Intelligent automation and the future of work

Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin

It's common for people to resist change, but including them on a journey of how intelligent automation can help transform even the most complex of tasks could make for a happier workforce.

Why do we queue down the road for tickets? Why do we queue for groceries? Why do we wait in line at the bank? Why are doctors and police bogged down with paperwork? Businesses are losing money on a criminal scale at a criminal rate, and it's easy to blame everyone else but ourselves.

Manual processes are prone to error and slow. It's annoying, frustrating, and we pass the buck about fixing the situation. We all moan about something not being run well, but very few of us step up to fix it or find a solution. This is why we think RPA developers are the new superheroes of the future of work.

The RPA developer has an automation-first approach to finding solutions, similar to the zeitgeist of being digital-first. It's a unique way of thinking about problems and how to unravel complex processes. At their disposal are tools to help them understand what needs fixing and tools to help them tackle the task efficiently. We are at the apex of what's possible in automation to propel business transformation in the right direction. The only obstacle on the tracks is human willingness.

Steps to help change happen

One of the major resistors to business-endemic automation is change. It's cited by many studies as being one of the chief causes of automation scope creep and abandonment. It stymies progress and prevents real, authentic and often necessary business transformation. The tried and tested way to address resistance to change is to include people on the journey.

Having a clear vision of what needs to happen is the first step. All steps that follow are down to the company's leaders in how transparent, inclusive and ultimately effective they are. See what needs fixing, select the tools for the job, speak a common and consistent language throughout, and regularly monitor the outcomes. Adapt and learn. These are actually the human challenges, as automation usually operates on a much more robotic process level. If the human challenges are embraced, automation will happen.

A good example of managing resistance to change is to select a task that's usually tiresome to complete, such as processing purchase invoices. If you're a large business, you may see lots of these! The nuts and bolts of incoming purchase invoices include data that needs to be processed correctly. RPA can handle this, removing the need for a valuable workforce to get their hands dirty. That may be the first win in your battle to overcome a doubting workforce. The extra step is in applying technology that can predict what should happen to those invoices next.

Taking the automation technology further

Let's say we now have the data from those invoices. What often happens is a person will spend time going through the data to categorise or classify it. RPA handles the simple tasks such as getting the data into some sort of order so that it's easier to pore over, but is the data in the right place to be reviewed?

It can be a laborious and time-consuming task managing lots of unstructured data, especially if you have highly skilled personnel that could be doing something much more useful elsewhere in the business. The next step in the automation process is being able to make predictions based on a history of what's previously happened to that data, before filing the invoices in the right place automatically. The ability to be able to predict where the invoice should be placed based on previous data processes and inputs is invaluable. It means missing or incomplete data points don't mess the whole system up. There are fewer errors along the way simply because the API is doing the prediction work on behalf of the human.

Apply this use case to an embattled workforce resistant to change and it's hard to see how it wouldn't be valuable. Most people want to be happy at work. It's what drives us to be more productive and generally happier in life. The sad statistic is that more than 80% of us are not happy at work. A lot of this is down to a lack of transparency about what our roles are, how mind-numbing our tasks are, and how difficult they can be. The solution has to lie in applying automation to manage the nuts and bolts, then applying intelligent automation to handle predictive analysis, freeing people from becoming bogged down with unnecessary tasks. (Add to this the opportunity to have more accurate filing of invoices!)

Automation for a modern business

Automation is one of the most popular trends in business transformation, and for good reason. From a business point of view, it's the chance to apply efficiencies to convoluted data-based tasks that will help you become more profitable and potentially a better employer. From a people point of view, it's a catalyst for helping people become happier at work because of the freedom of escaping mundane work.

Being able to automate simple tasks with RPA is one thing, but removing the mundanity of fixing error-ridden data such as purchase invoices with the power of a predictive API is another. It's a game-changer that should win over a change-resistant workforce. And without their help and buy-in to the transformation you're trying to achieve, intelligent automation goes nowhere. As Deloitte says in a recent article: "Those that see the greatest benefits from automation will have engaged in entity-wide transformations rooted in forward-looking, human-centric strategies."

By including everyone on the journey towards real change, intelligent automation can constantly update the journey so that profitability, success and happiness become the cornerstones of a modern business. This is the future of work.

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