Most people are optimistic about workplace automation

There’s lots of prognosticating about what impact robotics and automation will have on the future of work — with mostly dystopian depictions predicting displaced workers and increasing unemployment. But new social data from Adobe Digital Insights suggests that the average worker is far less cynical when it comes to welcoming robots into the workplace.

According to Adobe, most people are talking (on social media) about how robots are helping their work, not taking it away. Workers are also upbeat about being able to hand over mundane tasks to robots so human workers can do more meaningful jobs. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robots were the most discussed FOW topics.

Adobe’s report is based on roughly 3 million social mentions captured from Twitter, news, blogs, and forums between January 2016 and January 2017. Interestingly, the FOW hashtag was mentioned twice as many times on Twitter than on workplace-focused LinkedIn.

Across social media, Future of Work (FOW) mentions are up 40 percent year over year, automation mentions have doubled year over year and average daily mentions of robots and jobs have increased 70 percent year over year.

“Overall, people seem to believe the FOW is promising, particularly when it comes to the automation of traditionally mundane tasks,” wrote Joe Martin, head of social insights for Adobe, in a blog post. “Automating document and signature processes, for example, could open up new possibilities for people as the tech revolution advances. Work environments should continue to improve as employees demand more from their space.”

Source: Most people are optimistic about workplace automation

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Clear goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

More companies are investing in automation to streamline processes. But for an IT automation strategy to be successful, it’s important to start with clear, well defined goals.

“Automation” is a scary word for many IT workers — who contemplate images of robots, software and the like stealing their jobs as it becomes the norm.

But according to speakers at the annual Automation Innovation conference in New York last month, the short-term goal for an IT automation strategy should be to empower knowledge workers — not simply replace them.

“If you do the integration and infusion [of automation technology] correctly, you will expand [knowledge workers’] capabilities; you will not detract from them,” said conference speaker R.G. Conlee, CIO of Conduent. “We are not out to just replace people.”

More than 300 attendees packed the Bohemian National Hall in New York City for the conference to discuss IT automation strategy and potential roadmaps to make this strategy successful. Conference organizers noted that the goal was to help attendees “transition from traditional labor to RPA, intelligent automation and cognitive computing.”

But to realize the great business potential of IT process automation and attain a positive return on investment, it’s important to start with concrete goals such as improving price points or a particular process.

“It pays to focus on a specific purpose for automation rather than thinking of it as a broad platform with extended capabilities,” said Bill Galusha, senior product marketing manager of software provider Kofax.
Automation innovation challenges

Conlee noted that many companies have experienced “digital disillusionment” when it comes to the latest technological fads. CIOs and other members of the C-suite, have gotten tired of chasing the latest shiny new technological toy, Conlee said, and are seeking definitive results from these investments.

“They are saying we want it to be practical, something we can use, and we want it to make a difference,” Conlee said. “In other words, we want to improve the way work is done; we don’t just want new ways of doing the work.”

It’s important to remember that moving to automation takes patience, Conlee added, because many IT and digital systems actually negatively impact productivity while they are being integrated with company processes. Implementation of automation is a big challenge, and a plan is required that takes speed to market and complexity into consideration, he added.

We want to improve the way work is done; we don’t just want new ways of doing the work.

“There is a training curve for digital systems that does not elicit better work in the short term; it takes time to get there,” Conlee said.

An IT automation strategy can be a huge help when it comes to one common issue facing modern digitized companies, Galusha said: process and data complexity. Because these companies are responsible for many systems with numerous internal/external data sources, it is difficult to connect all that information to the company’s processes.

A robotic process automation strategy can help with consolidating data for analytics purposes, Galusha said, and apply unique business rules to information contained in these numerous data sources.

“Your processes, and how you are making decisions, [is] only as good as the information,” Galusha said. “If you are doing it manually, it’s slow, it’s inefficient, and you’re probably making errors along the way.”

Galusha was quick to point out that obstacles to the automation revolution remain. Robots still have difficulty with distinguishing visual content such as invoices, purchase orders and email correspondence, for example.

“We also have to understand the complexity, really understand the use cases and how more sophisticated learning technology can be applied,” Galusha said.
IKEA’s automated customer service

Speakers at the conference also noted that automation will bring cost savings in the long run, but it could also expand business opportunities and help provide better premium service to customers. One company that is seeing these types of benefits is IKEA, which uses process automation to improve customer experience and engagement.

