By Abhijit Kakhandiki, VP of products at Automation Anywhere(opens in new tab)
- Don’t fret: bots will never entirely replace humans at work.
- However, they can make more complex decisions than you probably realize, by “watching” how humans do their jobs.
- Keep your guard up when using bots, and be careful not to automate the tasks that humans are best at.
There’s a myth that intelligent machines will soon replace humans(opens in new tab) at work. These digital workers, called bots, can work longer hours than we can, perform our jobs with fewer mistakes and are cheaper to employ, supposedly making humans irrelevant to employers.
Don’t believe that.
The future workforce will need both humans and bots.
When we use software bots(opens in new tab) to automate repetitive tasks, humans are freed up to focus on work that demands creativity and critical thinking. With bots, companies can shift human potential toward driving business growth instead of taking care of boring stuff like financial calculations or HR log books.
Step 1: Determine if your office is ready for bots.
Most companies moving toward process automation(opens in new tab) believe that bots can easily take over mundane and repetitive tasks, and anything more complex requires human interaction.
Then there’s a small group of trailblazing companies who want to automate even further, using humans only for activities that require analytical or innovative thinking and leaving the rest to bots.
Before you bring in the bots, you need to make sure your company is ready. Consider how much your company trusts bots, whether you have a culture of experimentation and how willing you are to take risks.
Step 2: What would bots do in your office?
Then, determine what kind of tasks bots would perform at your company.
The more creative a job is, the less it depends on rules and the more it demands subjective decision-making, contextual understanding and judgment. These are skills that take years to develop, making humans the necessary candidates for these roles.
(Hint: It’s more than you think.)
Once you start to dissect how decisions at your company are made -- aka the steps to get from point A to point B -- you’ll realize that much of the work we consider “highly subjective” is, in fact, mostly rule-based.
And when software bots are deployed along with AI(opens in new tab) and machine learning, you open the door to a whole host of other tasks that can, and should, be automated.
A good example of this is mortgage processing, in which a mortgage applicant is required to provide a stack of paperwork including bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns and more.
Previously, human workers would pore over these documents looking for anomalies like bankruptcies and liquidations before approving or denying a loan.
Today, through AI and robotic process automation, software bots can observe the actions humans take in any given situation. Over a large number of transactions, they learn to mimic and replicate human behavior.
Once the bot has learned how to apply decision-making like this, it becomes able to make its own recommendations with stunning accuracy, even if a situation is not an exact replica of a previously learned response.
Image how far that could take your company.
Step 3: Keep your guard up...
There is, however, a risk of going too far with digital workers.
Any company that uses digital workers can’t lose sight of the vital and unique skills only humans provide.
There’s no digital substitute for human ingenuity like that of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
While a bot will faithfully carry out instructions it is given, it is remarkably useless at determining how to address the next high-level problem facing your company. Humans are the best at collaborating, bringing the right stakeholders to the table and determining what will bring a business closer to customers. Use them.
…and remember that you’ll always have a role.
Both human and digital workers will make up the future workforce. In my view, we shouldn’t see the inevitable emergence of the digital worker as a replacement for human creativity and intelligence. This isn’t a zero-sum game(opens in new tab).
Rather, bots can maximize our human potential by relieving us of mundane tasks that take us away from what we do best.