Business bots – tomorrow’s virtual workforce

An allegorical look at how business bots might coordinate company services and even launch businesses in the future.

Internet bots, the software that run automated tasks such as chat applications and scheduling support, look set to move well beyond today’s functionality, to deliver more complex, fundamental roles in running businesses.

As intelligent systems and automation are further developed to serve the purpose of critical business functions, bots will power and define the future of business.

It’s 2036 and Jiro, an entrepreneur who has just finished his Masters in Automated Business Administration (MABA), has been advised by his mentor and business board member, Dr. K, to set up his own business.

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Jiro’s first task is to identify a gap in the market to explore, so he diligently sets to work, scanning the marketplace for whitespace opportunities. After carrying out strategic analysis across business sectors, he uncovers an untapped opportunity to sell vintage electric skateboards to the aging hipster market.

With his business idea now defined, Jiro gets his R&D bot to invite and select freelance designers to create compelling electric skateboard designs that look cool, perform well, and comply to specifications and manufacturability (previously sketched out by Jiro’s strategic market analysis). Jiro then pits the top designs against each other in a crowdsourced marketplace to sift out the most appealing design, and to secure pre-orders to help fund manufacturing.

Once the design is finalised, Jiro turns to his operations bot to source quotes and lead times from manufacturers. After having selected the most suitable and cost-effective manufacturer, Jiro then instructs his contract bots to deal with the selected manufacturer’s Contract Bots in order to scope out mutually beneficial terms.

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Meanwhile, Jiro instructs his marketing not to select and optimise search engines, social media and marketing campaigns and gets his sales bot to drive and maximise sales by allocating investments to the right e-commerce sales channels, including direct web sales, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and Robo-Etsy.

While the product is being manufactured, marketed, sold and delivered Jiro’s finance bot continues to ensure that investments, capital allocation, and debt, are well managed and that cashflow and growth are optimised.

Jiro’s business starts to hum along nicely and soon enough his skateboards are earning a reputation in the aging hipster community. One summer however, Jiro’s Finance Bot alerts him to some sharp declines in orders, and after carrying out his own strategic analysis he learns that the competitive environment is changing. Low-cost challengers are making imitation versions of the product, which are eroding margins.

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The projected outlook for the business is looking uncertain, so Jiro makes the strategic decision to re-focus his business on a new product – self-driving wheelchairs for aging hipsters – and gears up his bots to conquer this new challenge.

Thanks to the advances in business automation, together with the prevalence of on-demand services and integration, Jiro is able to coordinate operational systems to launch a business with no internal full time human employees at all – except for Dr. K. Indeed, Jiro too is part of Dr. K’s business bot workforce, functioning as his business strategy CEO bot.

While the concept of a wholly-automated workforce may seem like an improbable concept today, in reality, to a lesser degree, businesses are already beginning to depend on automated systems.

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Robo-advisors are already balancing our investment portfolios, car navigation systems are utilising crowd-sourced traffic data to provide us with the quickest route to our destination and AI systems are writing background musical scores for commercials and video games.

As technology advances, the level of human interaction is set to gradually decrease and these systems will increasingly be capable of managing more integrated and complex functions, including solving critical business problems. In an era where the driverless car is no longer a pipe dream, Dr. K’s fully-automated business concept is really not so far from reality.

Sourced from Toshi Mogi, AVP strategy and innovation at frog 

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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