Humans and tech: why business can have the best of both worlds
4 October 2018
People have a key role to play in business automation, with outsourced services crucial to driving change at scale
Depending on your attitude to change, a future of robots in the workplace is either the scariest or most exciting outcome imaginable.
Predictions of future roles being automated rather than filled by humans range from 47 per cent of the US workforce to 85 per cent in Africa. The arrival of AI and machine learning is inevitable. Yet that certainty doesn’t mean change will be quick, or indeed comprehensive.
There are many barriers to an automated future. It’s hard to imagine robots completely replacing people at the watercooler or on a human-free factory floor. In fact, many studies have found technology will create as much work as it devours.
It is true to say, however, that there’s an element of denial in business about the march of the machines. But the current nascent phase of workplace automation gives us all a crucial chance to understand the issues, and the role business-process outsourcing companies can play in supporting the transformation journey companies will go through.
Chief among the aspects end-customers must take into consideration is what to automate. Many organisations set out to fully automate a process then realise their mistake in their rush to get to market. Even at this early stage of the automation cycle, articles are being written about how automation initiatives have failed and how to prevent similar outcomes in the future.
Another set of end-customers want to automate even the smallest processes. However, they might not realise that continuing to do things manually for the time being may not only be more cost-effective but also a lot more flexible until processes become more established. Based on existing work volumes, the cost of implementation would outweigh the true need for it.
For all organisations, the opportunities presented by automation are real and measurable, but the successful automation initiatives will be those that objectively deploy a mix of human engagement and automation.
As business transitions, the role of outsourcing must also adapt. The provision of cost-effective and efficient but reliable services is the goal, underpinning operations at the business which is outsourcing processes as it seeks new ways to grow.
Outsourcing companies don’t yet have all the answers, so collaboration is key. First, the external company will need to know the specific use-case for automation. If everyone involved is aligned with a clear vision, success will be more easily achieved. There are already some great case studies showing traditional outsourcing companies deploying third-party automation services to the benefit of the end-customer.
Second, set objectives and try to be transparent about how everyone will benefit from the transformation. Outsourcing companies often see automation as a threat, whereas they should look at it as a way to augment the skillset of their workforce to work in tandem with automation, and a way to boost profit margins. Automation developers get access to large clients through outsourcing companies, and end-customers will benefit from the combination of human and robotic interaction.
Third, and often most importantly, start by remapping the process from the beginning instead of trying to fit automation into your current process. Putting in the effort to rethink a process often saves headaches in the future and makes the new workflow more scalable.
Fourth, get input from as many stakeholders as possible involved in the current processes. Management will analyse the business case, but team members working directly with the existing processes frequently have valuable insight into how they could run smoother and how their output could be improved through new process mapping.
The expertise of business-process outsourcing companies lies in giving clients the flexibility to turn a vision into a reality quite rapidly. Outsourcing companies can emerge as reliable partners in fully embracing the opportunities presented by automation, giving end-customers a holistic suite of services that would be challenging for them to achieve on their own.
Smart outsourced-business providers are gearing up for a future that harnesses the precision and speed of automation with the knowledge and creativity of human employees. After all, people will always have a vital role to play even as cutting-edge technology is adopted. The result will be a powerful mix of people and machines that means business really can have the best of both worlds.
To learn more about the power of human engagement plus automation, go to www.taskeater.com
By Mikko Tamminen, Chairman & CEO, Taskeater