Martijn Zuiderbaan, Solution Owner at IKEA Retail AB, noted that IKEA is responsible for its entire supply chain, so prior to its implementation of automation, there were several potential areas that could have benefitted from it. The company decided to start small, by implementing automation processes into its customer call centers, with the goal of making its online customer service more efficient, engaging and effective.

“I think most enterprise companies are working towards a perfect future where all their solutions can talk to each other and everything works together, communicates and shares data,” Zuiderbaan said. “The reality is not really there.”

IKEA receives 20 million customer inquiries per year via voicemail, chat, mail and social media, Zuiderbaan said. The company is using automation to keep up with this demand and help it engage with customers in a smarter way.

In short, Zuiderbaan said the automation solutions were used to meet IKEA’s need to bridge gaps in the existing IT solutions to improve both customer and worker experience at the furniture giant.

“We tried to be more efficient, we tried to make our co-workers more engaged, and we tried to make work more effective,” Zuiderbaan said of IKEA’s automation efforts. “By combining these three, we tried to get a better customer experience.”

Source: searchcio.techtarget.com-Clear goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

Automation + Jobs: Not a Zero-Sum Equation

There’s been no shortage of hand wringing over the job costs of automation—and it’s not without cause. Automated devices are increasingly replacing people in all sorts of occupations. Just as a long list of other technologies have done before. Because dramatic workplace transformations do not occur often, it’s easy to see such shifts as zero-sum occurrences and overlook the new options presented as the familiar ones fade away.

The last time such a major shift took place was during the transition from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-based economy. And though the tractor and other automated farm equipment did put many farmers and other agricultural workers out of work, people did successfully make the shift. This example has been used so frequently and is so far removed from our current reality that many dismiss this comparison and say that the disruption being brought by automation today is different from the change brought by automation to farming a century ago.

David Autor, an economist who assesses the labor market consequences of technological change and globalization, disagrees. In a recent TedTalk to explain why automation does not just eliminate jobs, Autor highlighted an interesting employment development that has taken place in the banking industry since the advent of the ATM. In his presentation, Autor said: “In the 45 years since the introduction of the automated teller machine…the number of human bank tellers employed in the United States has roughly doubled, from about a quarter of a million to a half a million. A quarter of a million in 1970 to about a half a million today, with 100,000 added since the year 2000.”

Though the number of tellers per bank dropped by roughly a third due to the ATM, banks also discovered that, as a result of the ATM, it was less costly to open new branches, said Autor. He added that the number of bank branches has increased about 40 percent since the appearance of the ATM. That’s why there are more tellers now than there were before ATMs replaced so many of them.

Of course, tellers today do different work than they did historically. “As their routine, cash-handling tasks receded, they became less like checkout clerks and more like salespeople, forging relationships with customers, solving problems and introducing them to new products like credit cards, loans and investments,” said Autor. The tellers are now performing “a more cognitively demanding job.”

The same thing has been happening in the manufacturing and processing industries for decades now. While automation has eliminated many industrial jobs, it is also largely responsible for the plethora of industrial jobs that have been coming back to the U.S. It’s also the reason so many new manufacturing jobs are starting here rather than elsewhere. But today’s manufacturing jobs—just like today’s bank teller jobs—are clearly different from what they used to be. Autor pointed out, “As our tools improve, technology magnifies our leverage and increases the importance of our expertise and our judgment and our creativity.”

In the interim phase we find ourselves in—between manufacturing’s past and its future—we face a challenge. A challenge we have faced before. The last time was a century ago, during the transition from the agricultural economy to an industrial one. As automation was eliminating agricultural jobs, the farm states “took the radical step of requiring that their entire youth population remain in school and continue their education to the ripe old age of 16,” said Autor. “This was called the high school movement, and it was a radically expensive thing to do. It also turned out to be one of the best investments the U.S. made in the 20th century. It gave us the most skilled, the most flexible and the most productive workforce in the world.”

