Clear goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

“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 RPAintelligent 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.

R.G. ConleeCIO, Conduent

“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 revolutionremain. 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: goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

Robotic process automation makes nearshore outsourcing more attractive

The traditional benefits of IT outsourcing to nearshore locations have included geographic proximity, time zone alignment, cultural affinity and shared language. The one area these adjacent providers have not been able to compete with their offshore counterparts on has been price.

But that could change as robotic process automation (RPA) takes hold. The automation itself will begin to chip away at the offshore competitive advantage of labor arbitrage. But more importantly, argues Marcos Jimenez, CEO of Softtek North America, it will highlight areas in which nearshore providers excel: proximity, agility, and flexibility. A nearly 20-year veteran of the Mexico-headquartered company, Jimenez has doubled the profitability of Softtek’s U.S. and Canadian business since taking it over in 2011. talked to Jimenez about the potential impact of RPA on the global IT and business process outsourcing market, new demands from customers for outcome-based engagements, the role of digital labor management in the future of IT services, and best practices for RPA success. Traditionally, what have been the key criteria for customers choosing between offshore and nearshore models?

Marcos Jimenez, CEO, Softtek North America: One traditional advantage of nearshore has been flexibility in accommodating requests outside the specific parameters of contractual obligations and statements of work. Let’s say, for example, that a customer asks a member of an application development coding team to collaborate in real time to meet a deadline. It’s typically easier for a nearshore provider to accommodate that request because we are working concurrently with clients and matching their work schedule—including the same holidays. Under the offshore model, meanwhile, the most experienced people work on different time schedules, since senior people in countries like India typically don’t want to work night shifts.

So, when a U.S.-based client has an urgent request they need to either rely on a less experienced person or they need to wait. So under the offshore model, it’s more difficult to go outside the lines of defined roles and processes. And that’s a problem as today’s fast-paced digital world demands agility.

There’s also the obvious geographic advantage of proximity. For U.S.-based customers who have to regularly visit service provider operations, traveling to Mexico vs. Mumbai becomes a lot more convenient and productive.

In terms of staffing, the dramatic growth of offshoring has over the years contributed to high turnover rates, as staff constantly seek new opportunities. Nearshore providers tend to have lower turnover and more stability.

All of that said, by virtue of their ability to effectively leverage labor arbitrage, offshoring has clearly had the advantage when it comes to price. In that arena, the nearshore model has historically not been able to compete. And, of course, for many customers in many situations, price is the key factor in making a sourcing decision. How have you seen that dynamic begin to shift?

Jimenez: At Softtek, we’ve been able to leverage RPA and other types of automation to shrink the traditional price gap between offshore and nearshore.

In the last year, we’re also seeing more interest in nearshore based on our managed services offerings, with fixed price annual cost rather than just labor arbitrage and rate per full time equivalent (FTE). Our clients are asking us for year-over-year annual cost or efficiency improvements with a strong focus on automation. Can you share an example of what might have tipped the scales in favor of the nearshore approach for one of your customers?

Jimenez: Many of our customers are looking to agile development methodologies to drive innovation quickly and in a cost-effective manner. Agile requires close collaboration between different teams. So you can have a U.S.-based team at a client site working with remote teams in Monterrey and Latin America, which makes collaboration easier. If the teams are in the U.S., India and Europe, that works well for the “follow the sun” model where you have teams handing off development work at the end of each day, but it tends to be less effective for agile.

One specific example is a major U.S. airline customer of ours. After working for more than 10 years with large Indian providers, this customer consolidated all of their application services with Softtek. The airline had more than 500 FTEs in a labor arbitrage model and faced significant challenges accelerating response time and innovation. In addition to offering a competitive price, Softtek transformed the application management model from labor arbitrage to SLA-based, digitized governance, and lean sigma to drive innovation and continuous improvement. It’s clear how automation could erode the labor cost advantage of offshore providers. But how about the role of IT service provider in helping customers implement RPA internally?

Jimenez: The provider’s role is to work with the customer to assess the automation opportunity, define the processes and functions that will be automated, and implement the automation software. The actual software can be either a third party’s, such as Blue Prism or IPsoft, or a home-grown solution. The provider also typically oversees the transition and change process and then manages the new environment on an ongoing basis.

The extent of the provider’s involvement can vary depending on the situation. In some cases, the tool developer will be directly involved in the implementation, while in others the tool will be licensed to the service provider. Indeed, as the market matures, the major automation tool providers are figuring out how they want to position themselves in terms of doing implementation work vs. simply licensing. That will certainly play a role in the competitive landscape going forward. What threats and opportunities does RPA pose for offshore and nearshore providers?

