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Month: October 2016

Why we should NOT be afraid of robotic process automation (RPA)

Why we should NOT be afraid of robotic process automation (RPA)

There have been a lot of articles published over the last few months about how automation, smart software and AI will replace humans in the job market. From the Financial Times and the Economist, through the Guardian, the BBC and CNN to Futurism, all media is creating an atmosphere of impending disaster around job markets, and promoting dystopian stories – with incredible intensity. This is the visible final failure of mainstream media as a source of reliable information that can help us to make any rational decisions about our future.

The new criteria of automation are quite different from the classical differentiation between white and blue collar jobs:it does not matter whether your job is skilled or unskilled, whether it requires an MBA or a diploma from the best universities or just a short weekend of training. The new criteria centre around whether or not work is routine, repetitive or rule-based. It means that both lawyers and taxi drivers can be replaced by smart software, technical writers and retail salespeople,but those who do any job that involves substantial and tangible amounts of cognition and creativity are far less replaceable.

The real problem is not that automation removes humans from the job market; it is fear of change that paralyses rational and creative thinking.

The classical fear of change typically has two aspects.

The first is fear of the unknown. No one really knows what the future will bring, so being worried now that the lion’s share of society will lose their jobs in the future is a bit irrational. Progress should create a similar amount of new jobs. There are also other solutions out there, such as universal basic income or a 20-hour work week, and many other concepts of the future that encourage us to be creative and hopeful in our thinking and acting towards a better life.

“I could never work 9-5 again,” says World Bank, development and policy expert William Powers. “That kind of work seemed like a form of slavery – giving up your mental, emotional, and intellectual capacities.” (Introducing the 20-hour work week by Kieron Monks, CNN, 13/11/2015)

So what are we really afraid of? The loss of jobs or that our jobs steal our sense of life and turn us into slaves or…robots? The real purpose of automation is to free humans from repetitive tasks and allow us to do valuable and innovative things. The idea of automation is always to make work better, faster and more accurate; never to make anyone unhappy or redundant!

The second issue that incites this fear of change is our tendency to focus on external things to define our identity and worth. By fearing what the future might hold we forget about the most important task that every one of us has: to create the future and not to merely wait and see what it will bring! Of course, it is very important to take into account all the data we have at our disposal in order to help ourselves make rational decisions about how to prepare for future events. However, a vital part of any rational decision is always to hope for the best and believe in yourself. Without this, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos would not have been able to plan to colonise Mars and space, or start producing electric cars, change our habits of buying and reading books (Amazon) and ways of sending money (PayPal).

There are not just sensational articles on robotic automation but some bestselling books also take this narrow approach. Even an otherwise interesting and really well-written text, “Humans need not apply: a guide to wealth and work in the age of artificial intelligence” by Jerry Kaplan, presents this characteristic cognitive bias towards automation and smart software – that it should have remained a treat for humans.

Instead of thinking about all the ways that automation software will destroy our jobs, we should be excited by the new challenge of how many new jobs, tasks and great opportunities it can bring to our businesses and everyday lives.

If you like creative thinking and believe in the infinite power of human intelligence you can’t also assume that only one, negative scenario can happen.

It is good to remember what we are really afraid of. We are not afraid of a lack of jobs; we are afraid that without a job we will not be able to buy things we need and have the money for living.

Automation is good. Robotic process automation gives time and energy to creating more values. It gives us an opportunity to lead more fulfilled lives. Let’s focus on what new and amazing things we can create and not what we might lose because of this incredible freedom we have been given.

We can start to build the future of our businesses today. Let’s begin with robotic process automation.

 

Andrzej Manka

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Jobs Will Not Be Mandatory for Survival

Jobs Will Not Be Mandatory for Survival

An interview with Frank Casale, entrepreneur, the founder of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation, a global network of executives interested in recent advancements in process automation, and the Outsourcing Institute, the largest network of outsourcing professionals in the world.

 

Andrzej Manka, G1ANT: What is the role of robotic process automation (RPA) in creating the future of business?

Frank Casale: RPA is just the beginning. I think of RPA and then I think of intelligent automation, which is more powerful than basic RPA, and then I think of  full-blown Artificial Intelligence. If we consider that entire suite for a moment, the real power I see is more towards the far end of the spectrum: intelligent automation, cognitive computing, AI. RPA is like the digital gateway that just gets us started, and there is a growing number of companies that are already seeing the magic in intelligent automation and AI.

