In The Terminator, the fictional Skynet computer network became self-aware, gaining “artificial consciousness” and realizing it was smarter than the humans who created its Artificial Intelligence (AI). Skynet then set out to eradicate all humans on Earth, as it perceived them to be a threat to its existence, and launched a nuclear strike which became known as “Judgment Day.”
While the “Judgment Day” portrayed in The Terminator hopefully will never come, “Judgment Day” for both providers and consumers of services in the Infrastructure and Operations space is at hand. Those who don’t quickly adopt a strategy around the adoption of intelligent automation are going to be left in the fallout of those that do – and given the pace with which this is likely to occur, they may never be able to catch up.
The benefits of intelligent automation are well-known and numerous, from significant cost reductions (some analysts estimate between 25-40 percent) to increased reliability of services. My colleague Sam Gross, CompuCom’s CTO, noted in a blog post that robotics process automation (RPA) “use cases and applications are infinite and…(not) a day should go by when CIOs are not promoting the idea that employee job satisfaction is at least as good an argument for RPA adoption as the potential for reducing labor costs.”
Of course, there are some who compare the hype around intelligent automation and the coming maturity of AI to the hype that surrounded the emergence of the cloud in recent years. While it’s true the full impact is still years away, contracts are being closed today with 30-60 percent reductions over a contract term using autonomic toolsets. That being the case, does it really matter if it’s real today? What matters is that it will be real by the time those cost savings contractually come due, and, according to the analysts, those purchasing those services today simply cannot ignore the savings.
Additionally, there are those who argue that the impact of AI to the job market won’t be as devastating as others are predicting. (If you haven’t seen it, please view the video, “Humans Need Not Apply.”) Many believe that humans won’t be replaced but rather will be freed to perform more strategic tasks, which is a strong benefit of automation. With outsourcing, we’ve seen jobs go overseas — not tasks — but those tasks may be coming back. This means service providers are going to get a chance, through automation, to reclaim the work (tasks) that can be done more efficiently and cost-competitively for clients.
In short, intelligent automation can be viewed as the labor arbitrage of tomorrow. No longer will jobs move overseas to save money — smart providers will automate that work and keep it onshore. As a matter of fact, they will have no choice. Why struggle to save 10 percent by offshoring, when you can save 20-40 percent by automating and reap even greater benefits by enabling people to focus more on enhancing your end-user experience? The labor-based service models used by most service providers today will become passé as the industry migrates to outcome-based models that focus on Intelligent Automation and deliver a true digital workplace.
The best definition I’ve seen of a digital workplace so far was a workplace that leverages cloud-based solutions to enable the user to securely use multiple devices, apps and applications (personal and corporate), enabling location-agnostic productivity. It shifts the centricity from IT and technology to the user through smart-machine-enabled solutions, enhanced automation and self-service capabilities, empowering the user to decide when and how to get service.
Smart-managed service providers will embrace this challenge of delivering two generations of services bimodally, and by doing so, automatically create bimodal operations inside their clients’ organizations. Part of the organization will be focused on delivering the services that are in place today via traditional methods, and the other part will focus on transitioning those services to outcome-based service models required in the new digital workplace.
The strength of our renewable economy has always been the fact that, historically, we are innovators. We find a better way to build a mousetrap, perfect it and let the rest of the world inevitably commoditize it. Then, we find the next new and innovative thing. I would submit that it’s that time again. We can lead the foray into the age of intelligent automation and enjoy the economic success that comes from returning to our role as true innovators.
What are your thoughts on the future of intelligent automation? Post a comment or question here.