Autor pointed out that, when surveying our current industrial employment situation with an eye toward correcting its current course, “It’s foolish to say there’s nothing to worry about. Clearly we can get this wrong. If the U.S. had not invested in its schools and in its skills a century ago with the high school movement, we would be a less prosperous, a less mobile and probably a lot less happy society. But it’s equally foolish to say that our fates are sealed. That’s not decided by the machines. It’s not even decided by the market. It’s decided by us and by our institutions.”

Given the current state of political matters in the U.S., it’s clear than any large scale, government-driven support for an educational solution—like the one Autor referenced—is highly unlikely. However, action is being taken on a smaller scale in localized areas, such as in Ohio and Indiana, and even in the manufacturing corridor in upstate South Carolina. Despite such positive actions by many of our institutions, the scale of the problem will require additional help from the automation industry and its manufacturing customers.

An example of how automation suppliers are taking action can be seen in Festo’s efforts to bring the German apprenticeship model to the U.S. Yaskawa is another automation technology supplier stepping up to the plate to address the automation-versus-jobs issue through its robotic training programs.

Having seen his former aerospace manufacturing employer go through massive layoffs in the mid-1990s—reducing its workforce by more than 60 percent in three years—Buddy Smith, who is now manager of the Yaskawa Academy for Yaskawa America, knows firsthand how technology suppliers and their manufacturing customers can play a more active role in improving today’s manufacturing workforce situation.

“If a manufacturer of any size decides to add robots to its workforce,” said Smith, “the company’s owners and executives can and should prepare the workforce in advance. There are a lot of communication opportunities to start a dialogue with workers. For example, explain why robotics will help workers, boost production and increase profit sharing. When a company capitalizes on these opportunities, it creates excitement by outlining how robotics can open doors to new training, provide a chance to tackle new responsibilities and reduce injuries.”

To help manufacturing customers who have purchased a robot communicate more effectively with their workers, Smith explained Yaskawa Motoman offers customers a range of robotics classes covering everything from programming to maintenance. “For our maintenance training, a student can spend one week with us and learn about 85 percent of what they’ll face on the job. That’s a terrific example of how retraining an already-employed worker can give them new skills and reap rewards for his or her employers,” he said.

Smith noted that different companies will, of course, have different workforce needs. For example, a large manufacturer may already have some technically inclined workers on staff who “could transition easily into robotics training,” he said. A small job shop, however, may need to look outside its walls to hire a robotics-qualified employee.

“Each company has to think about how to get a return on its robotics investment,” Smith said. “Improving production is not just about purchasing a robot. It’s also about weighing the decision to bring in someone skilled at programming a robot or retraining an employee to program and work with a newly purchased robot. Ultimately, though, the answer is not really a choice between retaining, retraining or recruiting. The solution is a mix of these things depending on the company’s position.”

Source:  automationworld-Automation + Jobs: Not a Zero-Sum Equation

How accelerating automation is positively disrupting industries

If CIOs are not already looking at RPA as a digital enablement to their digital strategy, they are already behind the eight ball a little bit

A bank slashed the time it would approve an application for credit from 21 days to 11 minutes, by deploying robotic process automation (RPA).

With RPA, the bank was able to process all paperwork and data for credit, criminal and employment checks, to determine whether the bank should be lending more money to a customer.

For David Snell, an independent sourcing advisor, this case study is just one of the ways RPA brings “positive disruption” to industries.

“Its potential to positively disrupt the workplace is incredible, while its potential to disrupt the outsourcing market is far reaching,” says Snell, who was New Zealand country manager for Alsbridge (now part of Information Services Group).

He argues RPA and related automation technologies should already be on the agenda for CIOs.

“If CIOs are not already looking at RPA as a digital enablement to their digital strategy, they are already behind the eight ball a little bit,” Snell tells CIO New Zealand.

“Early adopters are already starting to see significant benefits and not only in their own operations,” he states.

He predicts there will be a rise in the uptake of RPA, because of the net benefits of potential productivity, cost savings and better CX (customer experience).

Apart from banking, RPA has practical applications in insurance, healthcare and manufacturing according to a white paper written by Craig Nelson, Alsbridge managing director and now partner at Information Services Group.

“RPA is a disruptive and game-changing technology that presents an opportunity to adapt, change and achieve significant results,” writes Nelson.

Though before embarking implementing RPA, ICT managers need to assess the interests of key stakeholders, their current and desired states of operation, their existing talent pool and senior executive willingness to sponsor the integration of human and virtual labour, according to the paper.