What is RPA’s role? I would say that short-term, as for most organisations, it’s to save money. As for long-term, I would say that it’s  important to do some real, proactive consideration as to how to leverage the power of this technology.

Here’s one scenario:  we want to utilise this powerful technology not only to reduce dependency on labour, but also to proactively think about ways to leverage it to create jobs. I would say that if you put a couple of smart people in a room and came back 60 days later, they’d have a couple of good plans. Nobody’s doing that right now.

We, as an organisation, are seriously thinking of forming a group in order to really focus on future outcomes. We want to build a network of people, like myself and like yourself, that would welcome an opportunity to be actively involved in helping to envision that future, to plan it and frame it out. Nobody’s really doing that right now.

There isn’t a government out there that truly gets it. Even governments that will be significantly impacted in different ways, such as the US and India, Europe; I don’t think they get it yet. I think by the time most of the governments do get it it will be a bit too late. It may be business leaders. I would say that maybe there’s a need for digital activists Can we coin that term now, Andrzej, you and I? Digital activist.

Yes, it sounds great, Frank! Automation will finally free us from all our boring, mundane tasks. But do you think that RPA is an opportunity to create new jobs and new professions?

Well, clearly in the near-term there will be a need for data scientists, there will be a need for developers that are fluent in developing platforms and cognitive engines. It’s a different type of development, it’s not traditional software development. What’s key to these intelligent platforms are very powerful algorithms, so all the really good mathematicians that are out there, present and future, are in pretty good shape, career-wise.

Obviously process experts, people that truly understand processes, who could sit down with automation experts to then digitise these processes, I see that as powerful. I envision that it’s like chapters in a book, and in the next chapter there will be a need for people to help build out many of these platforms, build out these technologies, programme these technologies, install them and help organisations transition. There will be a huge need for those people because they will not be anywhere near as prolific as the demand. However, shortly after the chapter ends, the systems will get smaller as they become more experienced and more intelligent, and we won’t even need those people.

So what would you advise young people who are looking for professional futures? Would you advise them to strive for so-called solid jobs? To be lawyers or doctors or other traditional professions?

If you’re going to law school or medical school now, or looking to become an accountant, or you’re currently working in the mortgage processing department in a bank, I would immediately consider a career makeover, seriously. Just look and see what IBM Watson’s doing in the area of medical research; you already have cognitive systems that are acting as expert advisors.

I think jobs that, when you and I were growing up and you’d say, “Wow, this person’s a doctor, this person’s a lawyer”, jobs that were highly respected, where someone could make a very predictable, good income for most of their life, I see that changing dramatically over the next four or five years.

What is the mission of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation that you established?

Firstly, to bring about education and awareness of RPA. Secondly, execution:  once organisations begin to understand RPA, and get their minds around it and want to execute, we can help.

Finally, the third dimension is more of what I would call ‘activism’: to really begin to get out there and be proactive and pre-empt the marketplace, not just sit back and wait to get bowled over by the big wave.

What will happen in a few years when automation is everywhere? Could you describe a scenario in the future world with automation?

Well, I’ve learnt that we all need to be careful when we predict the future because people tend to get it wrong. That being said, I think there are two potential scenarios. In fact, there are two camps on this: there’s the optimistic camp, and then there’s the pessimistic camp.

The optimistic camp says, “We had disruption before, and we always exchange short-term pain for a long term gain whether it was shifting from an agricultural society to an industrial society, whether it was the Internet, whether it was outsourcing”. So maybe we could say, “We’ve been here before, and this ultimately creates more jobs”. That’s the optimistic side.

The pessimistic – or some people could say dystopian – view is that we’re all in trouble, and this new technological phase will create significant social and financial unrest. Things will begin to get very bad.

I tend to be an optimistic guy, but what troubles me a bit is there are a few guys that are a little bit smarter than me who are pessimistic right now. One being Stephen Hawking, another being Bill Gates, and the third being Elon Musk. These are three extremely smart, visionary guys that believe AI is the beginning of the end of people as we know it.

I don’t know, I think it’s an extreme.

