How Intelligent Automation impacts employees

in Advisory, 12.04.2019

As Intelligent Automation (IA) changes businesses processes and operating models, humans will be working and making decisions alongside robots and algorithms. What impact will this shift have on employees in a world of digital-first organizations?

Intelligent Automation (IA) is about changing business processes – then restructuring the organization around the new processes now driven by technology. This means shifting the business and operating model from one of people supported by technology to one of technology supported by people.

KPMG’s recent study Ready, set, fail? Avoiding setbacks in the intelligent automation race looked at the reasons for deploying IA, the implications of doing so and what it takes to scale it up. The study’s respondents represented executives from numerous industries and geographies worldwide who shared their experiences with deployment and their perspectives on the future.

The study’s key findings show:

  • Enterprises have high expectations but little readiness to deploy IA overall and have deficient change management and governance capabilities
  • Opportunities exist across all functional areas and all sectors, though certain industries have a higher proclivity to adopting new technologies
  • IA is part of an enterprise’s overall digital transformation, but a lack of in-house talent and organizational focus may hinder initiatives
  • Investment spending increases are significant over the next five years but may not prove enough to support deployment expectations
  • Culture change is paramount to succeed which includes to the way organizations operate, the people they hire and the skills they need to change

Let’s focus on the human element, more specifically on what the impact will be on employees when business processes and operating models change due to IA.

Boundary-less organization

Digital transformation erodes the boundaries separating human resources, finance, procurement and other functions. As a result, there are fewer isolated or vertical functions. This will have a major impact on the processes businesses perform.

The “boundary-less” organization will allow companies to refocus on the customer. By removing many administrative tasks, IA makes them more agile with more time for adding customer value. Additionally, companies can draw on cross-organizational data – previously difficult to extract and analyze – and apply analytics. This allows them to make decisions faster, lower costs as well as improve user, employee and customer experiences.

Talent management and IA

Changing business processes in new “boundary-less” organizations has a considerable impact on talent management. Thanks to IA, companies are less reliant and locked in to off-shore/outsourced labor for repetitive and rules-based tasks. Instead, smaller teams manage IA platforms, processes and business initiatives making a far greater impact than was possible in the past.

IA gives companies the opportunity to focus on their customers, whilst creating a leaner organization and delivering higher value – creating potentially happier employees; free from routine tasks and able to take on more strategic, significant work.

Impact of IA on the business

KPMG’s study respondents believe that introducing IA to replace repetitive manual labor will impact approximately one third of all jobs in their organization. It’s interesting to note that respondents downplayed the importance of cutting headcount and saving costs – even though these aspects present challenges.

In today’s dynamic workforce, the focus is on making every business process work as smoothly as possible – and this focus will continue to grow. New skills will be required to work with, manage, understand and analyze the cross-organizational processes – impacting the employees’ added value. For example, as organizations automate, business process leaders will no longer need to assign people to specific tasks within a functional domain if the work is highly sequential, logical and repetitive. This will free up staff previously allotted to such tasks to perform other value adding tasks.

Upskilling to deliver value

As employees often don’t inherently possess the skills to handle the new ways of working hand-in-hand with IA, they require upskilling to leverage the existing workforce and deliver value. As outlined below, you can see new skill sets and a new mindset will be required.

Companies will need Centers of Excellence to consolidate the control and management of the new IA processes. These Centers of Excellence must also:

  • upgrade employee skill levels
  • improve know-how
  • get management capabilities up to speed
  • develop technical experts
  • recruit specialized talent in artificial intelligence and IA.

The range of skills needed in a digital-first enterprise will vary, ranging from:

  • business analysts capable of understanding the potential of technology with the business in mind
  • operational employees who will maintain the robots and algorithms
  • developers capable of configuring robots and writing the code of algorithms
  • data scientists and software engineers for more advanced technologies.

Ultimately, humans and IA (robots and algorithms) will be working and making decisions side by side. In many cases, robots will be able to extract and analyze relevant data and answer questions, often faster and more accurately than humans. Humans will need to support IA to overcome IA’s shortcomings, define the questions and identify problems requiring solutions as well as iterate and prioritize solutions.

In my next blog, I’ll look into the risks associated with scaling IA and how having good governance can support organizations in implementing IA safely.



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