Humanising Automation For The Future of Work

The industry is at the threshold of the future of work that signals the manifestation of several trends which will reimagine business. Companies will embrace a new style of work, aimed at friction-free business outcomes. Organisations around the world now realise the power of transformative technologies, and one such disruptive technology is Intelligent Automation (IA), which will seamlessly blend people, processes, and technology for greater employee productivity and outcome.

In a discussion organised by BW Businessworld in association with Automation Anywhere, several topics were discussed about the role that automation can play in India’s business environment across sectors.

Making Machines Speak For Themselves:

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Many machines have been running for several years but they cannot make themselves heard. Stating this, JBM Group’s CIO & EVP of IT, V Ranganathan Iyer said, “The machine cannot explain it is having a problem, as it does not possess the capability to integrate itself with other hardware and communicate.” 

This issue can be resolved through automation. Iyer highlighted that businesses should be in a position to acquire data and make meaningful decisions based on data-led insights. “If they are unable to do so, the inability to provide a holistic overview of the manufacturing setup creates a bottleneck for growth,” he explained.

In businesses such as JBM Group, there are different functions where efficiency can be improved through value addition. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) divisions are generally at the forefront of accepting the latest technology in comparison to their traditional counterparts.

Benefits To End User:

Automation plays a vital role in the BPO industry. Deliberating on this, Concentrix’s Senior Director IT, Rishi Aggarwal, said, “Traditionally, several resources are deployed to finish a specific task. The scenario is now changing. The customer does not want costs to rise.”

Aggarwal pointed out that as several mundane and repetitive tasks can be automated, it will provide benefits to the end customer. “Technology will add immense value to this industry. Automation has led to huge demand from the customer and an industry perspective as well. It is called a tech-infused delivery or solution, which we have to deploy for our customer,” he added.

Automation Anywhere, Director of Sales Engineering & Knowledge Services, Amit Mathur, threw more light on the importance of efficiency. He said, “Efficiency is a big driver in almost all scenarios where we want to improve the end customer experience and manage cost pressure as well as other business aspects.”

He explained that automation has been delivering on all of these priorities. “Once, it was a new category but now it has established itself and is well-matured,” he added. Mathur pointed out that one of the key areas and parameters for industry leaders is average handling time. He commented, “If one can reduce the average handling time by 10 per cent, it will have a phenomenal impact on the bottom line.”

Mathur believes that automation will deliver big returns in terms of consistent user experience and provide users with the same accurate information. Compliance too remains a key criterion where automation can be deployed, especially in the technology, finance, and HR functions, as these departments are heavily burdened with compliance.

“We are at the stage in the journey where the promise is made and we have entered the evolution phase,” Mathur stated.

Human Intervention For Intelligent Decision-Making:

It was almost impossible for anyone to have thought three decades ago that computers and humans would co-exist in a work environment. Stating this, JK Tyre’s CDIO, Sharad Kumar Agarwal added, “We have to focus on three major aspects—efficiency, compliance, and consistency. We need to have routine jobs delegated to the backend, and only when the need to make intelligent decisions is required, is where human intervention comes in. This will remain the basis of automation.”

He pointed out that currently automation is limited to processes on the software side and needs to go beyond it. “As of now, automation’s scope is limited. It has made things simpler but the million dollar question is how can it co-exist with people, and prove that it complements their work and is not a threat to their livelihood.”

Understanding the importance of Intelligent Automation (IA) is the key. “The better we understand IA’s purpose and communicate it top-down, the easier it becomes to help everyone in the organisation understand and accept it,” reflected Mathur. For him, automation is going to help unleash human potential and help people do their jobs better. It won’t replace an individual, a team, or a set of people, which is the more important point to communicate.

Mathur cited an example to argue his point. “If you ask an employee what his most mundane job is, it most probably is administrative overhead. If you tell him that you do not have to do it from tomorrow, the person will be delighted. Setting the right context and then democratising automation is the way to go. This is where we see success when there is a long-term implementation strategy and roadmap. Winning the team’s confidence is important to scale up automation at the highest level,” he added.

Harnessing Superior Customer Experience:

Colonel Pankaj Dikshit believes that automation will play a key role in fulfilling the future vision. “If a taxpayer spends 20-25 minutes on the portal to file returns every month, the challenge is to bring down this time drastically.  Can we do it in under a minute? If yes, it can only happen through automation.”

A live example is the updated income tax portal. It has not happened as yet but is on the way. “It is much better than what it was but it can certainly be better than what it is. Technology is already present. It is up to us how we use it to enhance the user experience,” Dikshit added.

‘What If’ Concerns & Behind The Scenes Work:

IA can be defined as a vehicle that has many access authorisations pre-built into it. “What if it goes into the systems and the financial books and extracts data? If anything that has so much access to data is hacked, it will have serious repercussions,” said Orient Electric’s CIO and AVP for IT, Manzar Abbas.

He suggested that internal security risks pose a threat as well as someone from within the organisation can hack into the system. Ransomware can be a major threat to automation too. 

Automation is based on human inputs. Webhelp’s Head of Technology, Piyush Gupta, explained that people within an organisation understand their requirements better as they know the output needed. He shared that his sector has witnessed several examples of customers ditching legacy channels. “Today’s customer prefers social platforms. Digitisation also helps in providing a better response to customers. Automation and humanisation are playing a vital role and will continue to grow as technology does not remain stagnant but keeps evolving,” he added. 

Bots behind-the-scenes are doing the heavy lifting and only showing exceptions for action. Mathur weighed in here and said, “For all functions, there is an opportunity for us to institutionalise automation where we can give a bot to every employee. Let the bot do mundane and repetitive tasks and use human intelligence to do bigger and better jobs. Automation has a lot both for external customers and internal customers (employees).”

Automation: There To Help:

Daikin’s GMIT, Umesh Khandelwal, explained that the most important aspect of a business is customer satisfaction. “If employees love their company, the customers will also love it. But, how can employees love their companies if it impacts their work-life balance? This is where automation comes in. Not just in finance but there is scope for automation to be used in manufacturing, sales and HR as well. We have a business strategy for the next five years in place and automation is important in it,” he said.

Hero Future Energies’ Head of IT, Vinod Sharma, suggested that before implementing automation, one should identify the volume they would like to transform through RPA. He commented, “One can find the areas where they want to implement RPA and do away with human-made errors. Repetitive jobs do not provide any value to the system, so RPA can be implemented there and also, in areas where the mass workforce is engaged in a common activity.”

The industry leaders concluded the discussion by agreeing that Intelligent Automation will play a major role in meeting the demands of tomorrow.


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Humanising Automation For The Future of Work

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