Work Automation – the impact of IoT and Robotics

February 17, 2016

Posted by: George Malim

Dr Setrag Khoshafian, Pegasystems

Digitisation is often characterised through a number of key technologies such as social, mobile, analytics, cloud and IoT. However, the real impact of digitisation is echoed in the corridors of small, medium and especially large enterprises through digital transformation (DX), writes Dr Setrag Khoshafian, the chief evangelist and vice president of BPM technology at Pegasystems.

In the next few years the impact of digital transformation will accelerate – giving rise to the DX economy as predicted by IDC. The Internet of Things is considered the most important trend in digitization. Depending on the analyst or futurist, the estimates are anywhere from 25-50 billion connected Things to hundreds of billions – and I have even seen estimates of a trillion devices on the internet by the year 2020. In other words, huge!

recent study by McKinsey identifies four fundamentals of workplace automation: automation of activities, redefinition of jobs and business processes; the impact of high wage of occupations; and the future of creativity and meaning. The results of the surveys are quite interesting. Automation will impact all categories of work and wage occupations – but not necessarily via predictable norms.

Knowledge assisted work in dynamic case management
Digitisation and especially work automation trends are changing or even disrupting entire industries. There are many sources of knowledge or know-how. The spectrum of workers begins with clerical or manufacturing workers: repetitive and predictable work that can easily be automated. At the other end of the spectrum is the knowledge worker. Knowledge workers are the experts. They are cognitive workers. They innovate and often come up with ideas for new products as well as the policies and procedures in the organisation. Between these two, you have the most important category that represents the majority of workers: the knowledge-assisted worker. The impact of a digitisation platform on work automation for all categories of workers is significant: especially with Dynamic Case Management and digitised business rules as well as analytics.

Industrial things and robots?
From connected homes, cars, cities to entire industries such as healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, public sector and utilities – connected and increasingly intelligent devices are transforming entire ecosystems.

I recently attended two major industrial internet events in Europe;  IOT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona and Industrie 4.0, in Germany – and it was interesting to see the common themes occurring across both. Most notably, they addressed the business models and the importance of complex systems and processes to realise business value with IoT. The top and most important level in an IoT reference architecture involves orchestration and collaboration of Things – including Robots – in end-to-end digitised value streams and systems that are automated through digitised business processes. We have called this Process of Everything.

Robots and consumers
In addition to industry sectors such as manufacturing, work automation trends with robotics and IoT are also transforming consumer oriented industries such as retail, hotels, and restaurants. Robots are also becoming increasingly pervasive in China for various industries beyond the consumer sphere, such as manufacturing. However, China is not alone. South Korea actually has the world’s largest robot density.

CES 2015 featured several types of Shopping Assistant Robots, including those that can assist the shoppers and guide them within the retail stores – potentially replacing human assistants. Another interesting example comes from Japan with almost human-like robots offering assistance to hotel guests.

Work to optimise the customer experience
A disruptive shift is coming. This shift will be multi-faceted: participation of robots in the workplace; empowerment for knowledge work; and increasingly digital systems that continuously learn and adapt. As connected devices – including robots – become more and more pervasive, the relationship between humans and connected machines is going to profoundly affect the working environment. This is inevitable. Some jobs will be lost. New ones will be created. The best immunisation in these shifting digitisation trends is the laser focus on optimising the customer experience – especially for the new breed of customers and consumers.

Not surprisingly innovation will be the key differentiator. But innovation in digitization has many dimensions. IoT with CRM can provide tremendous opportunities for the future of work. Digital enterprises need to increase their velocities and effectiveness in responding to their customers. From knowledge-assisted workers to robots serving customer or self-service customer interactions, the insights gained from these sources can provide new opportunities in optimising the customer experience especially when made actionable through end-to-end digitised value streams.