Why automation is digitalisation 2.0

Think Progress Team

Friday 14 July 2017

The digital transformation economy is in full swing. Paper-based processes are being shifted to digital tools, analytics data is being generated and fed back into strategic decision-making. Digitalisation has reached into every crevice of business, affecting the way people do their jobs – and the jobs they actually do.

According to Tech Pro Research, 80 per cent of businesses say they are working on or already have a digital transformation strategy, be it moving systems to the cloud or making more accurate sales predictions. And we are already heading towards the next phase of digitalisation: automation.

Even now, the word ‘automation’ is enough to make people nervous – but it’s not about robots elbowing you out of your job. It’s about harnessing processing power, speed and connectivity to speed up tasks that would typically take people hours or days to complete. And as a happy by-product, those people are freed up to concentrate on jobs requiring more creativity: problem-solving, strategising and complex decision-making.

How blockchain tech can help

What’s the undeniable driver of business? Financial transactions. For these countless back-and-forth transactions to run smoothly, they must be secure. And for that to happen, the people at both ends need to know they can trust one another.

Until now, clearing banks have been the go-between, with every trade logged in a central ledger. With digital currencies such as Bitcoin gaining prominence, the need for a central ledger is removed. Instead, a copy of the ledger is passed on to every link in the transaction chain, effectively automating the recording and sharing of trust.

This is blockchain technology, and it means risk is lowered around the exchange of financial information. The actual payment history of customers will be available all along the blockchain, and auditing will be carried out in real-time.

By its very nature, blockchain technology is secure, which means the finance sector’s traditional reason for hesitation – transactional integrity – can be neatly sidestepped. This will allow companies to benefit from this field of automation.

How the internet of things can help

We’re familiar with robots building cars, but for the most part people are telling them what to do and how often. With real-time order and production metrics becoming more readily available thanks to the internet of things, manufacturing plants are becoming increasingly automated. The upshot is more centralised control, the ability to drive on-demand production runs and increased flexibility as output is more closely linked to the ups and downs of supply and demand.

How machine learning can help

As people spend more time using digital services and buying products online, their habits and preferences are noted and used to help them find what they want – often before they even know it themselves. This is not the work of some friendly shopkeeper behind the scenes, building up a picture of their customer’s needs. Instead, it is the result of the maturing of the machines and processes that have come to replace traditional shops.

Thanks to big data, patterns of behaviour can be fed into algorithms that make a customer’s next experience that much more personal. Look at Spotify, Netflix, Amazon – all the epitome of the faceless retailer, yet all offer products tailored to the individual.

As these three areas in particular mature, more tasks will be automated – the time-heavy work, the complex processes, the boring stuff. Far from making people redundant, it will free them up to focus on what they’re best at. It’s all a far cry from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Skynet.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Building the next-gen data centre

Where traditional and web-scale apps co-exist