You have probably heard of artificial intelligence. Robotisation is not a new term, just as you will be familiar with machine learning. But what do these terms mean exactly? And is it really a pipe dream? Or will you soon also use thinking computers, that increase your company value via a specifically designed framework?
Robotisation is not something new
Robotisation means having an increasing number of tasks, that were initially carried out by people, carried out by robots. The first visible forms of robotisation were visible for the majority of people in the automobile industry, where an increasing amount of work was outsourced to robots.
This trend was not something new: in many professions robotisation has played a significant role since the Industrial Revolution. The advent of the letterpress meant monks no longer had to write (copy) books by hand. This afforded them more time to focus on religion. An example from the more recent history is the telephone operator. This job is sometimes portrayed in old films. With the advent of telephony, every connection had to be made manually. You informed the operator who you wished to speak to and the operator subsequently connected you to that person.
Should we all be concerned that we will soon be out of a job then? Actually, no. The last few years have seen the arrival of many new ones. Consider jobs such as web designer, gym owner, personal coach, community manager, social media marketer, or cyber security analyst. These are all careers that did not exist a few decades ago and were unimaginable for our great grandparents. The new jobs often see people and technology working closely together and that creates new jobs.
Taking over work
In countries such as Japan, enthusiastic and inquisitive research is carried out into robotisation. A recent example of this is the Honda ASIMO and Sony’s robot dog called Aibo. This in contrast to the Western world, where this subject gives many people an uneasy feeling. In various studies into the use of robots in daily life, it appears that the Japanese expect robots will take over work of people much faster than their European counterparts.
Half of all the work carried out by people, can be taken over by robots in 2055. This was stated in the latest McKinsey report concerning work: A future that works: Automation, employment and productivity. With this prediction, the international consultancy agency makes a distinction between jobs and tasks. This does not necessarily mean jobs will be scrapped, but tasks will be reduced in every job. It is clear that some jobs will be more robotised than others.
Different groups in society
They are relatively cheap, never sick, work 24 hours a day and are getting smarter all the time. We are, of course, talking about robots. It makes sense that they are increasingly taking over work from people. According to research, robotisation will ensure that 30 to 50 percent of all jobs will disappear in the long term. Three years ago, Deloitte published research into the future of employment: between now and 2035, 2 to 3 million jobs will disappear in the Netherlands due to robotisation and artificial intelligence.
Which work will disappear? Which work will be created? How will the work change? And what does this mean for employees? A common statement is that ‘people must continue to remain at the heart’. It is clear that there a number of groups in our society when it concerns robotisation.
One group is of the opinion that jobs will be lost, because robots are taking over our tasks. Supporters of this theory wonder how to proceed with the theme of employment and how people can be active in the employment market in the future. Within this group there are slightly gentler voices, that state that ‘only the less educated will suffer at the employment market’. The second group is positive about the developments and opportunities that robotisation will bring.
There is a third group between these first two. This group is of the opinion that ‘in the old world’ professions either concerned making goods (such as craftsmanship or industry) and professions which concerned non-manufacturing (such as service provision). In the near future, this division will become routine (by robots) and non-routine (human work).
Lack of imagination
The figures from the Deloitte study into robotisation (and the loss of work opportunities) speak for themselves. But is the conclusion that we draw on the basis of these figures not too negative? The social debate rarely touches on the new jobs that exist thanks to robotisation and artificial intelligence. This not only shows a lack of insight into technological development, but also a lack of imagination for our future.
An example of these developments, are the warehouses which are now fully automated and where no humans are present anymore. This creates different jobs than the traditional warehouse worker. That is why Amazon, that already works with many robots, will create 100,000 new jobs in the near future. They are looking for engineers, trainers and software developers. With a variety of experience, education and skills. Consider also the self-propelled trucks (that take over the work of drivers) and banks and insurers that automate increasingly more processes. People are required to make these self-propelled trucks and automation possible: after all, it is non-routine work.