RPA sponsors, Nelson believes, must be prepared to address three questions:

  • How will work processes change?
  • How will skills requirements change?
  • How will the organisation change?

Big data challenge

Snell, on the other hand, links the take-up of RPA to the challenges of data management.

“Getting data into the right place in a usable form is massive and it continues to be a big challenge for a lot of the organisations,” he states.

“Unless you are able to feed that data in those powerful algorithms, you really are not going to get the results that will give you some predictive capabilities.”

For Snell, the most important part of an RPA deployment is change management.

“The technology is not difficult,” he states, but there will always be “people, politics and an appetite for change” that will be involved in the deployment.

Source: cio.co.nz-How accelerating automation is positively disrupting industries

The regulatory automation ecosystem: Reinventing monitoring and testing programmes

KPMG’s Todd Semanco discusses how the leveraging of regulatory technology, digital labour and data analytics is transforming compliance programmes, and why cognitive automation is seen as the future of regulatory infrastructure.

In today’s environment, risk and compliance leaders are increasingly challenged to take on more responsibility though funding levels often do not keep pace. This is prompting many to pursue sustainable means of becoming more efficient while improving quality and broadening capabilities. Two areas rife with opportunity for redesign are monitoring and testing, and leaders are considering how digital labour and automation can transform the function in a variety of ways: broader, deeper and more frequent coverage; enhanced synergy across multiple assurance functions; a more dynamic and robust risk assessment process; and more meaningful and streamlined reporting, including data visualisation.

What should organisations consider when transforming a monitoring and testing programme?

Todd Semanco: In order to maximise the value in such a transformation, it is essential at the outset to confirm an enterprise view of all the various testing activities across the organisation. Not only will this be critical in identifying gaps and redundancies in coverage, but is also required to evaluate and determine an optimal target-state model – whether it be a centralised monitoring and testing function or a decentralised function operating under a common mandate and set of standards. Test scripts and procedures should be analysed to confirm appropriate alignment to regulatory obligations and policies, and such analysis should include the availability and integrity of testing data, as well as documentation of the products, activities and systems covered by the respective testing and monitoring plans. Considering these elements, leaders can develop tangible, prioritised automation road maps focused on addressing gaps and/or shifting execution from human capital to digital labour.

The foundation of monitoring and testing programmes is a robust compliance risk assessment. What are the recent trends in this area?

Todd Semanco: Risk assessment continues to represent an area of heightened attention for many. Among the top focus areas are the breadth and frequency of risk assessments, key variables and drivers considered during the risk assessment process, the qualitative and quantitative mechanics, and, of course, the alignment of risk assessment results to testing and monitoring efforts. Risk assessment is a dynamic exercise in which numerous inputs such as testing results, complaints, hotline calls, investigations, etc, are considered ‘real time’, and testing and monitoring plans are either confirmed or adjusted accordingly. The reality is, given the volume and pace of change of this data, many organisations struggle to surface and apply insights at an appropriate rate. For many, it is becoming clear that enhanced automation, leveraging integrated regulatory technology and digital labour, is a ‘must-have’ to sustainably assess risk in a timely manner.

What role is technology playing in monitoring and testing programmes?

Todd Semanco: Regtech – broader than fintech and not limited to a specific technology – and digital labour are being leveraged to transform programmes end-to-end. From the way organisations monitor and manage global changes, to regulatory obligations and how testing is performed, analysed and reported, all components of managing the function are under review. The demands, from internal and external stakeholders alike, to demonstrate adequate coverage and provide precise impact and root-cause analysis are very high. To meet these demands, leaders are increasingly turning to technology to collect, consolidate and map key data elements together – for example, obligations, policies, risks, controls, process detail – at a granular level. This capability supports not only dynamic regulatory change management activities, but also the oversight of business process and technology changes. Further, by consolidating and integrating monitoring and testing scripts within this technology, forming rules engines, outcomes and impacts may be more immediately assessed and remediated while data is accumulated to support predictive analytics.

With the speed of technology advancement, how are organisations leveraging digital labour?