Jimenez: At a high level the threats and opportunities are the same for offshore and nearshore providers. The basic threat is that RPA undermines established models of service delivery, while the basic opportunity lies in delivering more value to customers more efficiently.

For large offshore providers, the most pressing immediate threat is the cannibalization of their labor arbitrage-based BPO businesses. This threat will continue to extend to their IT services business. There’s also the issue of how to redefine their business models. There are lots of headlines about the large India heritage providers scaling back on hiring and how, rather than adding 10,000 new people, they are looking at cutting staff or redeploying large numbers of staff.

There is a big opportunity here for second tier traditional offshore providers—as well as for nearshore players—to challenge the tier one with a more advanced portfolio of services that relies significantly on automation.

Source: ITworld-Robotic process automation makes nearshore outsourcing more attractive

Rise of the robots: What advances mean for workers

Emitting a gentle whirring noise, it travels across the warehouse floor while two arms raise or lower themselves on scissor lifts, ready for the next task.

Each arm has a camera on its knuckle. The left one eases a cardboard box forward on the shelf, the right reaches in and extracts a bottle.

Like many new robots, it’s from Japan. Hitachi showcased it in 2015 and hopes to be selling it by 2020.

Find out more

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy highlights the inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world we live in.

It is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can find more information about the programme’s sources and listen online or subscribe to the programme podcast.

It’s not the only robot that can pick a bottle off a shelf – but it’s as close as robots have yet come to performing this seemingly simple task as speedily and dextrously as a good old-fashioned human.

One day, robots like this might replace warehouse workers altogether.

For now, humans and machines run warehouses together.

In Amazon depots, Kiva robots scurry around, not picking things off shelves, but carrying the shelves to humans for them to select things.

In this way, Kiva robots can improve efficiency up to fourfold.

Robots and humans work side-by-side in factories, too.

Factories have had robots since 1961, when General Motors installed the first Unimate, a one-armed automaton that was used for tasks like welding.

But until recently, robots were strictly segregated from human workers – partly to protect the humans, and partly to stop them confusing the robots, whose working conditions had to be strictly controlled.

With some new robots, that’s no longer necessary.

Take Rethink Robotics’ Baxter.

‘Reshoring’ trend

Baxter can generally avoid bumping into humans, or falling over if humans bump into it. Cartoon eyes indicate to human co-workers where it’s about to move.

Historically, industrial robots needed specialist programming, but Baxter can learn new tasks from its co-workers.

The world’s robot population is expanding quickly – sales of industrial robots are growing by around 13 per cent a year, meaning the robot “birth rate” is almost doubling every five years.

There has long been a trend to “offshore” manufacturing to cheaper workers in emerging markets. Now, robots are part of the “reshoring” trend that is returning production to established centres.

They do more and more things – they’re lettuce-pickers, bartenders, hospital porters.

But they’re still not doing as much as we’d once expected.

In 1962 – a year after the Unimate was introduced – the American cartoon The Jetsons imagined Rosie, a robot maid doing all the household chores. That prospect still seems remote.

The progress that has happened is partly thanks to improved robot hardware, including better and cheaper sensors – essentially improving a robot’s eyes, the touch of its fingertips, and its balance.

But it’s also about software: robots are getting better brains.

And it’s about time, too. Machine thinking is another area where initial high expectations encountered early disappointments.

Attempts to invent artificial intelligence are generally dated to 1956, and a summer workshop at Dartmouth College for scientists with a pioneering interest in “machines that use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves”.

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Just google it: The student project that changed the world

Then, machines with human-like intelligence were thought to be about 20 years away.

Now, they’re thought to be… about 20 years away.

The futurist philosopher Nick Bostrom has a cynical take on this.

Self-improvement = superintelligence?

Twenty years is “a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change”, he writes. Nearer, and you would expect to be seeing prototypes by now. Further away is not so attention-grabbing.

It’s only in the last few years that progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has really started to accelerate.

Specifically, in what’s known as narrow AI – algorithms that can do one thing very well, like playing Go, or filtering email spam, or recognising faces in your Facebook photos.

Processors have become faster, data sets bigger, and programmers better at writing algorithms that can learn how to improve themselves.

That capacity for self-improvement worries some thinkers like Bostrom. What will happen if and when we create artificial general intelligence – a system which could apply itself to any problem, as humans can?

