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Automation will liberate, not replace, people

Why do people always assume automation will replace them, when the truth is, used to their full potential, automation will set them free?

The misconception 

According to McKinsey, 60% of back-office and admin tasks are to become automated.

On their own, facts like these can sound frightening to people working in these areas. Especially in Asia Pacific, where automation is in its infancy. However, this is not the whole picture. But it’s where the doubt comes from. 

Depending on where you sit, this figure will seem like an opportunity or a threat. Managers see efficiencies, staff see redundancies. Or at least that’s the stereotype.  

But is any of this true? 

The truth

As usual, what’s happening here isn’t as simple as it seems. 

In fact, that same McKinsey report says that despite automating 60% of activities, less than 5% of jobs will be replaced. That’s a significant difference, and asks the question:  

What are your people doing if automation is doing their job? 

The answer to that is simple. They’re doing their job. Their actual job, and not all the repetitive admin and manual tasks that once got in the way. 

Automation allows your people to focus on driving operational excellence, cost efficiency, and better customer experiences. All while boosting resilience and reducing error frequency.

Free to do more 

The reality is, we automate the most repetitive and stressful tasks. They’re necessary, but also the least valuable parts of what our organizations do.  

Why are your most valuable asset, your people, focused on your least valuable tasks? Tasks that could be done more efficiently and accurately by machines. Freeing your people to focus on work that matters more.  

Making tools like this essential to the success and development of your organization and people. This is especially true in the case of service-based businesses, which need to be agile and resilient in the face of uncertainty and constant change.

In some regions, this need is more pressing than others. For instance, in Asia and the Pacific, there global shortage of talent is more pressing than for most, so doing more with less – and ensuring fee-earners can focus their time on billable activities and providing service to ever more demanding clients – is key to strategic success.

The full picture 

This constant focus on the threat of automation has distracted people from seeing the real benefits: improved productivity, an ability to maintain international competitiveness, the ability to re- and upskill your workforce (even, with the provision of tools with simple and intuitive user experiences, when that workforce is ageing), and more time to focus on growing regional concerns like cyber security.

Or where people see improved productivity, they mistakenly assume it means machines doing tasks faster than people. But that’s only half the story. In the other half, you have empowered work experiences, creating enhanced working environments that allow your people to achieve more every day. 

Making it clear that the benefits of automation go well beyond reducing numbers. The real transformation comes from giving people the data, tools, technology, and, most importantly, time to create real value. 

Meaning using automations to reduce your workforce actually damages your ROI and misses the point. The value of automations doesn’t come from reducing your workforce, they come from how you choose to redeploy the human creativity and talent that automation releases. 

Measuring success 

But how do you know it’s working? This is precisely what leading global research, consulting and training organization, Service Performance Insight (SPI), do. They help professional service organizations (PSOs) quantify improvements in productivity and profit. 

Their PS Maturity ModelTM, sponsored by Unit4, has become the industry-leading performance improvement tool for over 35,000 service and project-based organizations. 

Like you, many PSO Organizations are using the 2020 PS MaturityTM Benchmark to highlight increasing levels of business process maturity to identify performance improvements. 

But what do we mean by maturity? According to SPI, maturity isn’t linked to time. Instead, it comes from: 

  • High levels of leadership focus 
  • Organizational alignment 
  • Effective business processes 

The benefits of these grow as you better align goals and measurements with your mission. Of course, it certainly helps if they’re also well-positioned within a fast-growing market.  

Where next? 

The core tenet of the PS Maturity ModelTM is that service and project-oriented organizations find success by optimizing five service performance pillars: 

          1. Leadership

Automation simplifies and streamline operations, letting managers move from managing processes to managing people. Giving them more time for coaching and mentoring, while data-based management practices drive results and nurture talent.

          2. Client relationships

Analytics, advanced reporting and clear visualizations give you a clearer picture. It helps you better understand and support clients and give you more time to nurture and build relationships based on trust and satisfaction.

          3. Human Capital Management

Data will help you tap into your people’s real potential. Driving a culture of development, innovation, and excellence.

          4. Service Execution

With automation and improved project management practices, you can transform how you deliver services and value-added products and features.

           5. Finance and operations

The final piece of the digital transformation puzzle. Automation lets you keep all your planning and operations accountable to fiscal realities.

Where does automation fit in? 

There will only ever be 24 hours in a day. But by working smarter and automating, you can transform how you work. Using advanced technologies, you can eliminate repetitive, low-value tasks, allowing your people to focus on more impactful and meaningful work. Letting your people focus on these five pillars.   

Meaning that simply finding efficiencies and savings is detrimental. Automation frees your people to innovate, lead and transform your organization.  

So instead of cutting back your workforce in the face of uncertainty or declining profits, investing in technologies that support your workers in achieving excellence and better business outcomes is the way forward. And investing in automations is an investment in people, not a replacement. 

Ready to learn more?

To discover how organizations like yours across the globe are leveraging automation to improve their operations and grapple with the challenges facing business in the wake of COVID-19, check out this IDC infobrief on smart automation.

To learn more about how Unit4 can help you incorporate smart automation into your operations, check out our dedicated solution pages.