As we saw at the recent CBI conference, automation, software robotics and Artificial Intelligence are increasingly on the business agenda. So as the UK looks to bridge the skills gap, what can we expect in the next twelve months? Terry Walby, Founder and CEO of Thoughtonomy makes his predictions for 2018:
1. Digital Labor becomes mainstream – We are seeing the emergence of digital labour as a way to deliver improvements in service – whether in the form of Virtual Assistants, robo-advisors or chatbots interacting with customers, or software based virtual workers in the middle and back offices automating routine tasks. The technology is about more than just operational efficiency, it’s about improving speed of execution, removing human error, offering services online and consistently through a 24-hour day, and even facilitating the launch of new services not reliant on swathes of skilled staff”.
2. Progress in solving the productivity puzzle – According to a recent report by the Open University, skills shortages are costing the UK economy up to £2 billion a year, while the Office for National Statistics reports UK workforce productivity decline through 2017. As Digital Labour begins to enhance workforce productivity, it will also help to bridge the skills gap by freeing up employee time to focus on use of skills, and not the execution of repetitive tasks. The result should be an end to a decade long stagnation of productivity.
3. Challenger outsourcers emerge – 2017 has seen offshore labour providers under significant pressure as they hesitate to innovate, and recruitment in low cost locations has stagnated. 2018 will see the entrance of new players challenging the established market by offering services based on a foundation of digital labour, providing both cost and service quality leadership, and a much greater flexibility to adapt to changing needs.
4. Chatbots will be everywhere, watch out for confusion – Chatbots use artificial intelligence to interact with users via a conversational user interface (CUI), using messaging, text, or speech. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025. While every application provider scrambles to present a chat front-end, the proliferation of bots will create confusion and complexity. Expect to see the emergence of the “digital assistant” – a single CUI to provide access to business services and outcomes across multiple applications and systems.
5. Robotic Automation gets smart – Organisations are using robotic automation (RPA) to automate routine back-office tasks and in 2017 this has made it attractive to banks, utility and phone companies with big departments and big teams. But RPA is limited to rules-based structured processes, and best suited to low complexity tasks. As innovators add intelligence, robots become Virtual Workers, able to manage a broader scope of activity, wider variety of tasks, and address needs in businesses of all sizes.”
Learn more: How to Implement Intelligent Automation