By Sumed Marwaha, managing director, Unisys India, and Srivathsa N.S., Sr. Engineering Director, Unisys
The last couple of years have seen more tectonic shifts in the workforce than ever before. Who makes the workforce, where do they work from, and how do they work? All of these have undergone changes, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move toward a hybrid model.
Like any major change, it is interesting to look at the challenges and opportunities that emanate from the change, the nature of solutions that are emerging, and the trials that lie in realizing the solutions.
One of the most visible fallouts witnessed in the last two years is churn in the talent pool, triggered by attrition and movements, affecting companies’ ability to attract, retain and develop talent to deliver their goals. The changing mix, concentration, and location of the candidates make it difficult to find the right talent at the right place which seems like there is a shortage of candidates in the market. This also leads to intense competition for existing talent leading to talent wars. Dealing with real competition for business while competing for talent makes it a two-front war. “Getting Things Done” remains imperative while fighting this war.
Automation has historically been looked at as a means of getting things with fewer people, and it has evolved into doing more with less. The transition from an industrial perspective to a knowledge perspective has influenced the evolution of automation as well.
With advances in areas like Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Low-Code Application Platforms; we can automate more complex tasks, thereby addressing the challenge of having the right talent at the right place at the right time. We are moving from automating repetitive processes to automating entire workflows. Automation efforts nowadays address both the scale and complexity of what can be automated at a speed that makes the solution effective and relevant.
Automation is looked at with a new perspective, to augment people’s capabilities in several ways, through tools for enhanced data analysis, improved decision making, assistance in various stages of problem-solving and better collaboration, basically trying to do more with less.
There have been other challenges and opportunities that came to the fore as the world moved toward a hybrid-work model. It makes sense to look at the bigger picture, beyond talent deficit to holistically leverage automation. When done right, Hyper automation helps you not just address the talent shortage but also do it in a way that creates a culture that attracts talent.
Let us look at various adjacencies and aspects that can make the automation approach more holistic:
The hybrid and remote models have further necessitated the need to facilitate document management processes that help teams collaborate, create and tweak workflows that evolve with their needs. At the same time, data storage and validation-related regulations have been evolving too, bringing in new needs and features, like audit trails and security. Thus, document management including digitization is something that should not be left out of the big picture. The same applies to changing the nature of workflows, be it user-driven or data-driven. Efficient automation can help workflows evolve very effectively to facilitate collaboration across distributed team members, including geographies and time zones. All of these have a direct relation and bearing on how teams manage their workloads, projects, and deliverables. This means pre-existing tools and environments that have been taking care of various aspects of project management, have to be factored in too.
A team that communicates effectively collaborates efficiently. The speed and ease with which team members communicate determine how they solve problems together and achieve results. This also applies to the problems that they encounter and solve within the system, through effective support from IT. The hybrid model further underlines the need for reliable and efficient systems for communication, collaboration, and support. The way chatbots have been evolving and becoming more intelligent is evidence of this.
Sometimes teams have customized needs in terms of how they consume and visualize data in a data-centric world. The world has moved from pre-defined reports to customizable dashboards. Users prefer to create their own personal processes and dashboards too. The evolution of Low Code Application Platforms is a testimony to this trend.
With the hybrid model, the nature of threats has changed, the risks have increased and the stakes have risen too. The need to support a hybrid workforce with an increased focus on security brings its own opportunities for automation. The weakest link remains the user. While looking at automation, treating it as an opportunity to bake security into it is necessary.
The list above drives homes the diversity of challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed while keeping in mind the end-user experience too. Fortunately, the technologies have been rapidly evolving, which only gives us more power to treat these challenges as opportunities and solve them holistically. The strides in IoT, AI/ML, Chatbots, Low Code No Code, containerization, and everything-as-a-service, along with the evolution of zero trust security equips us to look at automation as an exciting venture.
According to IDC, “94% of Indian organizations are maintaining or increasing investment in digital technologies with a priority on employee productivity and customer satisfaction”.
While we have been using the word automation in this piece so far, the world has moved beyond looking at automation as a plain RPA. While bringing together various platforms, technologies, and tools together in a smart manner, we already gravitate towards hyper-automation. According to Gartner hyper-automation “enables organizations to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many processes as possible using technology such as robotic process automation (RPA), low-code application platforms (LCAP), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual assistants.”.
According to ZDNet, 80% of organizations will have hyper-automation on their technology roadmap by 2024.
Thus, emerges a truly augmented workforce. But developing an augmented workforce isn’t easy. Augmented workforce development requires sensitizing people on cultures as well as methods for building a healthy partnership between machines and humans. This includes learning curves for managers and employees to succeed in a workplace that is undergoing hyper-automation. Not ignoring it, the cultural shift also includes overcoming the biases, fears, insecurities, and resistance to change that are natural with automation efforts.
On the surface, what seemed like a talent shortage trying to be solved through automation is also a complex set of interrelated challenges, opportunities, technologies, and platforms that are all evolving toward maturity with hyper-automation as an approach. The ability to automate to address talent shortage has evolved to the next level, while the adjacencies to automation contain compelling challenges and opportunities to approach automation from a big-picture perspective.
According to recent research by GoodFirms, an international research, rating, and review platform, the intelligent automation industry is rolling out and going through a complete transformation, with customer service (50%) and HR (43%) being the most automated business functions. As per the survey, automating business processes have increased efficiency and reduced human errors in performing mundane tasks. But despite these benefits, the full potential of Intelligent Automation at work remains unexplored as 1 in 3 (30%) are concerned about implementing automation due to the displacement of jobs.
What remains to be seen is how hyper-automation and intelligent automation will evolve over the years in all the industries that are trying to adapt it. For now, this futuristic technology will indeed bring strides of change in the way work is being done, companies are being built and talent is being honed.