“New technologies will dramatically change the nature of work across all industries and occupations.” – Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2016
As revealed in the statement above by Klaus Schwab, President of the World Economic Forum, the very nature of work itself is and will continue to change due to the ongoing emergence of advanced scientific, medical, and information management technologies. The reality is that human economic and social activity has entered a new phase, a fourth economic age of digital convergence where we see a continuous fusing and application of the aforementioned technologies across new and ever-expanding use cases in business and government. These changes were well underway even before the advent of COVID-19, which has certainly accelerated these trends, e.g. “work from home”.
Workforce 4.0, as it is sometimes called, is a new type of workforce composed of “machines” and human beings moving well beyond, in both scope and nature, its Agrarian, Industrial, and Information Age predecessors. Underpinning this new workforce, most notably, are Intelligent Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence solutions enabled by Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Business Process Management (BPM) technologies. These technologies and solutions are top-of-mind for many organizations as they look to optimize their business processes, mitigate operational, financial, and reputational risk, and deliver enhanced customer experiences.
So, why do organizations pursue Intelligent Process Automation, specifically RPA? What process our use case characteristics should you look for to start your Intelligent Process Automation journey? Are “robots” and human workers natural enemies or can they be partners to deliver improved business performance?
Why Intelligent Process Automation?
 Source: EY, Intelligent Automation, reshaping the future of work with robots
Intelligent Process Automation Candidates?
There are several dimensions that need to be taken into account when developing and executing an Intelligent Process Automation Strategy. Here are some key questions to consider as you attempt to identify use case targets for your organization:
Human Workers & Robots – Friends or Foes?
As with past economic and societal transitions, there are major impacts that need to be considered. Perhaps, none so profound as the one before us when addressing the human worker or “digital” worker question, which is a subject so broad and deep that it cannot be adequately attended to here. However, Paul R. Daugherty, Accenture’s Group Executive – Technology and Chief Technology Officer responds to this, perhaps false choice, when he states in his book Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, (2018):
“The simple truth is that companies can achieve the largest boosts in performance when humans and machines work together as allies, not adversaries, in order to take advantage of each other’s complementary strengths.”
Final Thoughts – The Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) Moment
Intelligent Process Automation can create and deliver significant business value for organizations and their customers. However, to take full advantage of the “IPA Moment”, organizations are going to have to move beyond the traditional view of automation focused on efficiency, cutting costs, and the technology itself. Innovative transformation first focuses on customer desires and related outcomes, not on technology. Organizations that focus exclusively on cutting costs (efficiency) and not on the transformative power of Intelligent Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence related technologies to fundamentally change their business operating models will fall short in the service of their customers and government program constituents.