by Margaret Wood 7/11/2017 12:50 PM

Updated 7/12/2017

Image result for images of automation

Optimization of Performance

With the responsibilities of optimizing the performance of people and leading business functions, comes the additonal responsibility of paying attention to the huge impact automation will have on your workforce and organization. How AND how well work gets done will change with the addition of machines and cognitive systems

We are witnessing entire job categories in the services sector:being displaced resulting from advances in robotics and increased automation. Just to name a few:

  • drones
  • self-driving vehicles
  • warehouse robots…

And, that’s just the beginning.

Just today, https://www.npr.org/player/embed/536782033/536782034“>a leading story on NPR announcing a re-opening of a coalmine in Pennsylvania, restoring about about 70 jobs was followed-up with the announcement of future plans for the mine looking into automating by adding self-driving vehicles, once again displacing some of the recalled miners.

Cognitive systems – software that can read, hear and think – are re-writing the capability requirements for today’s knowledge workers.  A s lower-level knowledge processes increasingly get automated, the bar will rise on the critical thinking and problem solving skills workers need to remain relevant and viable.  Today’s invaluable employees are insights experts, not information users.

Leading organizations are now focusing on how to develop and manage a workforce of insights experts. Based on trending and recent research, today’s business performance relies on the relentless pursuit of building experts faster.

Top-performing organizations are committed to augmenting human ability to understand, synthesize and evaluate the mass amounts of information bombarding their workforce 24×7.  They seek faster, better ways of identifying experts, empowering them to quickly filter out actionable insights, and bring experts together to expose the power of “brilliance in the collective” that was never before possible.

Becoming Dependent on Automation for Accuracy

According to Techwalla, “While it’s true that a machine is only as effective as the humans who made it and information gleaned digitally is only as accurate as the person who submitted it, once the bugs are worked out of programs, they are infinitely more reliable than humans.”

What Happens When the Automation Goes Awry?

They go on to say that, “Companies that rely exclusively on automation to operate and run their information systems can get into a panic when those very systems fail. The costs to fix or replace broken systems can be exorbitant. You can’t just pick up an eraser and make corrections. You need to either employ technicians to keep up with updates and software and hardware meltdowns, or have a reliable service to call on a moment’s notice.

Then you have the whole issue of confidentiality and security. You can keep trade secrets and tell only a few trusted individuals, but if data makes it out on the Web, there’s no taking it back.”

Users Aren’t Always Easy to Change

In summary, Techwalla feels that, “As office automation continues to evolve and you incorporate new technologies into your systems to remain competitive and profitable, the disadvantage is that you’ve got to retrain your entire cadre of users. Everyone from your receptionist to the order clerk and from your customers to the salespeople who deliver your product or service must learn the new systems. Many people do not learn new systems easily and others are stubborn about doing things the way they always did. So while you have the expenses related to retraining, you also have the attitudes of your end users to combat.”

 

The Final Analysis

Automation and increased efficiency is a good marriage- in most cases. Automation is here to stay – corporations must decide to what extent they will embrace automation, what segments of the overall operation can or should be automated and what protocols need to be set up for recovery in the event of failures. ( Think Redundant Backup Systems).

The personnel aspect should also be analyzed carefully. With every employee you lose due to automation, there is a certain loss of information that may not be captured in the automating process. Also, the costs involved in hiring, onboarding, and learning curve can be exhorbitant.

Finally, the real question to automation is want vs. need. A careful analysis may reveal more efficient and expedient ways to improve productivity and competitiveness without sacrifice. Otherwise, prepare to launch a comprehensive effort to elevate your employees to insights experts  vs. information experts capable of taking you to the next level.