As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, unexpected events can cripple operations. Modern operations must be dynamic, responsive, and integrated with an organization’s ecosystem and workflows. The businesses that leverage intelligent automation to build these capabilities will be well positioned to address today’s workforce dislocation, supply chain challenges, and customer service disruptions – and to thrive in tomorrow’s recovering market.
The automation of most industries has occurred over the years – from the manufacturing floor to banking and oil refining. Yet intelligent automation allows for transformation on an entirely new level. The use of artificial intelligence and automation, or intelligent automation, is changing how humans and machines interact, in terms of how data is analyzed, decisions are made, and tasks and activities are completed within a workflow or system.
In addition to potential cost savings, intelligent automation can improve an organization’s capacity to respond to, adapt to, and thrive in a challenging environment. Automation programs that are successful utilize a broad set of technologies, such as robotics, bots, and devices, and AI capabilities such as machine learning, natural language processing, augmented intelligence, and computer vision and hearing.
Enterprise-wide intelligent automation – the use of intelligent automation across the enterprise – extends beyond the technologies used, including the breadth of their applications and the extent to which the deployment of intelligent automation is changing how work is done.
As part of a comprehensive study on the impact of intelligent automation initiatives on businesses today and in the future, IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed 1,500 executives around the world in partnership with Oxford Economics. According to executives we surveyed, the two most important factors that define competitive advantage in three years will be customer experience and workforce skills.
The respondents also tell us that digital initiatives can significantly influence those elements: When asked where their digital initiatives deliver the highest value, 75 percent point to customer experiences, while 64 percent point to workforce management.
Examples of types of automation
Understanding the different types of automation that are transforming our world is vital to understanding the impact automation will have on the future workforce.
- Algorithms – Computer programs that analyze and solve problems in a fraction of the time it would take humans to do the same thing. Thousands of human financial analysts and traders have been rendered obsolete by sophisticated computer algorithms in the financial services sector.
- Robots- While most people are familiar with the concept of robotics – a technology that allows machines to perform physical tasks formerly done by humans – they may not realize how far that technology has evolved in the last few years. As with everything technological, robots have become more powerful, versatile, cheaper, and easier to use than before, making them more accessible to companies in a wide range of industries. Robots can perform repetitive, routine tasks, and they do not need sick days or vacations. Robots are taking orders and flipping burgers in fast food restaurants across the country as an example of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) reshaping the workforce.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) – AI has existed for a long time, but thanks to widespread digitization and the availability of analytics, it has finally begun to mature in the workplace. Artificial intelligence, also known as machine learning, enables computers to emulate human cognitive abilities, by gathering and synthesizing digital analytics to make decisions and/or take actions based on objective data-without human bias. In the legal industry, AI technology is being used to help craft effective legal strategies using comprehensive, objective data. AI-enabled computers can now analyze and synthesize a large volume of complex legal documents in a fraction of the time required by humans without errors.
Intelligent automation across the enterprise
Based on new data-driven insights, automation can improve the customer experience through more rapid and effective responses. As a result, automation allows employees to focus more on customer-related tasks by shifting certain tasks out of human resources. The automation of workflows can link processes end-to-end, straddling silos and cutting across functions to uncover new outcomes that differentiate an organization from its peers.
AI, automation, IoT, blockchain, and 5G, when used together, help organizations optimize and customize their workflows. Technology is maturing to the point where it can be deployed and exploited at scale. In the next three years, more than half of the executives surveyed plan to increase investments in AI, while 44 percent plan to increase robotics investments. These investments will pay off, too: 73 percent expect revenue growth as a result of implementing intelligent automation technologies.
A human-technology partnership can be established by implementing intelligent automation across an enterprise, which will improve and scale at a rate exceeding traditional technological advancement. In addition to being automated, optimized, and personalized, these workflows are also dynamic and able to flex and scale with ease to create new value.
We are now in the era of enterprise automation: intelligent automation scaled and applied across the enterprise. Organizations are increasingly deploying intelligent automation for higher-level tasks, with intelligent machines’ tasks expanding from administrative to cross-enterprise and expert tasks.
Future of automation
There are several estimates that predict there will be more jobs created than lost to automation over the next few years.Global leaders and policymakers will have to make sure that people aren’t overlooked as economies are rebuilt after COVID-19.
World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab says COVID-19 has accelerated the process of ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “We need to ensure that new technologies in the digital, biological and physical worlds remain human-centered and serve society as a whole, enabling everyone to have fair access to them.”.