Think automation and the question that comes to mind is: will it make humans redundant or obsolete in their work environments? Will the increasing adoption of automation to remove manual effort lead to job cuts – especially in the knowledge services sector? We do not think so. We believe more than 95% of analytic use cases will continue to need a human mind to deliver value to clients.
Traditional analytics involved deriving insights from data and processing (mostly with human intervention) them to develop executable business decisions. In the present knowledge services scenario, automation tools are being increasingly used to support humans in extracting data and running basic analysis. Technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) execute repetitive tasks based on the IFTTT (if this then that) principle – with minimal or no human intervention. These tools and technologies are able to handle basic decision-making tasks with the help of AI and traditional machine learning techniques, thereby making the overall information processing process relatively easy to control, less volatile, and highly cost effective.
Automation eliminates routine information processing as well as routine actions from the job profile of a human. Consequently, employees who interact with data are more likely to be the first set of jobs where such replacement occurs. These could include:
- A sales team identifying leads based on CRM inputs
- A purchase department in a retail store analyzing the inventory and placing orders on the vendor system
- An in-house IT team focusing on system maintenance
- A risk assessment team in a bank identifying fraudulent transactions
- A management consultant going through major press publications to identify the pain points of a target company
Rather than viewing this as a job reduction, we believe automation has freed up time for those who deal with data entry and sorting, allowing them to focus on more value-adding and less mundane tasks. Human insight is superior and offers the right solutions and consultation. In fact, the need for targeted insights has led to the creation of new jobs such as data scientists and social media marketers. As you read in our earlier blog, a recent McKinsey report concludes, “…as the automation of physical and knowledge work advances, many jobs will be redefined rather than eliminated – at least in the short term”.
Currently, this level of automation and adoption of AI is a matter of choice undertaken by a few companies. SaaS, mobile apps, and Big Data have all undergone similar stages of adoption. The Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA) said, ‘that 2015 is to robotic process automation (RPA) what 1994 was to the Internet – an auspicious start’ (Introduction to RPA – A Primer). Considering that a lot of the potential areas mentioned above, might sound like typical ‘outsourcing jobs,’ it will be interesting to see the impact on sourcing strategies. Will outsourced service providers integrate automation in their offerings or will companies build in-house capabilities?
In a nutshell – as technology progresses by leaps and bounds, and automation takes over our unexciting work, we will have more time to add value through creative intelligence. This is what we believe will continue to keep humans critical in knowledge services. The future, therefore, is not bleak, but holds enormous potential for the erudition of the human mind.