Influential IT trend-watchers Forrester and management consultancy McKinsey, often the perspective most listened to in the boardroom, have added their voices to the growing chorus of expert commentators who are convinced the Pandemic presents a unique opportunity to Automate as much as possible, especially in the key business function of HR.
“Automation has been a major force reshaping work since long before the pandemic,” one of Forrester’s researchers, Leslie Joseph, tells us on the company’s blog.
“Now, it’s taking on a new urgency, not just in the context of cost but also as a tool for risk mitigation and business resiliency.”
What Automation will look like is spelt out in greater detail in a late 2019 McKinsey report, The Future of Work, where the company notes that, “Automation promises to change the nature of what an organisation is, what a company does, and how work is done [and] will at the same time free humans from mundane tasks and enable more complex, fulfilling, and impactful work—[but] it will also complicate economies, social order, and an individual’s ability to make a living.”
To do this safely and properly, its research team believes, Automation is a transformation maybe best done in waves, and was starting well before COVID (think “parallel and large trends such as sweeping organisational change, the gig economy, the increasing desire for privacy or transparency, the long-term journey of shifting to customer-obsessed operations, the destruction of industry lines, and strengthening of ‘super-platforms’”).
In practical terms, McKinsey expects customer experience (CX) will remain a central strategy to win hearts, minds, and spend accompanied by what it dubs “AI-led whispers” to frontline workers and predictive experiences to customers, which will be fundamental in delivering digital and human experiences. And those that ignore these whispers will have their CX “suffer” as a direct result, the report warns.
“Financing a mortgage will no longer require human workers, as leadership and regulators trust the consistency, predictability, fairness, and efficiency of bots’ complex processes that span functions or institutions. These traditional and robust back-office and mid-office roles are critical now due to the imperfection and fragility of processes that flow across people, functions, technologies, and institutions — but not in the future… automation can be trusted to make daily financial transactions to maximise personal benefit, no longer requiring those that recommend or execute those transactions.”
In more sobering terms, McKinsey also says Automation will exacerbate income disparity, as dividends shift to digital-savvy leaders and negatively impact non-digital workers unable to skill up fast enough. Winners will be what it deems to be “human-touch” workers, cross-domain knowledge workers, teachers/explainers, and those in digital elite jobs; Automation’s losers will, it warns, likely include single-domain knowledge workers, physical workers, function-specific knowledge workers, location-based workers, coordinators, and cubicle job holders.
The report then goes on to work through a number of convincing scenarios about what that might look like in a post-COVID world, from the customer, leader, employee and (why not?) robot’s points of view. It also paints an intriguing picture of how important in our Automated future the employee becomes as we will be the glue that will hold the complexity together, that is actually quite reassuring.
We think there’s a lot of really interesting stuff here, and we recommend you check it out.