Todd Semanco: We’re seeing all levels of organisations – from the business to risk, compliance and internal audit partners – intensifying their efforts to further cognitive automation, integrate digital labour and establish an enterprise-wide automation infrastructure. Efforts are typically phased along a continuum – from basic process automation of repeated high-volume transactions to enhanced robotic process automation reliant upon both structured and unstructured data sources, through to cognitive automation. In the monitoring and testing space, digital labour is driving a shift from sample-based testing to the testing of full populations, and resultant outcomes are increasingly available for use in analytics, predictive forecasting and enhanced monitoring and surveillance. Leading organisations are viewing this as an investment opportunity to revamp monitoring and testing capabilities in a sustainable way while operationalising compliance – often while yielding a compelling return on investment and competitive advantage.

Source: risk.net-The regulatory automation ecosystem: Reinventing monitoring and testing programmes

The Significance of Automation for the Future of Work

he development of artificial intelligence (AI) is more significant than any advancement yet: not only can machines do tasks for us, they can make better decisions than we can. What does this mean for the workforce of the future? Will humans be completely replaced by computers and robots? The answer may not be as pessimistic as some suggest. Read on to explore the impact AI can have on the future of work.

Will automation replace today’s workforce?

Researchers at the University of Oxford conducted a study in 2013, proposing that as many as 47% of jobs in the United States could be computerized. Artificial intelligence is what separates today’s automation advancements from those that came before. Self-driving cars are no longer a dream; they’ve already taken shape. We rely on Siri and Google Now to help us with the simplest of tasks. The impending reality of artificial intelligence leaves many of us scared about the future, for ourselves and our children. What will we do with our lives if computers can do everything for us?

It turns out more of us are concerned about this than not: a Pew Research Center survey showed that 65% of Americans believe that within 50 years most of today’s work will be done by computers or robots. Businesses have only added to the impression that automation means replacing humans with computers. Sometimes it’s a matter of cutting costs, other times it has to do with efficiency — businesses have laid off thousands of workers in favor of automation, and will likely continue to do so. Looking into the future, what happens in a society that doesn’t need work? How do people survive without a regular income?

These are serious questions, but they’re also one-sided. They’re based on the assumption that humans will be replaced with computers and robots, and left with nothing (an assumption 65% of us are concerned about). What if we consider a future where automation doesn’t replace, but instead complements human ability?

Automation vs. augmentation

Indeed, there are some who envision this very future. The Harvard Business Review published an article in 2015 explaining the concept, called augmentation. While smarter, advanced computers can analyze big data and reveal insights humans can’t, computer intelligence is only part of the puzzle. Any good business leader knows that all business decisions must be made within a context. The backstory and implications need to be understood — in other words, a narrative or story needs to be told and weighed into the decision-making. Computers aren’t great at this, but humans are.

From this perspective, automation gives humans more opportunities to pursue positions that require high-level — or “big picture” — thinking. Rather than pushing humans out of the workforce, augmentation allows humans to work alongside machines, contributing in ways that computers can’t. These high-level positions are more fulfilling for us than factory work or data-crunching.

Source: EBN – Aaron Continelli – The Significance of Automation for the Future of Work

Robotic process automation: the latest promise to liberate back office

A recent want ad for a job at a professional services companies had this interesting description:

“Robotic Process Automation Analyst: Key responsibilities include: work with business teams to simplify and improve operations by analyzing as-is processes and create end-to-end automation solution designs… Work with process owners/SMEs and technology teams to analyse and assess automation feasibility… Document business requirements, processes and work instructions…. Operate as an advisor or business consultant and recommend process automation improvements. Implement automation within RPA software to deliver against business requirements, software and industry best practices….”

So, we have robot process automation (RPA) and a bunch of new jobs arising around it — what is this oddly named thing?

Never mind the image of humanoid-looking robots sitting at terminals or shuffling paperwork. It’s more about software running behind the scenes. Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ department of management, was recently interviewed by McKinsey on what robot process automation (RPA) is, and what it will mean for administrative and back-office tasks.

Not to worry about RPA taking away jobs — it is meant to elevate roles — and even may be a stress-reduction strategy, Willcocks explains. “The average knowledge worker employed on a back-office process has a lot of repetitive, routine tasks that are dreary and uninteresting,” says Willcocks. “RPA is a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interaction with the customer.”

