proven by the many successful digital challengers across many of the emerging and traditional markets. Maybe this is why we have seen such an increase in the past 3 years of AI, IA, Cognitive, ML vendors coming into the market place. Start-ups and entrepreneurs with the vision to see the path to what automation can truly achieve. Frustrated by the slow uptake in their day jobs and making the decision to leave to create a new offering.

As humans we can become desensitised to our surroundings and, when you consider the amount of time you spend in your daily working life adhering to processes designed years or maybe even decades ago, is it not surprising “taking the bot out of the human” is topical. But collectively we want to question where did this process come from, why do we do it this way and what is its true purpose and provenance.

Legacy and technical debt exist because it works and we can keep the lights on… so why change it. It means you can come into work tomorrow, and the day after, comfortable in knowing it will pretty much be the same. The skill sets needed are abundant (mostly). Some 70%-80% of IT budget is still spent just keeping the lights on and maintaining the status quo. This has for decades resulted in reducing the potential for individual creative time. This is an imbalance that needs to be addressed, not by the creation of more innovation initiatives, but by reversing the technical debt and the time spent maintaining it. I think the time is now approaching when this can be achieved, not at prime time ticket prices but with sensible mutually beneficial commercial models, for the sake of the workers (humans) welfare. Imagine the IT budget spilt 50/50, technical debt/new ideas… I think intelligent automation can achieve it.
 
I believe, my own views, that a little disruption in the status quo could lead to much better lives. Understanding what processes can be automated, you don’t need to boil the ocean, just one agile step at a time could greatly reduce technical debt. This in itself would increase margin and free up time – time the most valuable benefit any business could give its employees… especially if they can choose what they do with it.

So do we take the bot out of the human or release them from repetitive processes and gift them time? I think the latter, it may be a little uncomfortable for a while but human nature will reset and eventually you will go into work and do the same things, maybe a little more interesting, but have more time to explore more interesting “things”…

So to the other 97% of executive leadership with no plans to skill up for automation, it may be worth considering where your talent will be next year. Spending more time on more interesting stuff maybe. All views are my own.


Mark Dawber is the Director of Business Development at Be Informed UK and has vast experience with intelligent automation. As a fanatic of start-ups and enthousiast of the mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and technology, Mark experiences the benefits of automation in organisations on a daily basis. Did this blog spark your interest? Connect with Mark on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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