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Oct 01, 2019Company & Culture

The Connectivity Factor: Digital Technologies as an Enabler of the Human Touch Factor

By: Cay Gliebe
The Connectivity Factor: Digital Technologies

Part 3, in a 3-Part Series on the Impact of Robotic Process Automation

This is the third in a series of articles about people, the workplace of tomorrow, and the impact that robots, robotic automation and the digital worker can have on our lives.

I’d like to pick up on a thread I touched on in part one of this series: the irrational fear (beloved of sci-fi geeks and Steven Hawking followers) that robots, drones and/or artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually enslave humanity and should be treated with the same pariah-like rejection as human cloning. (Although there ARE days when I could use one or two of those clones…). The medical name of this AI fear is “robophobia” (from the Czech word robota, meaning "drudgery") and if you google robophobia you will find that merely viewing or talking about a robot can potentially lead the emotionally compromised into panic attacks.

While I’m not prone to panic attacks and have complete empathy for those who are, I’ll gamble that the greater stressor for most of us who take pride in our work is the worry we have in periods of peak business times…of just not being able to get it all done in time! And that’s precisely why I personally think of robotic process automation (RPA) as a legitimate workday panacea – a welcome drudge-remover to unload the job slog tasks that slow up my productivity!

While we at OneSource Virtual are currently rolling out task bots and digital workers to our customers for repetitive HR and financial operational tasks (two business process service areas that OSV excels in!), I can’t help but envisioning the happy day when digital workers might be aimed effectively at my product and marketing roles. How much more enjoyable might it be to spend larger portions of my work day on human touch activities like motivating employees or strategizing helpful new solutions, versus repetitive data collection or assessing activities?!

RPaaS to the Rescue

Understanding the AI within robotic digital workers, and how/where this technology can continue to improve our workday lives, is helpful to see the big picture advantage. To classify the various types of AI for business use, scientists have relied on workforce management books/criteria to build a digital model of optimized employee performance. Four areas of intelligence are targeted:

  1. Cognitive Intelligence (pre-programmed pattern recognition and systematic thinking)
  2. Emotional Intelligence (adaptability, self-confidence, self-awareness, achievement orientation)
  3. Social Intelligence (empathy, teamwork, inspirational leadership)
  4. Artistic Creativity Intelligence (unpatterned innovation – not possible by robots)

Obviously humans can perform all four of these tasks, but today robots can reach level one above here to perform digital tasks: defined activities with pre-programmed parameters and actions that can be performed and continuously or automatically modified based on both programmed and machine learning (ML). A mouthful, I know, but think of it this way: we can define a robot to recognize a face and even recognize the emotion on that face (happy/sad), we can even pre-program an appropriate (canned) response to that emotion…but the robot can’t take the next step and make the emotional/social/meaningful human touch connection that affects future outcomes.

At OneSource Virtual, we’ve identified and are delivering to clients a set of HR and Financial operational activities that are pre-defined, time saving, audit centric and highly repetitive. Performing these tasks robotically delivers high value operationally to companies and, best of all, provides more time for their human workforce to do what they do best: high value, productive and creatively inspired connections. Fundamentally, the AI in our RPaaS offerings relies on programming and pattern recognition; whereas human worker creativity intelligence was perfectly described by Albert Einstein years ago as “intelligence having fun.” I know which one I prefer – let the robots do the drudge work!

Where Best-in-Class Companies are Heading

I recently read an article about the link between human and artificial intelligence interaction (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40537-019-0202-7), which optimizes the link between the unique traits between artificial and human intelligence. I’ll leave out all of the technology jargon as I don’t think it enhances what I’m trying to convey, so in plain speak, here are some specific areas of this “intelligence blend” that best-in-class companies are thinking about today:

  • How to incorporate the advantage of human worker functional experience, customer service values and strategic judgment into joint-collaboration technology tools;
  • How to transition nearly unlimited business data (knowledge) into recognizable actionable insights IN ADVANCE of an outcome with the hindsight of past mistakes/successes and the foresight to act successfully on the unknown;
  • How to facilitate the continuous learning and information exchange of both digital and human workers, specifically: human beings need to learn from AI, and AI needs to learn from human beings.

For this last point, technology researchers are experimenting with a really cool interface called “The Wizard of Oz” where the human operator remotely controls the behavior of the robot, delivering even more potential value to the workplace, scientific research, medical procedures, etc. In the workforce setting, you might imagine future recruitment activities that take the current “Big Data” fueled AI capabilities that can go beyond just the targeting of and communications to specifically targeted employee prospects – but take actionable (people-driven) steps that algorithmically present/convey the best way to systematically “land” that prospect, and use technology automations to make it happen.

Cool and cutting edge – and that type of innovation is the hallmark of OneSource Virtual for more than 10 years. We’re all about embracing pragmatic, yet futuristic thinking, which led us initially to pioneer the concept of Business Process as a Service and our creation in 2019 of our library of pre-configured digital workers to innovate the RPaaS concept. Yet, as a leading Service provider, we know that it’s the human touch factor combined with our technology prowess that drives our work day, and allows us to deliver service excellence to our clients.

And, as this blog series says, we love doing this (fun) work, so if that’s wrong, we don’t want to be right!