Sometimes I think that we all can over intellectualise things, so I find it’s good to simplify. My way to simplify this would be: let’s have a look at the workforce, they really don’t like to work that much, don’t like their job, are bit bored and frustrated. So maybe a society with less work, or perhaps even no work, could be better, if we can make the financials work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had the free time to do whatever you liked, watch soccer, collect classic comics of The Hulk and Iron Man, and all those very cool, classic comics I see on your wall back there? Or maybe you like to play tennis, or enjoy poetry or classical music. That’s not that horrible a though, we just need to make sure that we can pay the bills. There’s already a good stream of thought around this concept of a Universal Basic Income, which – me being the capitalist that I am – I initially was not for, but I have actually come to see as less socialism, more as a potential framework for a post-capitalist society.

I like that version, a post-capitalist society; where jobs are not mandatory for survival because most of the work gets done by machines, by software, and we get to live enlightened lives.

By Andrzej Manka, G1ANT

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(Robotic) automation is sexy

(Robotic) automation is sexy

Our lives would not hold so much promise and excitement if they were not greatly automated. Our world would not be so rich in opportunities for our enterprises or careers if it wasn’t so automated. Especially through robotic process automation (RPA).

Automation saves time and frees us from the drudgery of mundane tasks; making our projects more effective and profitable.

Automation is a sign of progress, and progress has always been part of our lives. We cannot say: “I want to keep my life unchanged, and live it just as it has always been”. We can’t reject any modification and improvements – such as the introduction of automation – just because we prefer tradition, which can often mean backwardness.

The concept of automation is part of a natural environment, a foundation of the natural order. Automation means harmony. The seasons or the time of day can be considered automated phenomena that bring an order, predictability and clarity to our lives, and make room for productive and creative undertakings.

Even humans’ habits can be defined as automated behaviours that make life easier. Well, sometimes, if it’s a bad habit it can make life miserable!

We can apply the same principle to our jobs and businesses: by making them automated, even in a small part, we can achieve more. Automated tasks are always done faster and without errors. Automation guarantees consistency of output and peace of mind.

We humans are not good at repetitive tasks. We are infinitely better at creative ones. That is why we are always more powerful when we work with tools, robots and smart software; there is no alternative.

Civilisation’s progress can be achieved only through automation.

It is an interesting paradox that the more automated work we have the more creative we are able to be. The only thing that counts is keeping a proper balance between automation and innovation.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are of the opinion that automation means unemployment and rising inequality. However, it is not automation that brings unhappiness, it is human intention. The real problem is not whether automation is good or bad; it happens anyway. The only question is what we can do to make it work for all of us. If you are afraid that automation – especially automation software – will replace your job, just consider what John Tudor said: “Pessimists have already begun to worry about what is going to replace automation”.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Robotic process automation is a very special kind of automation. What matters the most for businesses is that RPA is potentially the most profitable kind of automation. The best way to use it to our advantage is to first understand its implications (and also the implications of not implementing it).

Regardless of whether we are interested in automation or not, robotic process automation will dramatically redefine our businesses and societies.

Plenty of people were not interested in supporting or participating in the digital revolution that replaced analogue technologies, or the Internet revolution, which deeply and irreversibly transformed our mindsets, lifestyles and expectations. RPA will bring about economic and psychological disruption on a similar scale. If we understand it and implement it quickly, it will bring benefits, opportunities, and game-changing new perspectives. If not, as one of Murphy’s laws dictates: the sooner we fall behind, the more time we will have to catch up.

It is high time for every one of us to consider RPA as the solution that will catapult our businesses to the next level.

 

Andrzej Manka

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6 Reasons to Use Robotic Process Automation

6 Reasons to Use Robotic Process Automation

The word ‘work’ has somewhat contradictory connotations in our language. It can mean something very valuable, a condition of survival or a successful career, or even the route to wellbeing and a sense of fulfilment. A job is the thing we must search for, pursue, and eventually convince an employer that we are worthy of undertaking.

When we have a job then we have space in our minds to dream of cool holidays and plenty of exciting weekends, free to indulge in whatever activities we like. Having a full time job means that weekend become the most anticipated time of the week – which is a testimony to our ambivalent attitude towards work.

There is also another common attitude to ‘work’: a culture of “I hate Monday” syndrome, stupid bosses, malicious colleagues, missed promotions, long hours, and seeing a job as something that steals your joy and makes your life miserable.

