Automation is already being utilised by businesses in a wide range of industries, helping streamline processes and increase efficiency. Intelligent automation takes this concept a step further by combining robotic process automation (RPA) with artificial intelligence (AI) to synthesise vast amounts of data and enable automation across entire workflows.
Priyanka Tailor, Senior Manager of Intelligent Automation at EY, breaks down why intelligent automation is the way of the future. “Intelligent automation allows software to interpret data from images and enables algorithms to learn as new patterns emerge. It’s the full range of tools available to organisations applied to enable computers to do work with people providing support.”
We take a look at what’s next for intelligent automation and how businesses can prepare for the future.
Making the leap to intelligent automation
Businesses that recognise the need to change processes now and embrace intelligent automation will be in good stead for future success.
“The future belongs to the organisations that are strategically focused on intelligent operations, encouraging their workforce to reskill and adopt ways to embrace or co-exist harmoniously with the bots,” says Tara Shah, Practice Director of Intelligent Automation at BTP Australia.
She believes that “the principles for companies to operate by to embrace intelligent automation are quite simple and not very different to the ones that the best enterprises have exhibited over decades. These are:
- Staying relevant to the customers/end users.
- Doing things efficiently.
- Encouraging continuous learning.
- Constantly pursuing the aim of providing frictionless experience to all stakeholders (employees, end-users, partners or suppliers).
These values will automatically drive the companies to not just embrace but also advocate intelligent automation to the industry at large.”
Mark Channing, Head of Automation at Optus, says it’s important to start small in your transformation process. “Organisations must have the ability to move quickly as new technology develops and remain agile by starting with smaller intelligent automation opportunities,” he says.
“Intelligent automation integrations have shown time and time again that it’s usually the smaller ones that succeed. The ones that are driven and ideated by employees in an agile way, that over time can be scaled up to deliver the biggest benefits for an organisation.”
“Automating is becoming easier and easier, but automating the right processes is key to driving the intended business benefits,” says Tailor. She says that to successfully adopt intelligent automation, organisations must focus on their people first.
“The employees will be the ones to drive, adapt and embrace change in order for organisations to identify the right processes to automate as well as implement them successfully. Embodying values such as collaboration, integrity, community, respect and innovation will drive a culture focused on people rather than processes.”
Will automation take our jobs?
The automation uprising begs the question: will AI take jobs that employees would normally be doing? The Jobs lost, jobs gained study by McKinsey found that less than 5% of jobs consist of tasks that, theoretically, could be fully automated.
“As past industrial revolutions have proved, AI and automation will result in the existing staff having additional capacity that can be better leveraged for customer-facing and quality functions,” says Shah. “Though the revolutions have always created fear and uncertainty in the beginning, these have also created a brighter future for us in terms of transformation, helping build a robust and digital economy.”
Shah also believes there may be “short-to-medium term impact on some jobs in a few sectors, but there should be an uptick in the number of overall jobs and employment market in the long term.”
Channing shares the impacts of AI integration on jobs at Optus. “We have found that while there have been some small impacts on individual roles across our organisations, the use of intelligent automation technologies has been primarily focused on supporting our frontline teams to improve roles rather than taking them away.”
In other words, automation may see jobs shift, but not disappear. The intent of intelligent automation is to help roles become more streamlined and efficient, not to make them obsolete.
The future of intelligent automation
So, where is intelligent automation going? Many predictions have been made as to the ways in which it will continue to evolve and improve workflows. When looking at the future, there are many factors that will contribute to the growth and implementation of Intelligent Automation.
“With the speed at which technology is evolving, one can only say something sensible for a five to ten-year horizon,” says Shah. “In that time, we can expect to see significant efforts in the application and adoption of intelligent automation across industries and geographies.
“Further, intelligent automation along with the technological advancements in other areas such as quantum computing, nanotechnology etc. should bring about significant benefits to the humankind at large. This will be especially evident in the areas of healthcare, environmental city-planning and education for underprivileged and underserved populations across the world.”
Channing talks about how the future will continue to facilitate growth. “AI and intelligent automation technologies are ultimately an enabler, so it’s about using that suite of technologies to solve current problems and develop new solutions to emerging opportunities.”
“The future of intelligent automation will continue to grow, disrupting how we currently deliver our work and improving our productivity. Most important though, it will free up our human spirit and ingenuity through the speed and precision offered via intelligent automated solutions.”
Of course, these changes can only happen with the help of the right people. Tailor talks about who and what she is looking at for the future. “A person doesn’t need to be a data scientist to enable intelligent automation,” she says.
“The kind of person I would be looking to help me on this journey is the kind of person who tinkers around with technology in their spare time. They’re passionate about applying technology to solve problems, adaptive, creative and innovative. Most importantly, they are resilient – getting it right the first time is unlikely to happen and we need to be prepared to move fast and iterate. The world is changing fast.”
Interesting in learning more? Find out how Australia’s top companies are preparing for the future of work.