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3 Common Myths About Business Automation and Digitization

4 Jan 2022
3 common myths

“These are the players — with or without a scorecard. In one corner a machine; in the other, one Wallace V. Whipple, man. And the game? It happens to be the historical battle between flesh and steel, between the brain of man and the product of man’s brain.” – Rod Sterling

On May 15th, 1964, The Twilight Zone aired its 153rd episode, “The Brain Center at Whipple’s,”  in which the wealthy, overzealous factory owner Mr. Whipple is obsessed with increasing efficiency and business automation at his manufacturing facility by replacing human workers with machines.

One by one, robots slowly overtake the entire staff until even the hubristic Whipple’s role is replaced by a mechanical android who swings its pocket watch in the same way its inferior human predecessor did. This common narrative of Man vs. Machine resonated very much with the show’s postwar, mid-20th century audience, and the same is still true today. Just look at the following headlines which repeatedly pop up in the news: 

“Robots are going to take over the world.”

“Automation will make millions of people redundant.”

“It’s too expensive to integrate artificial intelligence technology.”

Such startling claims work as successful clickbait because humans are hardwired to respond to negativity with far greater attention than positivity. Simply put, stressful doomsday predictions and other hypothetical worst-case scenarios generate significantly more views than their more banal counterparts.

In the case of the “robot revolution” against everyday employees, the reality is far more nuanced than the overly simplistic black-and-white scenario that it’s often portrayed to be. Below, you’ll see three common myths about automation and digitization, as well as the truth behind these inaccurate, sensationalized beliefs.

Myth #1: Digitization means laying off staff

“The Brain Center at Whipple’s” entire plot was based heavily on the above myth, with the end of the episode focusing on the antagonist Mr. Whipple’s inevitable layoff by the same means as his former employees. While there may be some truth to this fear as the World Economic Forum predicts that artificial intelligence will replace 85 million workers by 2025, it is a very shortsighted view. The same report also mentions that AI will create 97 million jobs in that same time period, resulting in 12 million more open positions with automation than without.

Currently, the widely available automation and digitization solutions are able to perform much of the day-to-day repetitive and administrative work of an average business, freeing up their human counterparts to focus on more high-value tasks and allowing them to stay more engaged with their work. 

Predictions of when automation might threaten specialist and highly-skilled jobs vary, but most conservative estimates say that this is still decades away. Furthermore, it is far more likely automation will actually create the need for new kinds of jobs, instead of just eliminating the ones that have become obsolete. Throughout history, popular technologies have had a record of creating new jobs, just take a look at the evolution of the refrigerator. While we may no longer have ice boxes, or the ice deliveries of days past, we now have an entirely new modern industry composed of refrigerator manufacturers, service repair companies, and vast customer service centers dedicated to managing their maintenance.

Additionally, business automation and AI have to some extent permanently changed the workforce for the better. Daivergent, a New York-based technology startup focused on closing the autism & disability employee gap, was created when its founder realized that neurodiverse employees were perfect candidates for automation data labeling jobs. This work teaches AI systems to recognize visual or numerical data, like teaching a self-driving car how to recognize a stop sign.

Savvy, well-prepared companies are using automation to their advantage in ways that compliment their workforce instead of replacing them. According to McKinsey, effective automation has delivered tangible benefits, including faster service, improved quality, increased flexibility/scalability, and enhanced productivity, leading to a 20% increase or more in labor savings.

Myth #2: Automation will make us over-reliant on technology

According to many, the world is currently in the middle of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, which is characterized by increased connectivity and sophisticated automation. Organizations that fail to fall in line and integrate intelligent document automation across their business will inevitably fall behind. 

But what happens when things become “too automated?” The reality is, new automated technologies aren’t always foolproof solutions for every single problem, especially in business. This makes it important for companies to be proactive when onboarding new technologies so that they can both realize the full potential of newly-adopted technology and see where it falls short.

A well-prepared business will ensure that all business units have alternative operational workflows, fast access to an IT support team, and most importantly, a healthy balance between the use of technical and non-technological processes. For example, in consumer loan applications, lenders are utilizing automated processes that can begin either with online data submissions or by document submission: this gives borrowers a non-automated alternative to engage with the lender should they desire. It’s always good to have options!

Myth #3: Automation would just be another expense, with questionable advantages

Integrating automation and digital processes means investing company capital. Furthermore, robots, in particular, can require costly maintenance. This latter point is especially true for manufacturing companies, which often invest in sophisticated robotic machinery to work on assembly lines. As we saw in the now often-aforementioned episode of The Twilight Zone, the fictional Mr. Whipple certainly took the above approach to an extreme, which ironically cost him more than what he originally bargained for. However, for so many organizations, especially in the financial sector, automation can generate a host of important KPI benefits.

According to PwC, automation can cover 45% of work activities, which equates to $2 trillion in global workforce costs. Cloud-provisioned automation technology is particularly cost-effective, as there is no on-site requirement to host equipment with the added bonus of often being highly customizable and configurable to each business’ specific use case. Moreover, the right cloud service providers provide ongoing security and performance updates as and when they are required for additional peace of mind.

Apart from significantly lowering costs, automation can also optimize productivity in an equally-big way. Companies are starting to take notice, and whether we like it or not, automation is here to stay. If you shop online on any major retailer’s website, you might notice a chatbot or other digital communication tool designed specifically to improve the customer experience. 

For marketers and business analysts, artificial intelligence can also create opportunities for hyper-personalization and behavior analytics. AI is already supporting human workers in many organizations by providing more precise, on-demand data to drive important insights while also freeing up their time to focus on other areas.

Realizing the extraordinary benefits of automation and digitization

Organizations now have an unprecedented opportunity to transform their business models for the better and at a much more affordable rate than seen by Mr. Whipple.  Thanks to huge advances in cloud technology and AI, integrating the right digital automation applications is easier and faster than ever.

Financial organizations, from large banking enterprises to smaller lenders, are a prime example of industries that are finally starting to use these new tools to their full advantage. These automation technologies are helping to improve client onboarding precision and processing speed, reduce operational costs, and ease friction in countless other areas. Lenders are integrating automation to improve performance in credit scoring, KYC, and AML checks, and loan application processing. In the case of banks, lenders, and really any other firm that deals with paperwork, automation-based technologies increase efficiency and more importantly, revenue. It’s a win-win situation all around.

Ocrolus’ automation solution empowers financial organizations to make faster, more accurate lending decisions and automate document-driven workflows. Curious? Sign up for a free demo with Ocrolus today