Neither the first nor the second understanding of ‘work’ is acceptable. It should be more than a dream and a privilege to pursue, but on the other hand it cannot be a curse that potentially causes unhappiness and frustration.

Thus, it is high time that we redefined the word ‘work’.

It should be our right. It cannot merely be a source of income that helps us to survive; first and foremost is should be a way to express ourselves and to contribute to our communities.

It is a huge paradox that the solution to the need to redefine ‘work’ might be robots! Actually, it is software robots, the newest IT solution, the next big deal: Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Robotic Process Automation is the application of smart software within a company, in order to free up employees from boring, repetitive tasks. Everything we do that is formulaic and takes more than 90 seconds can be automated.

Furthermore, RPA’s economic impact will be greater than autonomous vehicles, which are incredibly popular thanks to Tesla, Uber, or Google. The industry has been developing for a while, and it will totally transform our marketplace and our lifestyle.

The RPA technologies market will be worth $6.7 trillion by 2025. And will be as significant an event as the rise of the mobile internet.

I strongly believe that RPA will have an incredible impact on our lives, businesses and jobs. It is an inevitable change as powerful as the birth of the Internet in 1994. We need to learn how to embrace this change and make it work for our better, common future.

Let’s have a look at a few of the most important reasons why we should implement RPA in our companies as soon as possible.

1. Significant increase of job satisfaction

Humans are certainly not destined to do repetitive, mundane tasks. Do you remember “Modern Times” a 1936 comedy film where Charlie Chaplin, after working in a factory, could not stop doing the same automated gestures he completed for his work?

We humans are designed to do great stuff. We are creative and sublime. Only in this situation can we showcase our abilities, make real progress and build the ultimate destiny of mankind. And sometimes simply have fun while working.

Thanks to RPA there will be no more awful Mondays (but awesome ones only) and no more impatient waiting for weekends, as the whole week will become a fascinating, fulfilling time.

It looks like robotics is the factor that will free us from tasks that can be done by smart software so that we can enjoy our lives more; or even to the full.

2. Boosting efficiency

A robot does the same repetitive, rule-based tasks as an employee, but faster – sometimes much faster; even 10 or 15 times faster. He, or she if you prefer, can work all the time; no sleep, no lunch break, no emotional bias or self doubts, no spendings on motivational programmes… 365 days a year, including a time when you’re surfing in the Bahamas, exploring the Himalayas or eating Christmas dinner.

3. Making and saving money

During a public lecture at the London School of Economics on 9th May 2016, Professor Mary Lacity and Professor Leslie Willcocks analysed RPA from many interesting perspectives. One of the most significant topics was the profitability of RPA in business. After examining 14 companies that used RPA, the researchers found that the return on investment was between 40% and a staggering 350%.

However, ROI has even been known to reach 800% percent!

Robots can also reduce your labour costs by 25%-50%., which makes it a vastly more effective solution than offshore business process outsourcing.

4. Facilitating governance

To successfully compete and develop in their markets, contemporary enterprises need to make constant progress. In order to do this they must measure and analyse all businesses processes and then see what to change, adjust, simplify or improve. Software robots are ideal for this job, as they accurately measure everything they do.

5. Improving agility

The word ‘agile’ has been famous since at least 2001, when it was used in the Agile Manifesto (a Manifesto for Agile Software Development) by British software developer Martin Fowler. If you are an entrepreneur you know very well that ‘agility’ is now a key word in business. If you are not agile not only will you not develop, but you will probably not survive. Software robots are your natural allies in this complex process. They can work with all your platforms and applications immediately, and they will evolve together with your company in the future!

A constantly changing civilisation requires the continual improvements and self-improvements of a business organisation.

6. Standardising processes

Your company will certainly benefit from precise, unchangeable processes. Robots are far better at doing this than us humans.

Automation software is perfect for error-free, repetitive and standardised operations. And we are great innovators and visionaries; being free from repetitive, time and energy consuming tasks, we can focus on making our world a better place to live in.

The future of effective business begins now, and depends entirely on the abilities of organisations to automate their activities and business operations. As  Charles Darwin famously said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.” If you optimise the ability of your business to adapt and evolve, you will not only survive but you will give yourself a fantastic chance to gain a competitive advantage in your chosen market. If you hesitate too long then there will no longer be room for your business to effectively compete in the future.

 

Andrzej Manka

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