Automation – A human take
As most parents will know, young children, innocent from the ways of diplomacy, often ask uncomfortable yet very honest and open questions.
My daughter is no exception to this and early in 2018, when she was 13, asked, “Dad, how do you feel about putting people out of work?”.
Having worked in Robotic Process Automation since 2015, I have often thought about this, but no one had put the question to me in such a direct manner before.
“The Robots are coming!” warn some RPA delivery specialists, instilling worry and fear in the very people they will be working with to assess opportunities for Automation.
That warning, coupled with the FTE saving metric, is not often going to lead to effective co-operation between the delivery team and the team they are delivering to.
In my previous role, working for one of the Top 4, I had sat in many a process walkthrough where I could feel a lack of unease from the people in the room. Is it any wonder when they were fearing for their jobs?
So back to my daughter’s question, my response to her was, “We make things easier for workers, we increase accuracy and quality, and free them to do other, more important things”. Was my daughter convinced? I am not sure.
At the time my daughter asked me that question, I was contemplating a career change. The question led to a process of self-reflection and even more questions. Questions about the type of company I wanted to work for, and the ethos that I was expected to follow, rather than the starting salary and the bonus structure.
In the Autumn of 2018 I decided to start a new chapter in my Process automation career. I joined Intellimorph, a very new start up company, with one client at the time. I had worked with the founder & CEO, Alex Tillirides, in previous roles and he had gone from colleague to a very good friend very quickly.
He told me all about the way in which he wanted Intellimorph to be, what his vision was for the company. Statements such as “I care about the Client and I want to do what’s in their best interest”; “it’s not about selling, it’s about selling right” and “We should be working in an honest and transparent environment” all resonated with me.
These aren’t alien concepts, and they weren’t new to me, but I really wanted to be a part of this company. After all, actions speak louder than words and for the first time in my career, I felt that these concepts wouldn’t just be concepts but a way of working aimed at delivering robots, but with a human touch.
Almost 8 months later Intellimorph has grown from strength to strength. We are partners with the main vendors, our client base has increased, and our head-count has grown rapidly. It has been a challenging journey, but not at the expense of losing the human factor that was so pivotal in me wanting to join.
I don’t see automation as replacing a person’s job, but instead enabling them to do what they are made for. We as humans are not fulfilled by carrying out day to day repetitive tasks. Data entry is soul destroying, I know, as I have done it myself. Checking a 200 page bank statement for certain data elements does not stimulate the brain either.
The social worker who needs to fill in forms for 2 hours every day will not lose their job because a robot now does that. Instead he or she will be able to spend that time saved, to engage with those in their care, and enhance the quality of the service they provide.
Data admin staff can move away from the mundane data entry parts of their roles, and spend more time on processes that require a deeper analytical mindset, without having to worry about those boring bits. Automation allows us to be more human, and less robotic. Automation also creates jobs in specialised areas, like RPA developers, operations support personnel and process automation analysts.
But let me be honest. There could be some immediate job cuts. Yes, some people could be out of jobs. But let’s look at the long-term picture. We are eradicating menial, repetitive tasks that no one should be doing as a career.
Today one person might lose their job as a data entry clerk, but tomorrow the need for a data entry clerk will no longer be there. We are shaping the future, and the future as far as employment goes, will be jobs that people want to do and jobs that people are meant to do.
This week we launched our new website. Our mission statement is as follows:
“Creating a future of greater possibilities through innovation and digital transformation so that people are empowered to do what they are made for”
The next time my daughter, or anyone asks me THAT question, I will be honest and say, “I don’t feel great about it”. And then I will point them towards our mission statement, and hope they understand what the future of automation will bring. After all, history tells us that when the automobile replaced the horse and cart, things didn’t turn out too badly.
Mohomad Shafi Sacoor
Chief Delivery Officer