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Bot farmers and better jobs

Bot farmers and better jobs

As mentioned in Beyond automation anxiety, industries have long dealt with the possibility that new technology will mean fewer jobs as people are replaced by machines that can do their job faster, better, and far more cost-effectively. This concern continues with the rapid and widespread adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), machine learning, and AI.

Yes, automation technology can be disruptive, and this disruption can affect the workforce across almost any industry. But I also believe this technology will encourage the growth of more rewarding jobs that can fully engage today’s professionals and support the ongoing development of the organization.

New ways to work

One example of a new job enabled by technology is what I call a bot farmer. RPA puts software robots – or bots – in place to automate transactional work that is repetitive, tedious, and rules-based. However, even with this automation, applications from time to time kick out error codes or require adjustments. Someone needs to manage the RPA platform and make sure everything is running smoothly.

That’s where bot farmers come in. They might have a background in a particular process, but now their responsibilities are more technical than process-oriented, requiring new and more sophisticated skills in line with their bot farming duties. 

Consider this: back-office clerks in finance might transition from processing items in accounts payable to monitoring and maintaining process flows across a broader range of activities. Their work will become less mechanical and more analytical ─ and therefore, more attractive. As an added benefit, the skills they develop in bot farming can be transferred across departments and functions. That means that the AP transaction clerks can evolve into process-flow experts with far more responsibilities, better compensation, and greater opportunities for advancement.  

A multi-disciplinary approach

For GBS, new automation technologies will also support a true, end-to-end approach to working.  That’s really what GBS is all about – breaking down silos of information, and bringing together processes across the enterprise in a well-coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach. This directly ties to a future state we refer to as a “boundaryless workforce”. Automation will allow organizations to advance their GBS initiatives, and become more seamless across functional areas.

Organizations will also be able to leverage leading practices and lessons across the enterprise with new automation technology. They will be able to better understand how a particular function can be housed under one unit because it is fully automated. IT, finance, HR, and other functions look at things from a certain perspective, but the next generation of automation-enabled GBS will encourage and enable a more synergistic perspective across functions.

In this multi-disciplinary environment, cognitive platforms will be built to help companies react to change and support governance that enables them to pivot and react to change. And companies will continue to automate processes service delivery. But people, including highly skilled, experienced professionals, will be needed more than ever to identify business solutions and support strategic thinking and governance.

Recruit, train, and retain the best

Instead of taking away jobs, automation technology might create a different issue ─ how to find, train, and retain the talent needed to use and optimize it. In many cases, companies will need to develop a multi-faceted, multi-layered approach to addressing this issue, including:  

  • training programs and mechanisms, including both traditional classrooms and online educational systems, to support information transfer and skills development
  • innovations in work environments that offer a more tech- and people-friendly, modular, and flexible approach to the workplace, including onsite and remote locations for work, collaboration, and information sharing
  • flexible organizational structures that enable management and staff to work together in a more efficient, effective manner. 

In many ways, automation doesn’t take away our jobs; it does our jobs, particularly those that are repetitive, unchallenging, and not especially enticing or invigorating in the first place. Looked at through that lens, automation can lead to significantly better prospects for employees and the organizations that need their talent, skills, and engagement to stay competitive in today’s  business world. 

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