What a Load of Robotics

March 15 2019

RPA, AI, software bots, Dyson’s 360 Eye, smart cities…the possibilities are endless.

But what does it all really mean? Hundreds of thousands of additional job losses as automation takes over? Never being stuck in a traffic jam again? People falling in love with their home help robot? I seriously doubt it.

Let’s look back on a few other game changers that, well, didn’t change the game.

Remember that? Business travel was going to disappear. Everyone was going to sit in their own office happily engaging over wires and TV and no-one was going to move. Oh, how the world was going to change! Economic disaster for the airline industry!
The transition from 1999 to the year 2000
Computers were going to fail! We wouldn’t be able to get cash out, planes would fall from the skies, the power grid would stop functioning. So to counter that, we spent between £150bn and £300bn in the UK (depending on which estimate you look at) and we were really successful because, guess what, we got cash out, planes didn’t fall from the sky and the lights stayed on. But, and here’s the rub, that was also true of other countries that spent next to no money on getting “Y2K” ready.
The Paperless Office
Still waiting. Say no more.

OK, so we are being a bit glib. Of course things will change and of course RPA is an essential move for businesses to remain competitive in a global market. But to maximise the opportunity organisations need to start at the beginning, not jump to the tech solution. Where can the most value be realised? Which processes should be automated? And, while we are at it, let’s re-engineer the process first, rather than just replicate it using technology.

There are side-effects. People will be displaced and re-training will be required, but the workforce will shift, not dramatically reduce. The human race is a society before it is a workforce, and we will find a way to re-balance and harness excess capacity, to become bigger and better, just like we always have done.

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