Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a very important role in defining this “new normal” of work in the Covid-19 (and post-Covid-19) world.
Automation and AI- The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic seems to generally have dispelled a few hardened organisational “myths” (for example, large scale work-from-home is not possible) and forced companies to relook at how they work and interact with key stakeholders. Companies, and subsequently employees have been compelled to innovate-on-the-go (for example, quickly shipping large screen monitors and printers to the home of employees before lockdown closed the markets). Perhaps, it would not be an exaggeration to say that even the best drafted Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) for most companies were stretched to the limit and yet struggled to cope with the rapid and unpredictable evolution of the pandemic. From the evidence available thus far, it seems apparent that the world will have to learn to adapt swiftly and significantly to a “new normal” of work to deal with the current (and potential future) phases of Covid-19. Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a very important role in defining this “new normal” of work in the Covid-19 (and post-Covid-19) world. More specifically, automation and AI can help companies infuse three key attributes of agility/flexibility, responsiveness, and frugality, enabling companies to better adapt to the fast changing situations in the times of Covid-19.
Agility/flexibility: Most organisations in the pre-Covid-19 world were “human intensive,” wherein most work (especially in the non-manufacturing sectors) was performed by humans. A fundamental challenge with “human intensive” organisations is swift scalability based on the demands that the dynamic environment Covid-19 presents. For instance, when most governments announced policies related to mortgage payment deferment to help citizens better cope with Covid-19-related economic challenges, several banks and financial institutions had to scamper for additional human resources to process the sudden spike in these additional (and probably one-time and time-sensitive) transactions. This is where Automation and AI can help organisations significantly. Both Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI bots are typically hosted on servers and hence, do not need to change work locations as humans were required to. They can also be replicated (scaled up or down) almost on demand. The evidence in the marketplace suggests that those banks who had employed automation to deal with these demand fluctuations in work generally fared much better than those who relied primarily on humans working remotely to handle the additional workload.