Businesses are undergoing dramatic transformations with the advent of AI and automation. The very fabric of the workplace is being transformed by the implementation of different types of automation systems.
The technological changes are designed to perform routine and repetitive duties, augment human activities, and in some cases replace humans altogether. The implementation of workforce transformation vis-a-vis work automation will necessitate an overhaul of existing SMB frameworks.
There are three primary forms of work automation to consider, notably robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive automation, and social robotics. We will briefly examine each of these elements to understand how small businesses can benefit from the adoption of these technologies.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has steadily been developing over the past decade. Nowadays, it is used at enterprise level and is transforming the workplace in much the same way as machinery did during the Industrial Revolution.
Robotic process automation like Kryon RPA software is geared towards greater efficiency in business operations and business processes. When coupled with Intelligent Automation (IA), robotic process automation confers many powerful advantages to businesses.
Robotic process automation is used to undertake repetitive business activities. The software robots can perform end to end processes with little human involvement whatsoever. RPA solutions are designed for more than just cost reduction—they also improve accuracy, employee morale, allow for greater scalability and flexibility, and they decrease cycle times in business activities.
With robotic process automation, businesses gain real-time insights into workflows and business activities. Standard labor-intensive activities such as invoicing, inputting transactions, email responses, reporting practices and so forth can easily be undertaken by RPA. As it stands, RPA implementation is minimal in businesses around the world, but is growing at a steady clip.
RPA should not be ascribed to the complete range of advanced automation abilities. RPA is suitable for predictable, repetitive, and important processes. Businesses can implement between 5–10 robots and still have an outsized return on service delivery. Any monotonous tasks requiring manual intervention, with time intensive requirements will benefit considerably from RPA.
The word cognitive refers to ‘thinking, reasoning skills, or memory.’ Clearly, cognitive automation utilizes AI technology to seamlessly interact with human beings, understand natural language, and build knowledge. Cognitive automation can also be adaptive in its response to problem-solving. In essence, it is artificial intelligence which can be configured for human language.
Cognitive automation is best employed with unstructured data sets. For example, if procurement managers are evaluating client data, cognitive automation can be used to analyze and interpret social media feedback, media publications, and other data sources for a comprehensive perspective of a service provider’s offerings.
On a practical level, CA can be used in the financial markets to handpick the most relevant points for an investment-related decision for influencing consumer buying behavior. These tasks are typically performed by teams of highly trained analysts, stockbrokers, consultants, financial advisers, et al.
With cognitive automation, the robotic processes can sift through mounds of data automatically and provide relevant contextually correct information for business purposes. Cognitive automation introduces additional layers to robotic process automation systems. It delivers contextual adaptation.
This is important when it comes to IT workflow processes, and managing data flows. As a disruptive transformation system, cognitive automation can dramatically cut down time taken to perform tasks from weeks into milliseconds. Such is the power of this work automation technology.
Social robotics is a term that came to prominence in 1997 when Billard & Dautenhahn addressed it in their academic studies. Social robotics is focused on designing and developing robots which engage with humans on a social level. It’s important to distinguish that the interaction is not among the robots themselves—that falls into the field of multi-robot systems.
Social robotics is geared towards robots displaying emotional behavior, i.e., the human social characteristics. Further, social robotics is about expressing emotion and learning to use natural cues, develop personalities, and be competent at a human level.
In summary, a social robot must be capable of engaging in social situations which are familiar to human beings. The communicative functions are paramount. Many instances of social robots abound, and these are known by other names such as humanoid robots, or simply social robots.
There are many applications for social robotics in the workplace, particularly when it comes to enhancing the employee experience at work. Multiple examples abound such as that between Fuji Xerox Research Technology Group and UNSW Creative Robotics Lab in Japan. These robots are being psychologically programmed to ensure that employees are happy at work and able to collaborate with their colleagues more easily.
These three forms of workplace automation are fast gaining acceptance among SMBs. Whether it’s robotic process automation, cognitive automation, or social robotics, the transformation is already well underway.