The Rise of the Machines


The Rise of the Machines

What is not to like? Artificial Intelligence and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is fantastic, everyone says so, so it must be true.

Robotic process automation is a form of business process automation technology based on metaphorical software robots or on artificial intelligence /digital workers. It is sometimes referred to as software robotics.It does things better than us, faster than us, more intuitively than us, so what is not to like?It works 24/7, 365 days a year without complaint, and doesn’t even want a holiday to see its friends and family at Christmas.Seriously who would not want a person like that in the organisation working for them, you would have to be crazy.Software Robotics is on the rise and is being used in more and more scenarios in every type of business and life practice. In fact, it’s probably quite difficult to not find a scenario it is being used within at the time of writing (late 2020).

So why would we not want to use Software Robotics in our everyday roles at the organisations we work for when it appears to be so insightful and competent?

Software Robotics requires input from humans, (remember them) in order to constantly tweak what services can be provided and most importantly how they are provided to the end user.This input varies greatly from use case to use case, but where it seems to be most efficient is when the end users are completely bought in to the process and freely contributing information and ideation, to ensure that Software Robotics is developed in the most advanced ways possible.To copy a role for software robotics, having the end user bought into the process and engaged fully makes the end result more effective and functional when used with other processes and procedures. It is like we are embedding a little tiny piece of experience into the process to ensure the outcome is as good, if not superior.

And there lies the issue.

Have we reached the point where the end users push back against Software Robotics in order to delay its uptake? And if we have reached that point is this the moment where change management comes into its own to address that inadequacy.A long time ago (1990) I worked for a software company that provided services to its clients and one of those services was Word Processing and Spreadsheet capabilities.Remember this is 1990 where many companies were still using typewriters and paper ledgers to operate.I showed one secretary how to use Word Processing and I thought she would be especially impressed when I showed her the revolutionary mail merge feature that merged a 250-address file with a single standard document, printed it out and also produced the labels to stick on the envelopes for posting. A truly devasting piece of tech that would make her job so easy she could do so much more with all the time it saved her.This I felt would be the end user gasp moment where people cheered, and we all had a party to celebrate the coming of the digital age…I hit the button and it all started, the printer whirred, and the process finished with 250 perfect document’s and about six pages of labels ready to stick on the envelopes. I looked at the woman and she burst into tears and slumped into her office chair aghast at what she had just witnessed. “what is the matter?” I said, “was it something I said”?“that’s all very good” she said, “but what am I going to do for the other four and a half days of the week”?On the way back to the office it hit me that every piece of technology deployed has a consequence. Every process undertaken will and should, affect something somewhere.When you work and live with technology, it is just more technology that solves deployment or useability issues with end users, but to the end users it very well could be their livelihood disappearing before their eyes.

Adoption and how we sell change to the end user

That moment always had a profound effect on me and still does even to this day. When I have started change programmes or some form of deployment initiative I always think about adoption and how best to sell the technological solution to the end user.I have found that if you do not bring this train of thought into the picture very early on then you run the risk of building and deploying technology that no one will adopt or use to its full capability, if at all.Software Robotics is our new mail merge, and we need to understand that to progress we need people on board. Replacing roles and responsibilities is all very well and adds to the bottom line when it comes to cost effectiveness and issue eradication, but we are going to need human input for a very long time on this journey to technological utopia, so best we keep the humans on side and engaged.If we don’t, we are going to lose experience, client understanding and something that many companies strive for, differentiation.When Software Robotics is super prevalent, and we all have it operating at full tilt, being able to engage with a human who understands your pains and problems because they have experienced them before, is going to be a very sought-after capability that differentiates one company or organisation from another.As Sydney J Harris the American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and, later, the Chicago Sun-Times once said, “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.”

Final thoughts

Change programmes by design ease the adoption process, remove angst and fear, and most importantly prepare the future for the individual and the organisation so that maximum benefit is obtained from the change.Having a change programme in place for a technology deployment is essential for software robotics because it’s prepares the groundwork for the added value provided by the outgoing role owners contribution. The better this is, the easier it is for the business analyst to technically define that role.Apple found that 13.5% of the population are early adopters and love the feeling that new technology will provide them with an advantage of some sort over everyone else. That leaves a massive 86.5% of the population whose needs have to be accounted for in one way or another.The next time someone tells you that change management isn’t required for a particular deployment or initiative make the assumption that they are firmly in the 13.5% demographic.

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