The CX Robotics Revolution
Make no mistake, the CX Robotics revolution has arrived and Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is also here, and here with a vengeance!
The People vs Robots debate has been around for at least two generations (think robots in auto assembly lines adopted by car manufacturers some decades ago) but Enterprise services have largely escaped the wrath of intelligent robots, until now!
When Bill Gates said in January 2015 that humans should be worried about the threat posed by artificial intelligence I believe we should take notice!
After having scoured the plethora of white papers, research and predictions these last few months from the likes of McKinsey, Deloitte, Forrester, Gartner, IBM, Accenture et al, it appears universal that, across most industry sectors, professions and disciplines, anything between 30% and 50% of jobs as they are currently performed by humans will be automated.
The only conjecture is by when with wild variations estimating that this CX Robotics revolution will take anywhere from circa 10 to 25 years to play out possibly less depending on who you speak with and which industry sector or discipline youre analysing.
I view such reports with the scrutiny that only 23 years in Executive Search can muster but my consulting in the field completely supports the proposition that we are now in the midst of a CX Robotics revolution, not so much before our eyes but more under the covers given the socio-economic hot potato that this FTE vs AI equation presents to business leaders, politicians and employees alike.
Dont believe the sugar coating that accompanies the IPA sales pitch which usually goes along the lines of ..the end result is you will free up resources for humans to perform higher value chain activities.
This is true but such dialogue is, at best, disingenuous in that it skirts around the reality that this is a massive underemployment equation no matter which way you try to rationalise it.
Fundamental change is never an easy pill to swallow and with up to 50% of people having to find a different method of earning a living in as little as 10 years (for many it will be sooner) the image of anarchy in the streets is actually not that difficult to imagine.
I will say now that I dont believe it will come to this but I think it important to analyse why automation really is coming this time around and what can be done about it to maintain your relevance in the labour market your capacity to earn a living and map a career path no less.
Why Now & What’s Changed?
Some of the reasons Im seeing as to why Robotics & broader Intelligent Process Automation are cause for genuine revolution and more than just the latest hype from a raft of technology vendors include:
In the AI vs FTE equation, the CFO will tell you that they cant automate processes quickly enough! Just last week, I was privy to what started out as a Voice BPO tender that quickly morphed into a Robotics Process Automation (RPA) tender once the senior executives saw the 30% cost differential.
In an era where most costs have been stripped out of the Enterprise leaving just decimal point margin opportunities for further efficiency improvements, the Robotics phenomenon presents itself along with irresistibly large OPEX savings and if you dont do it, your competitors will.
It’s now a matter of survival!
The market is now ready to be roboticised!
Robotics and IPA are no longer an experimental, notional idea relegated to the futuristic, prototypical sections of technology conferences.
It’s here and it’s now with massive reference-ability from many of the biggest corporations in the world.
Research & Markets conclude that the robotic process automation market is estimated to reach USD2.4 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 30.14% between 2017 and 2022. The profiles of the primary participants are Tier 1, C-level executives from North America, Europe & APAC ;
Speed Of Deployment
RPA, Smart workflow, machine learning /advanced analytics, natural language generation and cognitive agents can be deployed within a matter of weeks in some instances such is the sophistication of the Vendors, SIs and management consultancies now well versed in the full scope/design/delivery life cycle.
Having said this, true AI and Cognitive Learning can take years to deploy requiring a centre of excellence and complex, multi-faceted stakeholder engagement from all areas of the org. chart block, especially in unionised environments.
The point here is that technically, in theory, its never been easier to deploy. For start-ups on cloud platforms with no legacy issues were talking weeks, not months;
It’s The Precursor to full Artificial Intelligence
The automation of business processes was reported by IBM to be the key driver in implementing AI by 66 per cent of local firms, followed by cost savings (62 per cent), improved decision making (55 per cent) and to boost employee productivity (54 per cent).
The average amount being spent on AI by Australian organisations was $8.2 million, the second highest globally after the US. Again, I reiterate, this is not a future proposition it’s been happening for some time in fact and robotics is the platform upon which so much more can be built; and
It’s The Next Wave Beyond BPO
Global BPOs handling back, middle and front office transactions with large workforces of people in countries like the Philippines and India predicated on labour arbitrage business cases are right in the firing line.
The process to package up and offshore such business processes mean the hard work has already been done with those transactions being obvious targets for chatbots and massive costs savings with 24 x 7 productivity and virtually 100% accuracy.
It’s a lay-down-misere!
The smart BPOs are reinventing themselves at a rate of knots, forming alliances with technology partners who will actually cannibalise their revenue on some levels but with a view to longer-term survival and relevance.
What should you do about the CX Robotics Revolution?
At this early stage of the global Robotics acceptance cycle, it’s hard to predict too far in advance but all we/you can do is stick to some golden rules that will give you the best chance of maintaining relevance in the economy of tomorrow:
- Accept & Work With The Trend: Change is a constant, its just that were now riding an exponential curve with technology guaranteeing that the only thing that is certain is that change will happen at an increasingly fast rate. To fight this revolution is an exercise in futility so learn and understand as much as you can and then how you can work with, in and around it;
- Re-Educate: A lot of airplay has been given to the challenge of modern universities in devising courses that will help them deliver relevant graduates to a market that will probably have them take on jobs and career paths that havent even been invented yet. In a similar vein, the modern worker must continue to re-educate and re-skill. Skills and knowledge that I see being intrinsic to the Robotics through Cognitive Learning continuum include .net code development, Lean & Six Sigma methodologies and STEM subjects. Robotics courses are even already on offer at some universities in the USA so jump onto the road train and re-educate. There are also many open online courses designed to make people more employable which are now sprouting up, delivering micro credentials or Nano degrees in say self-driving cars or the Android Operating system; and
- The future Will Be About Soft Skills: Automation promises to empower workers to focus on roles requiring more human interaction so work on your professional development from an emotional intelligence platform. Personal Attributes like leadership, critical thinking, adaptability, agility and creativity could considerably reduce job losses arising from automation and these can be honed/developed as much in your extra-curricular activities, hobbies and interests as in the workplace. Now is not the time for conservatism take risks, put your hand up for that project that will take you right out of your comfort zone.
The Good News:
The good news is that Intelligent Process Automation carries a strong argument for bringing jobs back onshore if higher value chain activities performed by humans is indeed the future.
One equation I witnessed a few weeks ago was a proposal to outsource approximately 75 jobs to the Philippines.
The end result was a Robotics implementation that will retain 25 jobs onshore in Australia whilst still delivering 30% OPEX savings and thats the way the Purchase Order went!
I welcome comments/thoughts/opinions on this piece as it is still very much pioneering territory for most and the more awareness that can be developed in this region, the better equipped we will be to secure our fair share of the massive global Robotics and follow on AI markets thereafter.
- Discover the local suppliers of CX technology in our Business Directory
- Read: 9 predictions of a customer service future