A new wave of automation is building, and it will affect our ways of work. The convergence of better sensors, actuators, computation, algorithms and qualitative parameters has reached a crucial threshold, bringing advanced techniques out of the lab and driving significant industry investment and outcomes around these new technologies. Robotic technology was once limited to operating behind light curtains, cages, and doors. Now, mobile robots are breaking away from these traditional confines to appear in dynamic, people environments such as offices, health-care facilities, and classrooms. So how are workplaces around the world cultivating their autonomous ways of work?
Intelligent automation and artificial intelligence
New technologies like advanced sensing and flexible manipulation are making robots safer and more efficient in interacting with humans. Meanwhile, interoperability and resource optimization are preparing workplaces for close collaboration of humans and robots as well as lights-out automation. Automation can, should, and ultimately will be human-centric. A successful AI-powered future will require a focus on humans and machines operating in collaboration.
Artificial Intelligence continues to raise the bar for talent, opening up new ways to generate revenue, and creating new job opportunities while introducing cost savings. Machine learning is the most active area of AI and automation at present. As they continue to improve and as more instances of ML and AI enter workplaces, we’ll begin to see even more meaningful insights surface that has the effect of supercharging an employee’s abilities to perform their job. Businesses who don’t take advantage of AI — or do so without keeping employee satisfaction front of mind — are likely to fall far behind their competitors in creating lasting business value.
There are areas where automation should not take precedence over human action. Domains that involve interpersonal connection, respect, affection, and understanding are areas where computers should not be involved, regardless of whether it appears they can. Humans possess strong judgement, a capacity for improvisation based on intuition, and can detect nuance in far greater capacities than the average AI agent. A new model of partnership between humans and machines focused on the value of machine automation and humans working together is called augmented intelligence. It is in this additive partnership that we’ll see the real value of automation.
Experience-level agreements (XLA’s)
The concept of autonomous workplaces has gained prominence as augmented, incremental, and flexible value-defined outcomes have become the norm. We see enterprises growing out of a time with outcome-defined and rigid business service agreements. Enterprises are shifting their tunnel vision from the best processes and services, toward a more holistic approach to bring the best end-user experience. Service level agreements (SLAs) have defined business relationships over the last few decades, enterprises must focus more on outcomes and experiences, and thereby, embrace new-age technologies and experience level agreements (commonly known as XLAs). As the lines thin and cross-domain, cross-channel operations increase, XLAs must be developed with the aim of greater collaboration and autonomy of the worker. Vendors and service providers must become knowledge partners to drive business innovations with the help of emergent technologies like automation and machine learning.
Digital transformation is driving buzz across workplaces to present business value as a shortcut to future-proofing operations. However, no transformation will be justifiable without user adoption. Our workplace of the future objectives cannot succeed without driving digital literacy across the workforce to boost the digital adoption of new techniques and processes. The future workplace trends has clear upsides. However, one big downside is the reduction in human connection, which can lead to poor employee engagement. It is also important for managers to be aware of employee experience and sentiment so that they can make adjustments closer to real-time. Tools that create pulse surveys, for example, give managers the ability to do a quick check on employees, set priorities, and allow continuous feedback to employees and vice versa.
Future of work
Collaboration between humans and machines will lead to the reinvention of many traditional processes in the workplace. The autonomous technologies discussed here will undoubtedly play a core role in the ways most of us do our work in the future, serving as an amplifier. This is the kind of workplace augmentation that will have a real, lasting impact. There is no replacement of humans in this scenario, but the removal of barriers, blocks, and drags on a human worker’s ability to do the more meaningful parts of their job. We’ve already seen examples of physical collaboration between people and robots in factories, and we’re about to see human-machine collaboration revolutionizing experiences in offices and beyond.