How man and machine can work together in perfect harmony: the case for robotics and AI-driven organizational change

By Gilles Ermont, Managing Principal, Capco & Patrick Hunger, CEO, Saxo Bank, Switzerland

The primary goal when implementing robotics and artificial intelligence in the workplace is to improve operational efficiency. Naturally, there is concern that this will lead to a threat to human employment and therefore society itself.

In our view, this concern is misguided. To succeed, companies need to focus on maximizing both man and machine, rather than inadvertently creating a power struggle between the two.

The ideal is to create an operational environment where humans focus on ideas, innovation and change, while everything that is executed more than once is automated.

So far, we have seen a strong uptake in robotic process automation (RPA) projects by banks and insurance companies. Why? Because they have found robotics to be a compelling way to further automate activities that were previously only performed, and possible to perform, by humans. This has in turn produced operational efficiencies and cost benefits.

Meanwhile, as staff dedicate less and less of their time to manual processes and rule-based work, we can envisage them providing more value-adding, outcome-based contributions to their organisation. This will in theory not only enhance operational efficiency and innovation, but job satisfaction too.

But how do organisations get to this point? Getting the most from robotic solutions requires businesses to properly manage the transformation of their workforce, building internal structures to foster not only robotics adoption, but also the need to constantly evolve.

Therefore, when embarking on a robotics programme, the organisation must think of it as top-down re-engineering rather than a traditional technology or process transformation.

From that perspective, there are key areas that businesses need to address to both navigate the challenges created by robotics and realise the long-term benefits. Here are our three top tips on how they can implement a sustainable programme:

Start from the top:

  • Leaders need to be fluent in robotics so that they can not only create and advocate a compelling robotics vision and journey for the organisation, but also articulate the strategic importance for the enterprise
  • Empower robotics advocates who will become the day-to-day change agents.

Establish a robotics change engine:

  • Set strong governance to manage the delivery of robotics solutions against expected business value and constantly investigate new ways for the business to benefit from robotics.
  • Challenge the status-quo by overcoming organisational and process boundaries that are rendered obsolete by robotics.

Sustain organisational change:

  • Support operational managers with the practical methodologies and tools needed for the daily management of a mixed workforce made of both humans and machine.
  • Help managers and staff cope with the anxiety that comes with any changes.
  • Involve HR early on to provide recommendations on redeployment of the human workforce.

Done right, robotics can drive change in all parts of the organisation.  For the movers and shakers in the financial services industry, technology is used for execution and real value is created by human colleagues collaborating and generating ideas and solutions.

For us, technology should only serve as a catalyst, instilling us with a renewed confidence in our own human ingenuity.

Author: Yash Hirani

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