Today surgeons still carry out many operations themselves. In the future more and more of these tasks will be taken over by robots, as they can work more accurately and on a smaller scale. Surgeons will no longer need to carry out operations, but primarily analyse the complaints and advise their patients. Their role and profession will not disappear, but does change.
The mix of digitisation, robotisation and the advent of self-learning technologies forms the foundation for the new technological revolution. An apparent underlying contradictory logic forms the foundation of realising this: the more complex and differentiated the processes have to be set up, the simpler the robot (that can handle all these processes) must be to operate.
The Industrial Revolution rendered our muscles redundant. This century sees our brainpower automated. If we wish to successfully come out of this automation process, then we must search for the new jobs of the future. We have to think about what we want and can add in a world filled with smart machines. Not to battle against, but to strive for the collaboration with robots.
The main conclusion currently is that primarily the nature of the work will change. This is due to a number of the current tasks becoming automated. Fear is a bad advisor. Therefore, the advice is to be curious and accept changes. The winning formula: a combination of a smart machine and human intelligence.
An example from the retail practice: analysts carried out a data analysis of purchasing and customer behaviour. This led to the discovery that men purchasing diapers on Thursdays and Saturdays between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. were prone to also buying beer. The supermarket strategically placed the diapers next to the beer. This increased the beer sales. Brilliant! But what if you want to repeat this analysis every day and want to see the context with other product groups instantly?
It all started with simple factory robots, but now self-learning robots exist that hardly make any errors and are even creative. It is then also not the question if, but when we will deploy technology to achieve advice for organisations.
The following functions within an organisation that will be robotised, will therefore be communication, marketing and sales functions. The contact, the connection with hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of customers at the same time, can simply no longer be carried out manually. The context within all channels of the digital ecosystem (and the related behaviour) are the insights that are required and reflected in the conversation via chatbots (or: the conversational interfaces). The speed which is desired for this and the context that is related to this exceeds human intelligence and demands robotisation and artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is also required to find the relationship within the five objectives of the Business Acceleration Framework. Machine learning is also a process that is related to this. Artificial intelligence is the intelligence which allows machines, software and devices to solve problems themselves, imitating the intellectual power of a human.
The usage and creation of algorithms, as well as pattern recognition, has become a meaningful ‘game’ for an organisation. By learning from mistakes, for example by ‘laying’ different information flows from communication, marketing and sales processes over each other, a better result is created in the long term. By automatically repeating and simulating this process, the learning process proceeds increasingly faster. In this case you are speaking about machine learning.
In daily practice, the analysis robots are increasingly taking research work out of our hands. This is a good thing, right? Then you will have more time to focus even more on the wishes and needs of your organisation. Sound advice (in my opinion) is more than simply a correct analysis. It is about empathy and asking the right questions, what you do with regards to the framework that manages the organisation. Some look for the risk and the satisfaction, others opt for a safer option. Meanwhile, the Business Acceleration Framework is automated, or to be more exact: robotised.
It is up to the directors or business owners to make digitisation and technological innovation (using the framework) an integral component within the company. There’s the rub. Most people within an organisation are not leading the way when it concerns the proactive use of automation, digitisation and technology.
Many professionals generally respond in a reactive way to strategic issues. Consider the use of data and data analysis, for example. These days, there are far too few organisations that genuinely base strategic advice and decisions on data that is related to the Business Acceleration Framework. While this is exactly what could make an important contribution to achieving the goals and objectives of a company.
A positive side note of technology is how you can use it these days to improve business models. Processes proceed faster and basic repetitive decisions are automated. This allows you to focus more on the more complex issues and processes which are not running smoothly. What does this mean?
You have to work with the contradictory logic. The Business Acceleration Framework is now robotised. The digital assets will be fully automatically controlled. From time to time analysts will check whether the five objectives of the framework are met. If required, adjustments and interventions occur immediately. The digital assets are a robotised process. It is time to design your organisation for this.
- This post is a pre-read of Part 4 — Chapter 4 of my new book ‘Digital Assets’ the translation of the Dutch publication ‘Digitaal Vermogen’.
- Also read the publication ‘EDM and the Digital Domain’