Ever since the advent of industrialisation we’ve been fearful that machines are about to put us out of work. In South Africa, in the face of increasing, widespread unemployment, it’s a particularly acute concern. Won’t digital automation just take over jobs that could go to people?
The evidence – and our experience – suggests otherwise. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2019 finds that “although technology may be replacing workers in some jobs, overall it raises the demand for labor.”
What is changing is the nature of human work. The same report found that “Since 2001, the share of employment in occupations heavy in nonroutine cognitive and sociobehavioral skills has increased from 19 to 23 percent in emerging economies and from 33 to 41 percent in advanced economies.”
Automation frees human employees to pursue more rewarding, value-adding labour. For example, in our work with large financial institutions and telcos we saw the same issue arising: highly paid software engineers were beginning their days with a manual check on server functions. It’s critical work, but not exactly demanding. It took up their time and frustrated them. It’s also exactly the sort of task that can be effectively automated. Automation frees humans to do what they do best: to think, creatively and intelligently, and add value – while automating the rote, repetitive, error-prone aspects of their jobs.
The other argument for automation preserving, not threatening jobs, is that in this economic climate sustainability of businesses is a very real issue. Automation is a cost-saver and revenue enhancer, and that means more robust organisations and more sustainable employers. If we are able to automate some back office functions for a retailer being squeezed by the pressures of COVID-19, we can allow them to reallocate those resources and prevent layoffs. What we typically see is that employees affected by automation are upskilled to perform higher-value-adding tasks, thereby progressing them along their career path.
Companies are under pressure to stay competitive. In response to market drivers such as cost and risk reduction, governance and compliance, and employee and customer satisfaction, automation is a compelling solution. That’s why 42% of CEOs have begun digital business transformation1, and 49% of firms are aiming to implement automation within the following 12 months.2
At iOCO, human-centred design is key to how we think about automation and what we prioritise.
It’s a philosophy that sees us focus first on the business pain points to identify the underlying problem, and then find the best technology to solve them.
We view automation as an iterative, scalable process that begins with an in-depth review and analysis of business operations and their suitability for automation as well as the impact on company cost and revenue. From there we collaborate with functional and industry leaders within your organisation to provide a fully end-to-end process view and enterprise digital transformation, while assisting with change and talent management throughout the RPA Journey.
Ultimately, we help you manage a prioritised, comprehensive portfolio of automation across platforms to deliver tangible results. Which means that a digital workforce, alongside happier, more productive humans, might just be the future of your business.
Christiaan Kriel, iOCO Cluster Executive: Automation & CRM
1 Gartner, The CEO Survey
2 Forrester, The New Frontier Of Automation: Enterprise RPA