Will it rapidly turn itself into a superintelligence? How would we keep it under control?

That’s not an imminent concern, at least. Human-level artificial general intelligence is still about, ooh, 20 years away.

But narrow AI is already transforming the economy.

For years, algorithms have been taking over white-collar drudgery in areas like book-keeping and customer service. And more prestigious jobs are far from safe.

IBM’s Watson, which hit the headlines for beating human champions at the game show Jeopardy!, is already better than doctors at diagnosing lung cancer.

Software is getting to be as good as experienced lawyers at predicting what lines of argument are most likely to win a case.

‘Secular stagnation’

Robo-advisers dispense investment advice.

Algorithms routinely churn out news reports on the financial markets and sports – although, luckily for me, it seems they can’t yet write feature articles about technology and economics.

Some economists reckon robots and AI explain a curious economic trend.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue there’s been a “great decoupling” between jobs and productivity – how efficiently an economy takes inputs, like people and capital, and turns them into useful stuff.

Historically, better productivity meant more jobs and higher wages.

But Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that’s no longer the case in the United States. Since the turn of the century, US productivity has been improving, but jobs and wages haven’t kept pace.

Some economists worry that we’re experiencing “secular stagnation” – where there’s not enough demand to spur economies into growing, even with interest rates at or below zero.

Technology destroying jobs is nothing new – it’s why, 200 years ago, the Luddites went around destroying technology.

“Luddite” has become a term of mockery because technology has always, eventually, created new jobs to replace the ones it destroyed. Better jobs. Or at least, different jobs.

What happens this time remains debatable. It’s possible that some of the jobs humans will be left doing will actually be worse.

That’s because technology seems to be making more progress at thinking than doing: robots’ brains are improving faster than their bodies.

Martin Ford, author of Rise Of The Robots, points out that robots can land aeroplanes and trade shares on Wall Street, but still can’t clean toilets.

So perhaps, for a glimpse of the future, we should look not to Rosie the Robot but to another device now being used in warehouses: the Jennifer Unit.

It’s a computerised headset that tells human workers what to do, down to the smallest detail.

If you have to pick 19 identical items from a shelf, it’ll tell you to pick five, then five, then five, then four. That leads to fewer errors than saying “pick 19”.

If robots beat humans at thinking, but humans beat robots at picking things off shelves, why not control a human body with a robot brain?

It may not be a fulfilling career choice, but you can’t deny the logic.

Source: BBC-Rise of the robots: What advances mean for workers

Automation will destroy, then save outsourcing

For those of you who made our New York Digital OneOffice Summit a couple of weeks ago, we had a rumbustious mix of seasoned outsourcing buyers, service provider leaders, advisors and robo vendors under one roof to cogitate, discuss and argue where the hell the industry known as outsourcing and operations is truly heading. Let’s just lay down what the hell is really happening in the only unvarnished way we know how…

There is a fast realization that the outsourcing industry has reached a phase of almost insufferable tension. Why?

Several of the RPA solutions vendors are painting an over-glamorous picture of dramatic cost savings and ROI. RPA software firms are claiming – and demonstrating – some client cases where ~40% of cost (or more, in some cases) is being taken off the bottom line. While some of these cases are genuine, there are many RPA pilots and early-phase implementations in the industry that have been left stranded because clients just couldn’t figure out the ROI and how to implement this stuff. This isn’t simply a case of buying software and looping broken processes together to remove manual efforts… this requires real buy-in from IT and operations leaders to invest in the technical, organizational change management, and process transformation skills.

Buyers are backed into a corner with broken delusions of automation grandeur as their CoEs fail. Buyer leaderships are being fed all this rosy information and are under incredible pressure to devise and execute an RPA strategy, with some sort of set of metrics, that they can demonstrate to their operations leadership. Many are quickly discovering they simply do not have the skills inhouse to set up automation centers of excellence and are frantically turning to third parties to help get them on the right track.

Outsourcing consultants are selling RPA before they can really deliver it. Sourcing advisors are claiming they are now “RPA experts” who can make this happen, while struggling to scale up talent bases that can understand the technology and deal with the considerable change management tensions within their clients. RPA is murky and complex, and not something you can train 28-year-old MBAs to master overnight. Meanwhile, we are seeing some advisors simply do some brokering of RPA software deals for small fees, only to make a hasty exit from the client as they do not have the expertise to roll-out effective implementation and change management programs.

