It would be unwise to assume that Automation is just a fad, it is very much here to stay. As much as it might make some people uncomfortable to come to the realization that we’re going to be living alongside robots, it’s the reality. To quote Bill Heslop in the movie Muriel’s Wedding; “you can’t stop progress”. While it didn’t quite work out that way for old Bill, the human race has shown over time that we will always progress with most things, technology in particular.
When you think about it, why would any sane business owner choose to be less efficient and less productive in the way they run their business than their competitors? It doesn’t make sense. If there’s a better way to do something that is cost-effective why would we choose not to do it? Why would anyone choose not to do anything in a more efficient way? And that’s the power that Automation brings. It can create massive efficiencies in business processes that transform a workforce into a highly productive environment. This ends up being a hugely beneficial asset for a business owner, as they look to maximize their profit per employee.
A point that isn’t fully understood yet is that digital robots, more commonly known as RPA (Robotic Process Automation) are not necessarily threats to our workforce. The digital workforce is designed to sit alongside people and remove the mundane, repetitive, boring tasks. It’s not meant to necessarily replace people. UiPath, the world’s biggest RPA vendor, is now the fastest-growing Enterprise Software company in history. The founder, Daniel Dines’ aspiration is to put a robot alongside every working employee in order to complement the way they work. It isn’t to replace them.
The mundane/repetitive jobs that exist now will, and I say will, eventually be replaced by RPA. But this creates new and exciting opportunities for people to create more value to a business than just keying data into a screen or pulling numbers off spreadsheets to populate line of business systems. It’s not a good use of the human brain, and technology only assists in making things easier. We’re already seeing it happening where companies all over the world have Automated processes that once took a team of people to fulfill. Now, these people are in more creative roles within the same business and are adding far more value to that business than before.
No doubt RPA will also influence what will be required to gain employment. But the flip side of that is that these skills that now must be taught, also have the effect of raising the bar as to what is expected from prospective employees. The uptake of RPA in other words will, by virtue of raising the entry point of employment, eventually make our entire workforce smarter.
More than anything right now Australia needs jobs for people. The pandemic is crippling our economy and fundamentally the reason businesses can’t employ people is that staff are generally the highest cost in any business. What if business owners could unlock the capital required to create such significant efficiencies through Automation? This could be the thing that allows them to create new roles and hire new staff.
One thing is for certain as we embark on this transformation; there will be significant change in the way teams are structured and positioned, how roles are defined, and the types of skills and capabilities that are required. The businesses that think ahead now, and think in terms of an Automation First culture, brought about by robust change management, will be the ones least likely to be at risk of negative disruption and curbed growth.