4th Industrial Revolution: Cognitive Automation Reinvents How We Work

4th Industrial Revolution: Cognitive Automation Reinvents How We Work

Cognitive Automation empowers workers for the future, transforming them into super-humans able to do the work only humans can do.

Editor’s Note: The following article is inspired by Intelligent Automation: Welcome to the World of Hyperautomation.The book details the history of intelligent automation and Cognitive Automation, and how Cognitive Automation can positively transform both businesses and lives. It is the first reference book about cognitive and intelligent automation.

Cognitive Automation ushers in a new revolution: that of automating "white-collar" office work. Today, office work accounts for more than 80 percent of the job roles in our global economy, for example, lawyers, financial controllers, or call center operators.

Like previous automation revolutions, I believe Cognitive Automation will have a significant impact not only on employment but, more broadly, on society.

What is Cognitive Automation?

Cognitive Automation is one of the most recent trends in the field of artificial intelligence. It’s a combination of methods and technologies involving people, organizations, machine learning, low-code platforms, process automation, and more. Aimed at automating end-to-end business processes in a computerized environment, it utodelivers business outcomes on behalf of employees.

For example, Cognitive Automation supports the automation of most work activities in "Procure to Pay” — the selection of vendors (using machine learning), sending of orders (leveraging workflow platforms), reception and processing of their invoices (with natural language processing), up to the payment of these vendors (with automation).

As a result, Cognitive Automation increases process speed, reduces costs, eliminates errors, and enhances compliance. Ultimately, it improves employee and customer satisfaction and boosts revenues.

How does Cognitive Automation boost business efficiency?

Even though Cognitive Automation is a new technology, its applications are being rapidly adopted, validating its promise. It has already been adopted by more than 50 percent of the world's largest companies, including ADP, JPMorgan, ANZ Bank, Netflix, and Unilever.

The expected impact on business efficiency is in the range of 20 to 60 percent. These benefits are possible for any organization, regardless of industry or function.

While effective, implementing Cognitive Automation is certainly not a silver bullet. Success is easy to  achieve when implementing a pilot on a limited scope, and many organizations struggle to scale their transformations. Successful organizations have followed leading practices, such as these four success factors for workforce automation.

Cognitive Automation and COVID-19

The global pandemic and ensuing crisis underscores the need for more resilient systems to support our society. Our health and economic systems, mainly managed by a human workforce, suffered under extreme stress.

Hospitals were desperately in need while economies were falling into downturns. Cognitive Automation can play a pivotal role in solving this challenge and preparing the world for the next disruption.

"COVID-19 (has) achieved in six to eight weeks what the evangelists of automation have not managed ... for more than five years," says Ilan Oshri, Professor at the University of Auckland's Graduate School of Management.

COVID-19 and its butterfly effect threw the importance of digitizing processes into stark relief. Enabling business processes to be managed remotely, with automation, means less reliance on the human workforce, freeing those resources to do the work that only humans can do.

What is 100 percent clear is that companies already invested in Cognitive Automation are able to continue their operations, collect their cash, manage their operations, and motivate their employees remotely.

How does Cognitive Automation improve employee's experience?

According to Gallup research, 85 percent of employees worldwide are not fulfilled by their work, because it is too manual, repetitive, and tedious.

Cognitive Automation solves a large part of this issue by freeing employees from repetitive and transactional tasks (e.g., keying in invoices in an accounting software), allowing them to  focus on value-added and exciting work, spending more time on creative innovation and uncovering unique insights.

Cognitive Automation also empowers employees, transforming them into superhumans able to generate insights from millions of data in a few seconds (e.g., identifying a tumor on an x-ray).

How does Cognitive Automation boost the customer experience?

Building trust, satisfying, and retaining customers is critical for businesses. More than 90 percent of unhappy customers don't bother complaining, and 91 percent will simply leave and never return.

Cognitive Automation helps create innovative and customized products, along with highly responsive, omnichannel customer services available 24/7. Based on my experience with Cognitive Automation, companies can increase the level of their customer satisfaction by more than 50 percent, while reducing the contact-center workload at the same rate.

How does Cognitive Automation save lives?

Cognitive Automation has the potential to save millions of lives every year by supporting clinical trials and disease diagnosis, and preventing medical errors.

In developing countries, it can compensate for the shortage of 4.3 million physicians globally, by enabling remote diagnosis. For example, Cognitive Automation application Tissue Analytics instantly diagnoses chronic wounds, burns, or skin conditions just by taking a photo from a smartphone.

How can Cognitive Automation save money, and reallocate it to better uses?

In addition, Cognitive Automation has the potential to realize $10 trillion in cost savings annually, by reducing fraud, errors, and accidents. Indeed, Cognitive Automation not only makes transaction processes more efficient and reliable, it also generates log files for every action, creating transparency and ease of compliance.

Such a vast amount of money would allow us to double our global budget for education, help restore our planet from pollution, and even eliminate hunger.

How can Cognitive Automation help reinvent our world?

Generalizing the use of Cognitive Automation in our world is not without risks. To prepare our world to effectively translate the key benefits of Intelligent Automation, our societies' roadmap should include some imperatives.

Education needs to adapt in order to develop the skills of the future. It has to focus on the human competitive edge—tasks machines will never be able to do well. The most crucial of these deeply human skills are creativity, adaptability, and "learning how to learn.”

According to economists, the use of digital technologies over the last decades resulted in increasing wealth inequalities amongst people. To remedy this, it seems necessary to consider implementing wealth-sharing mechanisms such as Universal Basic Income.

Cognitive Automation's impact on employment needs to be monitored very closely. An optimistic vision for this new industrial revolution is one in which Cognitive Automation enables the creation of a host of new and plentiful jobs.

A pessimistic view suggests that Cognitive Automation has the potential to drastically reduce employment, with many jobs being automated right out of existence. While the actual scenario will most likely be a hybrid, to mitigate risks, we need to be prepared to deal with both scenarios. We owe this to our children and future generations.

My hope is that Cognitive Automation can help us build a new, more human society, one that involves a new, more engaging definition of "work.” It is entirely possible that this new industrial revolution will give us the time to refocus on what matters the most in our lives—family, love, taking care of others, and our planet.

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