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How could automation change the post-pandemic workplace?

30 Jul 2021

According to tech consulting company Cognizant, intelligent automation could pave the way for post-pandemic success in the workplace.

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The pandemic has proved transformative for our working lives, with digital transformation being accelerated across almost all sectors.

But what will our ways of working look like in the future? Perhaps the answer to this question lies in a strategic embrace of automation tech and skills.

Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work surveyed 4,000 business leaders from multiple industries to find out their thoughts on the role of digital technologies, including automation, in a world reshaped by the pandemic.

One of the main things gleaned from the survey was that automation, along with AI and analytics, was seen as something of a ‘must-have’ according to respondents – 40pc said they believed software for process automation would have a major impact on how they work in the future, while 39pc said the same about physical work automation.

In a similar study done by Cognizant in 2016, the respondents were slightly less enthusiastic about automation.

The most notable increase from 2016 was the level of interest in cloud delivery of services, with 52pc of leaders saying they believed it would be a key future trend, compared to only 34pc in 2016.

As we’ve learned during Automation Week on, businesses in the future will likely rely much more on machines. That is not to say that humans will be made redundant in the workplace, but that machines will take on manual or repetitive tasks and leave people more time to do strategic or creative work.

If businesses are to realise their lofty ambitions of implementing automation technologies in the workplace, they will also require a significant number of automation experts who happen to be human. After all, humans have the advantage of possessing infinitely more soft skills than machines – such as creativity, decision-making and adaptability.

On average, the business leaders that Cognizant surveyed said that between 23pc and 26pc of processes would be carried out by machines in 2023, compared to only 15pc to 17pc now.

Sectors such as IT, sales and marketing have the highest potential when it comes to process augmentation, respondents said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the information services sector was the industry with the highest level of widespread automation projects already implemented, at 18pc. The next was manufacturing (11pc), followed by retail and banking (both 10pc), and travel and hospitality (9pc).

The life sciences sector was found to be trailing behind, with only 5pc having implemented widespread technology augmentation and 20pc having plans to develop pilot projects.

Of all the respondents, 425 had augmented two or more business processes. These respondents reported greater efficiency and employee experience compared to those who had not adopted this type of technology.

Perhaps the battle between robots and human workers is all in our heads. According to Cognizant, automation success lies in inter-department collaboration and forward planning – both things that humans are very, very good at.

Infographic: Cognizant.

Infographic: Cognizant

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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