RPA specialist consultants few and far between. Pure-play RPA advisors are explaining this is not quite so easy and requires a lot more of a centralized, concise strategy. There are simply not enough of these firms in the market, especially with Genfour having been snapped up recently by Accenture. With only a small handful of boutique specialists to go around, these firms can pick and choose their clients and command high rates.

Service providers will set the pace, but many will destroy each other in the process. Service providers are claiming they can implement whatever RPA clients need, but are not willing to do it at the expense of reducing their current revenues. Meanwhile, smart service providers are aggressively implementing RPA into their own operations to drive down their delivery costs and reduce their own headcount. So we can expect to see providers aggressively attacking competitive clients with automation-led solutions that should create unbearable pricing pressures for service providers looking to retain the talent they need to implement this stuff. Hence, services providers will be hell bent on destroying each other and the winners will be those who eventually succeed in winning more work than they lose amidst all the destruction. This is a war of many battles being fought – and the winners will be those who are in this for the long haul, who can absorb some short-term losses to pick up the larger spoils further down the road when they have a fully equipped intelligent automation delivery capability that can deliver highly-competitive and profitable As-a-Service offerings.

The good news is that half of today’s buyers want to turn to service providers to make this work

When we privately polled 60 senior outsourcing buyers, at the recent HfS New York Summit, on what would improve the quality and outcomes of their current services relationships, the answer was pretty conclusive – half want to work with their providers to rollout their automation and cognitive roadmaps, while only a third think they should pull back work in-house to figure this stuff out for themselves:

The Bottom-line: The automation gauntlet is now in full effect and the casualties will mount up as the outsourcing industry plays out its most perilous battle for survival yet. But all is not lost if we eye a longer-term prize…

So we’ve reached crunch time. Whichever way we look at it, RPA has created a lethal environment, which was only just coming to terms with providers and buyers working together to get the basics of delivery right. Most outsourcing buyers have to look to automation to save their jobs and please their ambitious leaders, no longer content with the ~30% they saved on offshore-centric outsourcing just a few short years ago (see our recent State of Outsourcing and Operations data on 454 major buyers).

So, in the meantime, for all the reasons outlined above, this industry will literally go into a destructive war over automation. The skills to make automation a massively profitable reality are few and far between, while greedy corporate leaders demand cost savings that simply are not achievable if their organizations fail to make the necessary investments and partnerships to make this achievable. Did companies become amazing at HR overnight because they bought an expensive Workday subscription? Or amazing at sales and marketing because they slammed in a Salesforce suite? So why should they become amazing at cost-driven automation simply because they went and bought some licenses from an RPA vendor promising bot farms and virtual labor forces?

RPA and Intelligent Automation has sparked a major war in the worlds of outsourcing and operations, where many battles are being fought – and the winners will be those who are in this for the long haul, who can absorb some short-term pain in order to benefit from the larger spoils further down the road. While automation is killing outsourcing today – costing many people their jobs, their reputations and destroying the profitability of legacy engagements, those who can hunker down, focus on self-contained projects where they can fix one broken process at a time, can get stakeholders onside by demonstrating meaningful, impactful outcomes without major resource investments, will be the winners. Start with one process at a time, prove how to fix in, then onto the next, then the next… that is the only true way to be successful in this destructive automation-infested world.

Source: will destroy, then save outsourcing

Focus On LISA, the World’s First Impartial Robot Lawyer

LISA, the World’s First Impartial Robot Lawyer

Sourcingfocus speaks with Chrissie Lightfoot, one of the World’s Top Female Futurists as well as CEO and founder of EntrepreneurLawyer Ltd and the visionary creator of Robot Lawyer LISA – the world’s first impartial AI lawyer.

We started by discussing Legal Intelligent Support Assistant (LISA) and how she/it can help customers and the legal industry. “LISA is the first impartial AI lawyer that provides guidance and support on a collaboration between two clients, negating the use of human lawyers on both sides. Traditional human lawyers are quite adversarial on non-contentious issues, take for example basic NDA where you would need two lawyers, one for each party. What tends to happen is time and cost increases as lawyers can become involved in game playing to get to a middle ground where both sides are happy. By using LISA, clients remove the time and cost of drafting an NDA, bringing new clients to the service and helping existing ones.”

“Obviously, this is a disruptive technology as it replaces the human lawyer entirely, not once but twice, but this can be hugely beneficial for firms and end customers who have an idea and want to make sure that it is protected going forward. There is a massive latent legal market in the UK that has never been serviced by legal firms, a whopping 54% of SME’s in the UK, in the US it’s 80% and in Canada it is as high as 90%.” As the way we work changes and businesses see an ever diminishing life cycle, LISA will become crucial to the entrepreneurs who want to get down to business.

