Automation is big in the news lately. The lines between human and machine tasks are blurring, and arguments abound. Will new technology kill jobs or improve productivity?
The truth is, some tasks will always be better done by humans. We’re good at innovation and prediction. Automation is better at repetitive processes that need to run 24/7, and which must be done without error. This is where “virtual workers” come in handy.
In today’s connected world, companies have to deal with large amounts of data too big to be managed by humans or by older software. Artificial intelligence can provide an option for handling these large datasets and reducing them to a size people can deal with.
How Does RPA Work?
One tactic is RPA (robotic process automation). We’re not talking about literal, physical robots here, but rather about software “bots.” Spammers use them for illegal tasks, but RPA services can create virtual workers; the “digital workforce” that can handle repetitive tasks like answering routine questions from customers and transferring received invoices to bookkeeping, etc.
How Does RPA Affect Productivity?
Rather than reducing the head count in the office, virtual workers make humans (and the entire office) more productive. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, automating activities reduces errors and improves speed, sometimes beyond human capability. It could raise productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually.
The same study also says fewer than 5 percent of all occupations can be automated completely. Most occupations will change, allowing humans and machines to each do what they do best.
Companies which embrace the digital workforce faster will have a distinct advantage as these technologies develop. They will find an increase in productivity. Meanwhile, human workers will be able to concentrate on interpersonal roles and meaningful tasks that require their intelligence and innovation.