Have you ever wondered whether the day will come that one short computer code will replace you in your job? According to Oxford researchers, nearly half of all current positions are endangered by advances in the field of artificial intelligence and growing automation. And it’s not just typical manual work, where we’ve already mentally processed this trend. More and more robotisation and automation are involved in jobs in healthcare, business, accounting, and law. We talked about automation with Peter Augustin from the QBSW Slovak software house.
“Automation is often made out to be this great scarecrow who wants to take our job. But it is not entirely like this. Look at the technological wonders of the 20th century, and yet we still spend eight hours at work, the same as a hundred years ago. Interesting, right? We must realise that new technologies and automation are not here to replace us. They should ensure that we are more efficient and productive”, explains Peter. He adds that, unlike a computer, a person also has cognitive abilities, such as creativity, empathy, and the ability to live or respond to stimuli instinctively and outside predefined paths. Obviously, there is also a controversy over whether machines can imitate these qualities as well. “That’s a bit of science fiction, though,” laughs Peter as he reminds us to go back to the present.
Repetition is the mother of boredom?
You are probably reading this article on a computer, a cell phone, or a tablet. Work without these devices would not exist in the digital economy. Whether people are in charge of allocating system approaches, customer support, or managing a company, more or less a part of their work involves boring and repetitive tasks that take time, do not create value, and reduce productivity and efficiency. But they have to be done.
The biological supercomputer that we carry on our neck is sometimes misleading us in this respect. When we learn new things, the brain creates new connections and rewards us with enthusiasm, energy and good feelings. Once we start doing the same things repeatedly, the brain begins to use existing “outgoing” connections, stagnates and we get bored. On the other hand, it is precisely in these boring, but clearly given activities that computer brains are much better, as they will not get bored, will not lose their attention and will not start making mistakes. Why should we not leave these tasks to them so that we can concentrate on activities where we can use our unique abilities?
“The popular buzzword for passing boring jobs to machines is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Maybe it sounds difficult, but the truth is that most of us have already been such an RPA programmer. A simplified example is an Excel macro or a script that performs the tasks assigned after launch. However, when we get to a slightly higher level of corporate systems and complex architecture, ordinary scripts are no longer enough and RPA systems take up. These systems are something like ‘Excel macros on steroids’. It’s like SMS and Messenger – both are basically sending text messages, but there is no need for an explanation”, says Peter.
What are the benefits of robotisation?
Peter starts to name the pros for RPA: “They can communicate with different business systems without costly integration, they have a clear process path and you do not need to be able to program to use them. They work on the so-called presentation layer – automating the processes we normally see and solve on our screens. In practice, a regular user can scroll through a process mapping and demonstrate directly how the individual actions are solving today. The RPA system follows him and learns to perform his role. It’s like a new colleague who does the same job, but ten times faster, with a zero error rate and does not need a seat and a computer”.
A typical example is therefore the payment of travel expenses. After “training” the RPA system, the system can open an email box, download travel/accommodation invoices, extract the necessary data from the invoices, log in to the business tool, and upload the data.
“These systems have enormous benefits especially in jobs that create little value, but pose a high risk. For example, invoicing into SAP, working with Master Data, purchasing, or HR management. A large part of these back-office activities are now outsourced to cheaper destinations and save 5-10% of the costs for local people. RPA systems on average provide up to 25-40% cost savings for these operations. Their use is possible virtually wherever people work with structured data and where the process is standardised and heavily regulated”, Peter concludes.
We will not stop the progress that new technologies bring. While it is true that certain job positions will disappear because of this, and some people will have to learn to work differently, it is much more important that these systems make life easier, increase efficiency and enable us to concentrate on work that stimulates, entertains and makes sense. That’s why we should not be afraid of automation, but take full advantage of the benefits it brings.