In the UK, a third of customers have never had the benefit of quality legal support or guidance from seeing a human lawyer because of time, availability and cost. LISA is a huge boon for those customers. “LISA is there to help the incubators, start-ups, growth companies and serial entrepreneurs be more successful by reducing the investment of time and money that many new businesses could never afford.” Like financial technologies that brought banking to those who have never been in the financial system, LISA acts as an enabler bringing new clients into the system. “We are not trying to replace the work of lawyers but allow them the opportunity to focus on the important areas which are more complex.”

LISA frees up highly skilled lawyer so they can focus on the complex things that clients want them for, you don’t get a heart surgeon to stich up a cut because you need them doing what they are best at. “We are not seen as competition as lawyers appreciate LISA doing this process so they can better use their time and efforts.”

LISA herself is a cloud based platform serviced through a URL accessible through a PC or Tablet or Mobile Device which both parties access creating a document that can be signed off and is ready to execute. The way LISA works involves a human lawyer who passed their experience into an AI platform, so you can have the knowledge and experience of that human lawyer (in this case with 25 years of experience) behind a quick and efficient system allowing the two parties to create a document in real time, they can get through building the NDA in 15 minutes.

“The official launch was on the 6th of April but since the soft launch in November 2016 we have had over 1000 uses of the NDA across the world including Europe, Asia, the United States and South America.” LISA is built around English law and English jurisdiction and therefore countries and companies are using it worldwide as English law is revered.

“I’ve set out on this with a real crusade, being an entrepreneur I was always frustrated about the cost and time involved with human lawyers and the lack of communication with the other side, so I thought that there must be another better way. A lot of good human lawyers can be frustrated by the ego or arrogance of another lawyer who wants to fight over a small point that costs the client time and money and the deal isn’t getting done. If you provide the client the knowledge, as they are taking the risk they can choose how to proceed and what decision they want to make. Most business people are down to earth and want to get past the legal and down to business. We are trying to take the adversarial out of everyday legal negotiations between two parties.”

“Any sector has a lot of curiosity about AI and Robotics because there is so much media surrounding it, people want to know what is its usefulness and what is the business and what would be the return on investment. Instead of being enamoured by robots and software and the terminology, focus on the problem you want solving and can you use the technology to solve the crucial problems.” In time, the legal market will come to embrace the use of AI and automation as we learn to trust these systems, it’s already happened in so many markets so it must only be a matter of time before the legal market is the same.

Source: On LISA, the World’s First Impartial Robot Lawyer


Robotics, AI And Cognitive Computing Are Changing Organizations Even Faster Than We Thought

The world of AI, robotics and cognitive computing are changing business even faster than we thought.  JPMorgan Chase & Co now uses software to perform the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial loans, reducing 360,000 hours of lawyer time each year.  AI software can now identify leukemia in photos and X-rays, learning faster than technicians. reduced new hire training to only two days because of its newest robotics used in shipping. And the stories go on and on.

Is this real and widespread around the world?  The answer is yes, and the pace is quickening.

Our just-released research (Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2017) shows that companies are not waiting for such technology to be perfected: they are implementing it now. Thirty-eight percent of companies in our new research (10,400 respondents from 140 countries) believe that robotics and automation will be “fully implemented” in their company within five years , and 48% of these companies say their projects are going “excellent or very well.”

Will this technology create massive unemployment? Are we entering a “jobless” economy where only software engineers and designers have jobs?

Our research says no. Among the companies we surveyed, 77% believe automation results in “better jobs,” 50% are investing in retraining workers to work side-by-side with machines and 33% expect people to do “more human tasks” augmented by robotics and AI. In fact only 20% of businesses believe automation will result in job loss.

As Automation Increases, Organizational Redesign Becomes The #1 Issue

It’s clear that the way we work has changed, yet or organizations have not yet caught up.  Business productivity remains low, employee engagement is flat (Bersin by Deloitte research with Glassdoor), and workers feel more overwhelmed and over-worked than ever. In fact, research by Project: PTO shows that US workers took almost a week less vacation in 2015 than they did in 1998.

What’s really going on? In a simple phrase our organizations have become a “network of teams,” and they no longer function well in the functional hierarchy of the past. The concept of a formal “job” with a job description is starting to go away. We now hire people to do “work;” we source them for skills and capabilities (not necessarily credentials); and we manage people around projects, customers, and products, not “roles.”