Recent research from Transparency Market Research estimates that the IT robotic automation market will expand at an annual growth rate of 47% between 2016 and 2024. TMR identified key providers in this market: Blue Prism, Be Informed, Appian, IPSoft, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Atos, Capgemini, Genfour, Genpact, Automation Anywhere, Sutherland Global Services, and UiPath.

Willcocks identified four classes of RPA solutions:

  • “Highly customized software that will work only with certain types of process in, say, accounting and finance.”
  • “Screen scraping or web scraping. A user might be collecting data, synthesizing it, and putting it into some sort of document on a desktop. You automate as much of that as possible.”
  • “Self-development kits where a template is provided and specialist programmers design the robot. That’s usually customized for a specific organization.”
  • “Enterprise/enterprise-safe software that can be scaled and is reusable.”

RPA’s clearest and earliest benefits are within organizations with compliance obligations, such as financial services. Such companies are finding “that automation is a cheap and fast way of applying superior capability to the problem of compliance.” Robo-automating customer service is another piece of low-hanging fruit, as routine issues are addressed on an automated basis, while staff is freed up to deal with higher-level or more complex problems.

Employees respond positively to RPAs, too, Willcocks explains. “People welcomed the technology because they hated the tasks that the machines now do, and it relieved them of the rising pressure of work,” he says. “Every organization we have studied reports that it is dealing with bigger workloads. I think there will be an exponential amount of work to match the exponential increase in data–50 percent more each year. There is also a massive increase in audit regulation and bureaucracy. We need automation just to relieve the stress that creates in organizations.”

So how is RPA different from the other automation pushes that have come through organizations over the past three decades? For example, event processing — which arose in the mid-2000s — also sought to take the manual steps out of administrative processes. Perhaps RPA represents another step in digitizing organizations drowning in paperwork (even if it is virtual). As TMR explains it, the prices of RPA are far more economical than previous generations of process automation solutions. “IT robots (automation software) are programmed to be used with data-driven and rule-based processes, which work towards aspects such as improving productivity and compliance accuracy,”

Not every process can be automated, Willcocks cautions. “It can’t structure the data,” he says. Exception handling is something that is going to take time for RPA to be able to handle automatically.

Implementing RPA requires the same due diligence as any other major IT initiative, Willcocks explains. Get an executive champion to gain organizational support, and pay attention to change management requirements. It may not take away jobs, but it’s going to significantly change many jobs across the enterprise.

Source: ZDNet – Robotic process automation: the latest promise to liberate back office

Making AI and robotics work for your business

The use of robotics and artificial intelligence in businesses is on the rise, but there are still significant challenges for organisations adopting the technologies. Two executives from global IT consulting and outsourcing group Capgemini spoke to IoT Hub about how best to meet these challenges and why the returns make the effort worthwhile.

“The amount of data that’s available now in places like social media and enterprises means it is becoming for efficient for machines to make decisions rather than humans, taking the human bias out of it and making decisions objectively,” said Saugata Ghosh, senior manager of digital services at Capgemini.

This trend, together with the maturity of robotic process automation (RPA) technologies over the last three to five years, has contributed to the growth in adoption of robotics and AI, Ghosh said.

“If you look at the spectrum of robotic automation, at one end you have simple rules-based automation where the economics of those are such that they are quite easy to implement and have strong returns on investment,” he explained.

“At the other end, towards the cognitive and artificial intelligence side, you’re also seeing accelerated maturity, with things such as driverless vehicles making it possible to automate tasks that we wouldn’t have previously thought of automating a few years ago.”

Ghosh is also observing convergence between both ends of the automation spectrum.

“In real life, many processes have an element of both. For example, in the case of email feedback analysis, the interpretation of the body of the email is within the realms of cognitive or pattern recognition, while the processing of the email once it has been analysed could be rules-based,” he said.

Ghosh has noticed a trend in the motivations of deploying RPA technologies from that of cost-saving to improved accuracy and customer experience.

“Initially, everybody was after headcount reduction. Most people are telling us now that their focus is on reducing errors, improving compliance, or improving the customer experience,” he explained.

“We’re certainly seeing maturity in this area and the focus has shifted from the tactical to more strategic and sustainable objectives.”

Hilda Carmichael, director of digital program delivery for digital services at Capgemini, added: “The ambition particularly around more traditional finance, HR and IT functions is to have better business partnering capabilities by eliminating more of those manual tasks, freeing capacity to properly engage with customers instead of being distracted with repeated, administrative tasks.”

