Don’t fight the robots, embrace them

By Jorge Ruiz on Dec 7, 2018

“Able to do that which only a human can do.” This statement has been the headline in my LinkedIn profile for several months now. It almost started as a joke, a reaction to all those cool headlines you can find out there, like “Making customers successful since 1998”, or “Explorer of data oceans.” But right now, I cannot think of a better way to highlight what I can do for a company and how I differentiate myself from others. Very soon, I won’t be competing only with that hipster with an MBA, but also with tireless robots that will complete all the tedious tasks of the job before I can have my breakfast.

All predictions out there are pretty fateful. Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47% of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades, and most forecasts point to 2025 as the time when AI matches the human brain’s processing ability. Clearly, the robots are coming, and there are reasons to be concerned. Just type “robots will” in Google and see the latest search trends going from pessimistic to apocalyptic.

Robots and google

But which jobs will robots take first? Well, technology is almost ready to crash the jobs of the millions who drive trucks, buses or cars, surgeons, etc. But here I want to focus on white-collar work and those software bots that can be trained to perform repetitive office tasks currently performed by humans.

In this context, jobs with predictable activities in structured environments are the easiest to replicate with robots. In other words, if your essential job function is moving a few numbers from one spreadsheet to a system of record like SAP and writing a nice report at the end of the week about how the numbers got from place to place, robots may be already knocking at your door. There are solutions out there that can perform the same tasks faster and more efficiently, without complaints. But robots can do much more. Technology improvements behind Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence move at such pace that the possibilities derived from the combination of these seem to be virtually endless.

So, what is exactly what we can do that only humans can do?

A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,408 technology and education professionals suggested that the most valuable skills in the future will be those that artificial intelligence and machines seem unable to replicate, like creativity, collaborative activity, abstract thinking, complex communication, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments.

The main problem is that the list of what “machines seem unable to replicate” keeps shrinking on a daily basis. Is this good or bad? It is what it is, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It’s true, in the future you could well be replaced by a machine. But, on the other hand, if your company doesn’t automate, it will end up losing workers anyway, because human labor costs are higher and they won’t be competitive in the future.

Don’t fight them, make them your ally

All you can do is try to understand how machines are going to change your environment and adapt. Try to make them your ally, your partner, not your enemy. Bear in mind that if you don’t understand and use the tools, the tools will use you. Use your still superior cognitive skills to anticipate what parts of your job can be fully automated and what parts will be so hard that man-machine partnership will be the most practical approach.

Focus on those tasks of your role that bring high value to the organization, especially the ones that change all the time and involve creativity, collaboration, and communication with multiple departments and regions. And even for tasks that can clearly be robotized, we can still try to enhance them in a way that a robot could not. Make the outcome of those predictable tasks unpredictable.

Act like a human, not a machine, and be empathetic with your colleagues and customers. Let the robots automate the operational part of your processes and apply your irreplaceable skills to complement and add value to the expected outcome. Please note this might not be valid in all cases -that monthly tax report sent to the authorities might not be a great candidate for creativity- but most tasks admit being outperformed.

If you work with SAP and are interested in achieving competitive advantage by implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA), read this eBook to learn more about Taking the robot out of the Human.

About the author

Jorge Ruiz

After studying Computer Engineering and working as a software developer and project manager for 10 years (Microsoft Technologies), Jorge joined Winshuttle in 2013 and is currently our Product Marketing Manager.

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