Today’s new economic reality is driving major accelerated change. It’s putting even more pressure on global organisations to do more, with less. Old operating models are being discarded, as organisations look to digital technology in order to innovate in new ways to deliver work faster, smarter, more cohesively and efficiently. There is no going back.
The problem is that most knowledge-based work isn’t delivering anywhere near its potential, and frankly it never has – evidenced by diminishing global productivity, now at one-tenth of what it was 40 years ago for some economies. The root cause is the inability of people to get the best out of technology, processes and data, all of which are increasingly unable to fulfill demand surges and aspirations of business operations – at the accelerated pace required.
This problem is occurring right across the front-to-back offices of most organisations across the globe; people still have to perform tedious navigation between disparate functions, systems and processes as ‘human middleware’. This is the real killer of performance, responsibility and effectiveness. You’ll also see people performing activities ill-suited to their abilities too – those that are highly stressful, where slow performance or errors are harmful and costly, or activities that require high levels of concentration and repeatability that are almost impossible to perform consistently well.
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Our global report, ‘The Impact of a Digital Workforce on Business Agility & Survival’, that surveyed 6,700 knowledge workers and senior IT decision makers reveals that organisations are struggling with their workloads, struggling to meet customer demands and too much time is being spent on administrative tasks.
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Our global report also reveals a positive link between global productivity, business agility and resilience – and intelligent automation that runs a smart digital workforce – with 81% believing this will be essential for businesses to remain competitive in the next five years. We’re talking about a Blue Prism digital workforce that’s underpinning this seismic change, a workforce that’s continually evolving to increasingly transform work across the world’s largest and most innovative organisations by getting the best out of people, technologies and business processes.
This is a digital workforce attempting to get as close to a human worker as possible by learning and operating like them. It excels at performing evermore complex business process activities across front, middle and back offices, in any industry sector – with total integrity, and up to 150 times faster, with zero errors, 24/7. Digital workers not only perform any repeatable and predictable business process, but also complex stressful activities that humans struggle with; from payment clearing checks, sophisticated diagnostics spotting money laundering, fighting retail fraud, to detecting early signs of diabetes in a retina scan.
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Although we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible, 84% of decision makers we surveyed agree that digital workers are positively impacting their organisation. They’re seeing their teams work better by focusing on more strategic roles, improving accuracy, saving time and costs. Our customers report that they’re generating more time, coupled with the capability to deliver real world outcomes. They’re enjoying greater working flexibility, higher service quality, faster expansion of services, effortless coping with Covid-19 lockdown, even via remote working.
Our digital workers uniquely interoperate with data across all IT systems, interweaving AI capabilities to carry out work. They read different screens, layouts or fonts, application versions, system settings, permissions and language – prioritising workloads based on ever-changing digital environmental conditions. Digital workers can also ingest, process, and sort semi-structured and unstructured data from any source while providing quality checks, detecting errors and passing exceptions to humans. This means people are freed to employ their innate skills to manage higher value, more strategic activities.
What the pandemic has taught us is the value of human time is at a premium. During the first few weeks of lockdown, just think how many people were desperate to interact with a human, whilst being kept on hold by a call centre. Whereas for years and years, we have forced people to become more and more machine like – slotting neatly into fixed and rigid roles defined by a process-driven production line – we are now freeing people, through intelligent automation, to reclaim their humanity and operate as creative, thinking and empathetic agents.
But this is just the beginning. Enabled by their unique code-free interoperability with any age of system, our digital workers will become the gateway to a business-friendly way of safely testing, advancing and rejecting or deploying new AI technologies and capabilities into the enterprise. In our survey, 92% global decision makers view digital workers as an important factor in driving digital transformation at work, allowing them to swiftly scale the deployment of other emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, natural language processing and data analytics.
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Automation anxiety – the reality
The cliché says that all jobs are wiped out and there is nothing left for humans to do, but the reality is the fear of automation is diminishing as there’s a growing level of trust that further dispels increasingly outmoded views. In fact, knowledge workers are becoming increasingly comfortable with intelligent automation, just 33% worry about related job losses in the next three years. More than half of knowledge workers are excited at the opportunities that it will create, while most decision makers believe that their employees would trust working alongside a digital workforce and most would even trust them to manage employees too.
Ultimately, we’ll see organisational structures across the global enterprise evolving and reshaping to become one-third human employees, one-third digital workers, and one-third core IT. Human workers will continue to provide collaborative strategy, innovation and creative thinking; digital workers will execute on business processes; and core IT will provide the underlying technology infrastructure, data storage and security.
By streamlining, accelerating and expanding work, digital workers will be key to driving organisational adaptation and resilience. They will provide an engine for sustainable growth, helping to deliver strategic goals that make the enterprise smarter, more agile and efficient – while creating more digital skills opportunities and roles for human workers too.