How to meet the challenges

Despite the benefits that automation technologies can provide, Ghosh said that there are a number of challenges that businesses face when adopting AI.

“All organisations recognise the potential for RPA to significantly transform their business, but they have questions as to how they get started,” he said.

“These organisations may also have a good sense of what it takes financially to do a pilot or a proof-of-concept, but are aware that just because the entry barrier to adoption is low, they must also prevent uncontrolled proliferation of these technologies across the enterprise.”

“It all comes down to scope,” Carmichael added. “Companies need to pick a candidate set of processes by which they have a span of control that they can deploy initially.”

“Processes that cut across multiple functions within an organisation will require a greater set of engaged stakeholders.

“So start small, start with a number of high-volume, manual, repetitive set of processes that’s within your span of control, and go away and prototype that.”

Carmichael also said that business units should work together to build the business case and realise the potential of RPA.

“It doesn’t matter who leads the charge, whether it’s the business or IT, but there has to be a partnering component to it,” she explained.

“The business needs to determine and help codify the business rules, and IT needs to determine the infrastructure and scalability of the solution.”

Source: iothub.com.au  – Making AI and robotics work for your business

Image Credit: Thinkstock

The Opportunities and Challenges of BPaaS

Forward-thinking organizations are on the hunt: They’re searching for cost savings, strategic capabilities and scale while minimizing capital investment, time to market and risk. Cloud computing, in the form of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, has been a big part of making that happen.

KPMG defines business processes as-a-service (BPaaS) as the combination of technology, people and process requirements of a business function into a fully-managed service, provided in a leveraged environment and measured on the basis of an accepted business outcome.

And now, it’s become a tremendous opportunity. The sweet spots include business units with unique repetitive transaction bases, such as human resources, finance and accounting (think payroll and accounts payable). Spending on BPaaS, in fact, is expected to reach $13.7 billion in 2016, up from $12.95 billion in 2015 (Gartner, Forecast Analysis: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide, 1Q16 Update, May 2016).

There are plenty of benefits to explain the growing popularity of BPaaS, including reducing costs and improving speed to market. According to KPMG Managing Director Randall Wiele, there are several other key benefits to focus on, such as capital avoidance — not just for underlying capabilities, but also the ability to have a constant refresh of the services.

“With traditional outsourced services, we found there was often a stale period where service wasn’t improved all that dramatically,” he says. “By sharing scale with other clients and by being responsible for the process and the technology, the service provider can constantly refresh the solution and achieve best practices.”

In addition, with BPaaS the business no longer needs to be the expert on all regulatory changes, he adds. Generally, the business can also take advantage of more secure usage that is also elastic, and pricing, which is resource-based and pay-as-you-use.

BPaaS Challenges Bring Lessons

The clear benefits and opportunities of BPaaS don’t mean there are not challenges and lessons organizations have learned as they move through the journey of implementing these cloud options. Wiele offers three important tips for organizations to make the move towards implementing BPaaS as smooth as possible:

1. Don’t rush the setup.

More work on the front end can solve a lot of problems that could occur down the road, says Wiele. Deals that are rushed into just to save costs, for instance, don’t last very long and are seldom satisfactory. “It’s important to take the time to define the solution and understand the existing environment, but also to prepare for the new environment with a transition and transformation program to achieve a positive result,” he explains.

2. Let the provider be the expert.

If you simply want a new service that does the processes and activities in the same way they are currently performed, you won’t achieve the maximum value from BPaaS, warns Wiele. “There is a reason the provider created the offering and has brought it to a best practice standpoint,” he says. “It’s important to allow the provider to move you through the redesign you need and make the necessary changes to achieve the benefits and the value.”

3. Live within the new structure, not the old ways.

There are many people involved in various business processes, so typically a lot of change is required when moving to BPaaS, says Wiele: “You need to live within the new structure that’s established, not try to make it what it was before.” In-house resources will no longer be managing the process, but will be managing relationships with the service provider, which is a very different skillset. “If the parties aren’t working well together and don’t understand their new roles, we find there can be a lot of conflict, which diminishes value from the overall solution,” he explains.

