The impact of automation in the workplace

The impact of automation in the workplace

Over the last 30 years, technology has been used to continue to help businesses be more efficient, but analysts predict that some of the biggest changes are going to take place over the next 20 years.

With a rise in artificial intelligence and cloud platforms that make powerful automation tools available and affordable for all; businesses are starting on a journey that is going to see the workplace of 2040 become vastly different to that of 2020.

Automation is often broken down into four different types:

  • Industrial Automation
  • Business Process Automation (BPA)
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

Industrial automation has been around for some time and has already changed many working environments, with car production lines being the most obvious example where staff have been replaced with robots. Industrial automation generally involves a mechanical device that replaces the need for human involvement, or that works alongside staff to make a task easier or safer to complete.

Business Process Automation sees the use of software to streamline or automate processes. This has also been around for several years, especially in larger businesses. Even in smaller businesses, many will have used some form of process automation if they are running line of business applications such as a CRM or ERP system.

Robotic Process Automation does not relate to mechanical robots, but the use of software to undertake a higher level of automation to perform complex tasks that focus on one area, such as order processing.

Intelligent Process Automation is where automation has been moving to over the last few years and the area that will see significant growth over the next 20 years. IPA does not rely on a pre-defined set of rules like RPA would, it instead makes use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to mimic human interactions and deliver intelligent outcomes. An increasingly commonplace example of this are the chatbots which are increasingly better at mimicking real human interactions.

The reason that we are expecting to see a significant increase in the use of IPA is not just the continued development of the technology, but the accessibility of the technology. It is difficult to think of a prior example where some of the most advanced technological solutions are available on tap, to any business that wants it, on a pay as you go basis. That is the case with IPA though, as the tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, have created incredibly powerful cloud platforms that anyone can access.

Microsoft 365 and its Power Platform is a great example of where businesses have access to intelligent process automation, often as part of an existing subscription. We are helping businesses start to use platforms like Power Automate and Power Apps to increase efficiency within existing processes. These changes are reducing some of the more manual and repetitive tasks that staff are having to do, giving them more time to spend on high value tasks.

Over the next decade, we expect to see some of these technologies taking an increasingly prominent role in the workplace. Organisations such as Gartner and PwC have been undertaking research to try to understand what the impact will be.

The good news for the economy is that most research is predicting that automation technologies will generate more jobs. These new jobs created will need a different skill set to those that could be lost. A recent Government briefing highlighted that technological innovation never leads to long-term unemployment, but rather types of employment within professions change as specific tasks evolve and new tasks emerge.

In the early 2020’s, there is expected to be a job displacement of around 3% which will increase as the technology matures. By the 2030’s, 30% of current jobs could be fully automatable.
People with skills in related technologies will certainly be among the beneficiaries in terms of jobs, it is also predicted that the value of soft skills will increase.

Businesses will be increasingly able to work smarter, achieve more and grow faster than they can now. The expectation is that businesses will invest more in their staff, who will spend little time on manual tasks and instead be able to focus on high value tasks.

First Solution and First Digital are supporting businesses as they go through this transformation and can help your organisation begin to benefit from these technologies.

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