ING Bank, a pioneer in the implementation of automation and organizational redesign, just eliminated several layers of management and is now creating agile teams in every part of the organization. GE, Cisco, IBM and Deloitte are doing the same.

When we asked companies to prioritize their talent challenges, the #1 issue was “building the organization of the future,” which 88% of companies cited important and 59% rated urgent. Are companies ready?  The answer is no. Only 11% of these companies told us they understand how to make this happen.

As one analyst put it, “ Organizations that are designed for success in the 20th century are doomed for failure in the 21st. ” A good rule for us all to remember.

How do we redesign the organization to deal with increased automation at work? How do we empower teams to be agile, purposeful and engaging? And how do we change the workplace so people can be more productive, energetic, and focused?

While the answers to these questions are complex, I believe we have unlocked many of the secrets. The just-released report, Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2017, titled “Rewriting the rules for the digital age,” describes the top ten issues, and gives a set of “new rules” for each.

(This study included a detailed survey with more than 10,400 respondents from 140 countries and dozens of detailed interviews with business and HR leaders around the world.)

Source:, AI And Cognitive Computing Are Changing Organizations Even Faster Than We Thought

Image credit: Shutterstock

Outsource repetitive tasks to robots

Humans can focus on more intelligent tasks and decision making by outsourcing the repetitive tasks to robots, said Khurram Siddiqui, Mena Leader for Advance Process Assurance and Data Analytics (APADA), Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS), EY

Robots, are software tools that have emerged to simplify business process delivery. The technology behind this development is called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). These software robots offer improved business efficiency, data security and effectiveness by mimicking human actions and automating repetitive tasks across multiple business applications without altering existing infrastructure and systems. Enhanced productivity, reduced cycle time, and improved accuracy and compliance are some of the benefits of this technology.


“We believe RPA is the next step, with the potential to significantly reduce the requirement for employees to perform rule-based high-volume activities. Embedding RPA in leveraging automation across various processes does not replace the value brought by human beings. In fact, the combination of bots and humans makes the most efficient and effective business environment,” said Siddiqui.

EY was promoting its new Finance Data Analytics product at 10th CFO Strategies Forum Mena organised by Naseba.

The tool offers a 360 view of not only finance, but also the operational trends and developments that constitute a crucial input to strategic decision making. It produces comparative analysis and detailed evaluation using information from peer companies, budgets and prior years using EY Market Intelligence Database.

Finance functions are under significant pressure across all industries but more specifically in the financial services sector. Some of the major challenges are: to shrink costs and support decreasing margins; to improve speed, volumes and quality of information provided; and to focus on the delivery of value adding insights to the business.

RPA is evolving into a new hot topic in the finance world. Its significant potential to become a differentiator in finance functions has become evident. Most of the large players in the financial services sector are either assessing possibilities to benefit from this new solution or even proceeding with the first implementations. The RPA implementation burdens (costs and timelines) are relatively insignificant, compared to major IT platform updates. Therefore, it is likely that RPA will quickly convert from being a differentiator delivering a competitive advantage to a standard practice that needed for survival and eventually, better customer satisfaction.

In the age of digital transformation, CFOs have a mandate and, equally, an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the digital transformation of their organisations. Data analytics remains at the core of the digital transformation agenda.

Organisations prepared to embark on the digital transformation journey, recognise the tremendous potential value of the data they hold, and are working hard to exploit that value. Initiatives in better data management and analytics are beginning to take shape. However, realising and creating value from data – turning information into insight and practical action – is challenging and most companies have much more work ahead.

“It is an EY offering based on our intellectual property (IP), that has been developed over time, based on a number of both regional and global case studies. The pricing of the product is based on multiple factors, which may vary based on the client environment, frequency of service and specific client requirements. All sectors can use our tool. The product is designed for a strategic function that is crucial to all organisations and sectors,” said Siddiqui.

The game changer is CFOs embarking on the digital transformation journey in a quick manner and laying the foundation of a sustainable digital journey, on an on-going basis. The tools help CFOs focus more on the strategic goals of the organisation while tactical areas could be taken care by the FDA tool. The tool provides dashboards to CFOs, enabling them making timely decisions on key issues.

EY’s session on Finance Data Analytics (FDA) showcased the new and innovative tools, which leverage the power of data and analytical techniques to identify insights and trends, and to identify control weaknesses across the finance function and operations on 100 per cent population of finance data, which is a transformational change from sample selection techniques. This will enable unparalleled business success for clients – which typically was not possible with limited enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. –

Source: repetitive tasks to robots