The days of getting results from screaming at people to work harder are over argues this scribe. Machines need to do the work of people instead
Organisations have hit a productivity plateau: It’s simply impossible to get more productivity out of employees using traditional optimisation approaches. However, the emergence of intelligent automation will help organisations break through this productivity plateau. Intelligent automation will augment the human workforce, opening new avenues for productivity as businesses turn to machines to process data and surface insights that will support the business beyond the capacity of humans.
Woodside Energy, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, is a great example of this. Using intelligent automation, Woodside has generated millions of dollars of cost savings, increased the lifespan of critical assets and enhanced productivity by being able to prevent unplanned site shutdowns. Management now has access to data from devices at the plant within minutes, freeing leaders to focus on more complex tasks and innovation. Intelligent automation is also generating hundreds of millions of engineering predictions per day for Woodside – faster than humans could ever achieve.
New Avanade research shows global business leaders have moved beyond the humans vs machines hype about artificial intelligence technologies, with more than half of respondents optimistic that intelligent automation will augment the human workforce, rather than replace jobs. Avanade’s research found 82% of Australian business leaders believe their organisation will need to deploy intelligent automation within five years to be a leader in their industry. Business leaders are increasingly recognising that intelligent automation is essential to achieving increased productivity and faster time-to market.
History reminds us that machines have enabled humans for centuries, helping them work faster and produce more. In the first industrial revolution in the 1800s, there was a shift to powered, specialised machinery machines and factories that facilitated mass production that couldn’t be achieved by human capabilities alone. Fast forward to the late 1900s, and a form of digital disruption has occurred every decade: from the PC revolution of the 1990s to the internet boom of the 2000s and the emergence of the mobile-first world in the 2010s. Each development has brought previously unimaginable opportunities for humans in the professional and personal lives.
Business leaders need the skills to drive change
However, changes in technology must be accompanied by changing management practices. Global consumers surveyed by Avanade agreed with global business leaders that intelligent automation will free employees to spend more time on complex tasks, but 60% of consumer respondents believe intelligent automation is more likely to replace jobs than augment the human workforce. This indicates that leaders need to help their teams move beyond the human vs. machines fear factor to embrace an innovation culture powered by intelligent automation.
Avanade’s research also uncovered the need for a significant shift in leadership capabilities with the emergence of intelligent automation. More than half of the respondents believe that within five years, an understanding of new and emerging technologies, such as AI, will be more important for leadership than traditional specialisations like sales and marketing. The research also highlighted a capacity to manage the augmented workforce and a thorough understanding of emerging technologies as the top qualities C-suite executives will require within five years.
The bottom line
It is clear from Avanade’s research that organisations must embrace intelligent automation to remain relevant. Not only will intelligent automation accelerate productivity by driving more value from data, it will free employees from mundane, repetitive tasks to focus on activities that add value, like innovation. However, leaders must be prepared to evolve their capabilities to manage the emerging augmented workforce and help bring employees on the journey.