Have business leaders moved beyond the machine fear factor?

Embracing intelligent automation is now seen as key to breaking through the productivity plateau in the AI-first world.

The majority of business leaders are optimistic about the augmented workforce powered by intelligent automation. According to research from Avanade, these leaders have moved beyond the ‘human vs machine fear factor’.

The research also highlighted the need for organisations to adopt intelligent automation within three years to jump-start lagging productivity and continue to differentiate with innovation.

More than half of global business leaders are confident intelligent automation will augment the human workforce rather than replace jobs. Indeed, with many organisations experiencing a productivity plateau (where it is simply impossible to increase productivity using traditional optimisation approaches), intelligent automation offers a new opportunity to outperform the competition.

>See also: The rise of intelligent automation in the workplace

However, business leaders must overcome cultural concerns about intelligent automation to drive future success, with 79% of respondents acknowledging internal resistance to change is an inhibitor to the implementation of AI technologies in their organisation.

The numbers don’t lie, and 31% of organisations are already using intelligent automation, with that number set to more than double by 2020. Indeed, 86% of global business leaders believed their organisation must deploy intelligent automation in the next five years to be a leader in its field.

According to global business leaders, the top benefits of intelligent automation will be productivity (50%) and faster time-to-market (45%). This is because intelligent automation will make more workers available to focus on complex tasks and innovation – almost half of business leaders globally (43%) reported this.

>See also: How robots in the workplace will change organisational culture

Other consumers surveyed by Avanade in the UK, US and Germany agreed with business leaders that intelligent automation will free employees to spend more time on complex tasks.  Unsurprisingly however, 60% of consumer respondents said that intelligent automation is more likely to replace jobs than create them.

So, what does this mean for leadership in the future?  Per the research, leaders will need to embrace new capabilities to remain relevant in an AI-first world. Almost two thirds (60%) of business leaders surveyed believe an understanding of new and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and an ability to manage an augmented workforce (53%) will be more important for leadership within five years than traditional functional specialisations like sales and marketing.

Avanade CEO Adam Warby said: “Leaders recognise the potential for intelligent automation to accelerate productivity by driving more value from data, and freeing employees from mundane, repetitive tasks to focus on activities that require human intervention and/or add value, like innovation.”

>See also: Rolling into the digital age: inside Rolls-Royce’s tech transformation

“However, while global business leaders have moved beyond the humans vs. machines fear factor, employees are yet to be convinced. To remain relevant, leaders need a vision for the AI-first world and must educate employees on the potential of intelligent automation to drive unprecedented personal and professional capabilities.”

Avanade recommendation is that leaders have a roadmap in place to help guide high-level conversations, as well as discussions across the entire workforce about what intelligent automation means for the human workforce.


Intelligent automation was defined for survey respondents as a form of artificial intelligence where machines mimic the learning, decision-making and actions of humans through intelligence enabled by advanced analytics and cognitive services. Examples of intelligent automation include chat bots, object/speech recognition, and natural language processing.

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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...