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Intelligent Automation

Navigating the Digital Shift: Why Intelligent Automation is the Future of Work

We humans—not to mention our artificial intelligence counterparts—often look to the past to prepare for the future, and with good reason: It gives us a good baseline to understand what we might expect. But in certain periods of history, we’ve undergone a revolution so radical that it changes the trajectory of history and cannot easily be predicted by the past.

As I travel around the world speaking at events like the World Congress, IRPA Automation Innovation Conferences in New York and London and SSON Intelligent Automation events, I talk to many global business and IT leaders who want to know: What’s next?

Heading into 2019, the global economy and business world finds itself in one of those radical revolutions changing the course of how we do work. I call this wave of the Industrial Revolution “Workforce 4.0.” 


Workforce 4.0 is a pivotal shift. While the first three waves of the industrial revolution focused on improvements to the workplace, 4.0 focuses on the workforce.

Innovation is typically born out of necessity… 4.0 technologies are no different

4.0 appears to be focused on augmenting the workforce, and in doing so is helping address two high-level macro issues.

  1. Work-life balance. Workers now have numerous technologies and tools to drive productivity—just imagine life without Microsoft Office or email or Google—but that technology is stressing us out because we have to operate, manage and fix it.

    The new norm is 24/7/365 availability, enabled by smartphones and the internet. Our constant connection has tethered us to the workplace even when we’re not physically there. We’re stuck managing processes that are aided by, but not automated by technology. We find ourselves overcommitted to work because of technology enablement that keeps us continually connected with no real plan to dig out from the 11-hour workday. Failure to make it home for family dinner is an all too common issue and one that is driving the need for 4.0 innovations that augment the workforce to give people time back.

  2. A capacity gap. An increasing capacity gap clearly exists and continues to grow between a global shortage of workers and skillsets and the demands of enterprise growth. A recent Deloitte survey of 1600 executives found that 84% feel like they are doing everything they can to prepare for 4.0, but only 26% said they had the right workforce and skill sets to harness 4.0.

    The “digital native” generation has grown up on technology. They enter the workforce capable of processing more data and doing so more quickly than previous generations, because they grew up consuming and processing more data through the likes of YouTube.

    The business challenge is employing the limited number of digital natives in a way that leverages those key skills to help close the capacity gap. They’re digitally skilled, but hard to retain due to the “gig economy,” ability to easily move between jobs and cultural shift of the younger generation of placing greater emphasis on non-work life hobbies and passions. As a result, we still have an organizational capacity gap. This capacity gap is driving the need for 4.0 innovations that augment the workforce to provide organizations much-needed worker capacity.

From data gatherers to data users

According to the World Economic Forum, technology will displace 75 million jobs but create 133 million new roles, for a net effect of 58 million new jobs by 2022.

What’s happening is technologies like robotic process automation and workflow orchestration and intelligent OCR are taking over transactional duties, and opening up capacity for humans to shift into higher-value, judgement based roles. We move from lower value ‘swivel chair’ activities to more creative activities such as defining problems, setting strategies and serving customers. In the simplest of concepts, intelligent automation solutions will help people shift from “data gatherers” to “data users.”

It’s important to note that technology isn’t the innovation, but the catalyst that frees people to innovate. More than anything else, intelligent automation gives humans the space and time to think and to create.

Technology isn’t the innovation, but the catalyst that frees people to innovate.

Roadblocks to navigating the digital shift

Three issues may prevent even the most innovative companies from harnessing the benefits of Workforce 4.0.

  1. Culture. It’s critical that new technology that will change the way we work is viewed with excitement and enthusiasm from the top down. We need to rethink not just how work can be done differently, but where it can be done. Treating digital solutions as “digital workers” will humanize the technology and accelerate the person-machine collaboration that will create the “total workforce” consisting of digital and physical workers.
  2. Customer Experience. Society is increasingly moving into a self-service model. Airline mobile boarding/kiosks, grocery checkout, streaming movies and music are just a few examples how technology has created sustainable models by focusing on using technology to improve the Customer Experience (CX). Companies must place CX at the core of what they do and how they think about using technology. Organizations that invest in the best technology but deliver a poor CX are likely to face an uphill battle with buy-in and sustainability.
  3. Governance / Management. Even for organizations actively implementing technologies like RPA, the inability to automate at scale continues to hold companies back. In a recent Deloitte survey, just 4% of organizations are operating more than 50 robots, a negligible increase of 1% from 2017. Process fragmentation, lack of a clear RPA vision and lack of IT readiness are three primary factors cited. Technology providers often think of “building” their technology as a tool that an end user can use. As end users or organizations accumulate many tools, the management of the tools becomes the inhibitor to scalability. Organizations that embrace Workforce 4.0 technologies should continually be thinking of how to find a “connective tissue” management capability.

Bridging IT and Line of Business with a Digital Management Office

4.0 will demand a collaboration between the CIO and the lines of business. Take, for instance, the recent Deloitte survey that found organizations struggling to scale RPA. The primary challenges identified by respondents were fragmented processes, lack of RPA vision and IT readiness. One simple root cause lies at all three of these and that’s the fact that there is a disconnect between business and IT.

While business is busy building robots to automate tasks and processes between systems and applications, including large ERPs like SAP and Oracle, IT is executing the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) on those systems. As soon as IT releases a change to SAP, for example, there is a risk that every robot interacting with SAP takes an unscheduled leave of absence. Robots are rules-based, and when the rules change, they break. Broken robots result in broken faith in RPA, which results in lack of top-down support (the cultural element mentioned above). The only way to overcome this is to connect the IT and business.

For long-term sustainability of a digital strategy, business and IT need to work together to bring in and manage technology. Similar to a Center of Excellence, a Digital Management Office (DMO) brings IT and business to the table to govern, deploy, manage and scale digital solutions like RPA, artificial intelligence, business intelligence, blockchain, security and more.

A Digital Management Office proactively closes the gap between the SDLC and the business. Key stakeholders from business and IT set policy and governance, including tools, training and change management. The operational component of the DMO builds, tests, deploys and manages the digital workforce. And existing stakeholders from IT, procurement, legal and other departments provide support to the DMO like they do to other solutions they investigate, procure and monitor.

Intelligent Automation Manages the Digital Workforce

A Digital Management Office is run by people, but ultimately it’s technology managing technology that creates the work-life balance and fills the capacity gap demanded by Workforce 4.0. Kofax is building the world’s first purpose-built Digital Workforce Management Platform called Kofax Intelligent Automation. Kofax IA bundles RPA and “smart automation” capabilities such as mobile capture and intelligent OCR, workflow orchestration, advanced analytics, digital messenger and e-signature that connects to open source AI to build, deploy and manage the world’s most powerful digital workforce.

Now previously unscalable RPA solutions can land and expand from a single process in a single business area into a complete enterprise-wide automation machine with the support of the Digital Management Office.

Now individuals’ work-life balance comes back into focus as we leverage technology to manage technology.

Now the business closes the capacity gap between workers and skillsets and the need to drive organizational efficiency, growth and profits.

Now organizations can offer a new generation of workers the opportunity to shift from being data gatherers to data users.

Intelligent Automation won’t eliminate the human touch, it will enable it. Capacity frees people to think, create and innovate. I cannot overemphasize that human element, because the qualitative improvements to worker morale are what drive quantitative improvements to the business.

Navigating the digital shift? It’s a piece of cake when your digital coworkers are orchestrating it.

Learn how to achieve true business value with Intelligent Automation.

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