CIOs Need to Lean In for BPaaS Success

Opportunities to implement BPaaS may come from within the IT organization through the CIO, or through the business. Either way, it’s important to support the initiative — Wiele emphasizes that CIOs need to lean in and respond to the business:

“A joint approach is very important, because it generally takes equal amounts of effort from IT and the business to come together to make BPaaS work effectively,” he says.

The CIO also needs to take time to integrate BPaaS within what is most likely a large and growing suite of products and services in the IT portfolio — IT needs to provide the integration and orchestration required to make it work. Finally, the IT organization itself will change as key elements are outsourced, with the CIO overseeing organizational redesign and change management.

“BPaaS affects IT as with any kind of outsourcing,” he explains. “It never eliminates overall responsibilities, and IT will continue to provide the integrated environment and controls, and the organization needs to be prepared for the changes.”

Growing Intersection Between BPaaS and Robotics

The growing demand for BPaaS is aligned with the growth in the global market for RPA (robotics process automation), which is expected to reach $8.75 billion by 2024, according to a new report by Grand View Research. As with other digital disruptors, RPA — including advanced software automation and digital labor — is driving a new generation of BPaaS offerings that provide a virtual workforce, says Wiele.

“Robotics and digital labor are already a key component of next generation BPaaS engagements that employ various cognitive tools, and RPA is rapidly changing and enhancing BPaaS capabilities,” he says. Wiele points out that RPA-enabled BPaaS moves business services from a shared scale and large-scale labor reduction to labor elimination with accompanying significant reductions in cost.

“It’s really a game-changer,” he says, cautioning that contracts need to reflect this new reality: “From a contracting perspective, certainly in any current or next-generation BPaaS engagement, we need to make sure that the savings achieved through the addition of RPA to the BPaaS shows up in the contracting and is shared among all the users,” he says.

Source: cio.com – The Opportunities and Challenges of BPaaS

The Rise of the Robots.

The Rise of the Robots

As we have seen in the news this week robotics and AI are quickly becoming a real thing in both business and the home. In the next few years we will see more and more of this type of technology taking on more and more of the administrative type roles in businesses around the world. In this blog, I share my thoughts on this trend and some of my very own personal experiences…

Rise of the Robots.

I am strong believer that we can predict B2B technology trends by looking at what happened in the B2C world 12 to 24 months earlier. In my experience, business technology trends usually follow those that happen in the home a couple of years later.

If you look at some of this year’s B2C trends, I think that 2016 will be remembered as the kick starter year for AI in the home. £50 devices like the Amazon Echo are transforming our homes into a fully connected internet of things. These new devices allow us to get accurate information easily and automate complex tasks with simple commands.

I recently bought a £50 Amazon Echo, Alexa (Note to my wife: purely for research purposes, honest!) and taught it that when I say “Good Night”. It turns off my TV, sets the home alarm, turns the down stairs’ lights off, sets the thermostat to 19c, turns the bedroom lights on, looks in calendar for the next day and sets my wake up alarm accordingly. In the morning when the alarm goes off, Alexa can tell me the traffic to work, the day’s weather, turns on my kitchen lights and coffee machine!

Power vs. Simplicity.

There is no doubt that these devices are amazing and are impressive when you use them, however they are not clever enough to do all of the above on their own. The key to these devices are their ability to connect to the cloud to get information. But what it does really well is allow third party products to connect and work with it.

For example – and this shows just how clever these devices are; after only a few days my wife and I started to treat Alexa like a real person – if I ask Alexa to play a certain song, it makes a request to Spotify.

Spotify then decodes this request and finds the right song for me. If I say “Good Night” to Alexa and the lights go out – that is your smart bulb manufacturer communicating to Alexa via the API – and this is the Key. Amazon have done an amazing job of harnessing the power of the cloud but also creating a way that other providers can interface their products with it.

Speed of light.

For me this means that robotics and Artificial Intelligence will only be as good as the integration methods that it ships with them.

If HCM technology companies want to keep pace, we all need to make sure we are easy to integrate with to be able to get the support for the services we think are the future. Going back to Alexa, the makers of smart devices’ are falling over themselves to support it as they see it being a key to getting people bought into their systems. When that Robotic game changer hits businesses, we all need to be ready.

Source: sdworx.co.uk – The Rise of the Robots.