Robotic Process Automation Wants to Steal (the Boring Parts of) Your Job
- April 30, 2019
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Matt Simon interviewed Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, in a Wired article titled “The Robots Want to Steal (the Boring Parts or) Your Job”.
Matt talks about how machinery and automation have been augmenting human labor with inventions such as the combine for harvesting wheat, and the word processor which improves our ability to write. Eric supports this idea:
I subscribe to the narrative that mass job replacement isn’t here. What is imminent is the replacement of parts of jobs through AI but also through robotics.
He goes on to use the example of recent advances in machine-learning image analysis that provides more accurate results than human radiologists, but that AI is far from replacing the human:
There are 27 distinct tasks that a radiologist does. One of them is reading medical images.
But radiologists also consult with patients, coordinate care with other doctors, do all sorts of other things. Machine learning is pretty good at some of those tasks, like reading medical images; it’s not much help at all in comforting a patient or explaining the diagnosis to them.
I think it’s a little bit of a lazy mindset to look at a business process or a job and just sort of say, OK, how can a machine do that whole thing? That’s rarely the right answer. Usually the right answer requires a little more creativity, which is, how can we redesign the process so parts of it can be done by a machine really effectively and other parts are done by a human really effectively, and they fit together in a new way.
This is just one example of how automation can improve human performance.
And this case study reminded me of a project that BP3 recently completed for a client to scale the on-boarding of thousands of external agents enabling them to sell insurance products. This required a combination of refactoring existing business process, decision services to help determine what the agents were licensed for and what selling agreements were in place, and RPA to assist with things like data entry into government websites that don’t have web services for automated data entry. What used to take weeks can now be accomplished in hours. New agents are now onboarded overnight and can start offering new services and provide more value to their customers immediately.
The boring job of lookup, verification, and data entry was eliminated, but like radiologists, that was only one of the many distinct tasks that employees were responsible for. And now they’re free to focus on the work that can’t be automated so easily, which is the work that really creates value for their firm.
If you’re struggling with how to apply automation in your business – or in your job/role – to maximum effect, this is what BP3 does. The tendency is too easy to think about job replacement, but the real question is when will we allow people to stop doing the work of robots? When will we allow people to focus on the human element?