With COVID-19 speeding up automation, many employees will be finding themselves gaining a new office aide for the holidays – in the form of a digital assistant, aka software robot. According to recent statistics the pandemic has resulted in 41 percent of companies turning to artificial intelligence and introducing new digital ways of working.
Bill Galusha, Director of Process Intelligence at global digital intelligence company ABBYY, explains the impact of the change and tells us which employees will likely be getting a bot as their new co-worker.
The speed of automation escalated during 2020 as companies shifted employees to work from home and deployed innovative technology to ensure minimal business interruption.
New solutions for productivity, collaboration, process optimization and digitization of manual tasks were widely introduced. The most common tool deployed was intelligent automation platforms such as robotic process automation (RPA).
In fact, Forrester Consulting found that 31% of organizations increased their spending on RPA in the past three months alone and 48% of organizations plan to increase their spending on RPA in 2021.
So what does this mean for the estimated 18 million US workers who will remain at home in 2021?
Many will find themselves gaining a new office aide for the holidays – in the form of a software robot, or digital co-worker, that can automate meaningful parts of complex, end-to-end processes using multiple skills — skills that go way beyond what RPA alone can offer.
It also means many traditional roles will be changing forever as organizations employ digital workers to help staff.
These software bots are designed to model and emulate human job roles by performing end-to-end content-centric activities using automation and AI-based skills that include cognitive competences, intelligent process, insight-driven AI and robot-assisted automation.
Digital workers can understand, decide and act to automate roles as opposed to simply acting to automate individual tasks. There are many types of jobs that can benefit from the assistance of a digital worker. Here are the top professions that will likely see a robot join their team next year.
Accountants Payable Clerks
A significant part of every business relates to financial accounting and invoice processing. Businesses need to track all pending and ongoing financial transactions between suppliers and clients. This involves staff carefully going through invoices (usually in PDF format) generated by the suppliers, entering them into their ERP system, and approving payments accordingly. This is a tedious and time-consuming process. According to research from Aberdeen, it can take anywhere between four to 16 days for companies to process an invoice, from receipt to payment approval.
Invoices and AP processes are ideal for digital workers to automate and connect to ERP systems and other business applications. Digital workers can assist AP clerks by following any rule-based task where the same step is performed repeatedly. They can also identify thousands of variations of incoming vendor invoice documents, extract the key data like header and line item details and deliver the data into the appropriate system. The invoice can then be evaluated against order records and other criteria to ensure it’s valid. AP clerks are now freed to focus on handling exceptions and other quality control and customer-centric tasks.
Paralegals and Lawyers
According to the American Bar Association, 60% of general counsel believes that technology will help improve the speed and accuracy of legal work. An example is working with contracts, which is where 90 percent of organizational spending and investments are governed by the terms and conditions embodied in them.
Organizations continue to be challenged in identifying and extracting value from their contracts. A Harvard Business Review article found that while “contracting is a common activity, it is one that few companies do efficiently or effectively. It has been estimated that inefficient contracting causes firms to lose between 5% to 40% of value.”
Digital workers can be employed to deliver human-like understanding of contracts and documents with advanced linguistic capabilities to find key terms and phrases and relevant sections from contracts, leases, and regulatory filings. For regulatory changes, this can save legal teams hundreds of manual hours looking through documents.
Insurance Underwriters and Adjudicators
The insurance industry has a lot of opportunity to employ digital robots, in particularl within claims processing, underwriting, regulatory compliance, and policy cancellation. With claims processing alone, digital workers can free up around 20-30% of processers’ capacity while improving customer experience and minimizing operational risks.
Digital workers can augment insurance agents’ daily work by integrating information from multiple sources to extract data, track errors, and verify terms. Another process where digital workers can help is with form registration. They can automate and assist process completion in 40% of the time it would take a human. Furthermore, forward-thinking insurers like Allstate Business Insurance leverage a virtual assistant application designed to assist agents looking for information about commercial insurance products to make it easier and faster to have the right policy information needed to serve clients.
Human Resources Professional
Rather than spending most of their time focusing on their organization’s people, human resources professional spend 73.2% of their time on administrative tasks. Digital workers can perform the high-volume, repetitive operational tasks such as onboarding of new hires, processing payroll, benefits enrollment, and compliance reporting and allow HR to focus on valuable strategic work that improves the organization.
Telecom service providers handle massive amounts of data stored within multiple platforms, systems, databases, and applications. Everyday tasks revolving around network management, invoice and PO processing, customer onboarding and offboarding, responding to partner queries, data transformation, first call resolution (FCR) and debt collection. This requires juggling these massive knowledge bases to rekey data, update data fields, and understand information. The cumbersome way of working these systems ends up with reduced productivity and higher error rates, and unfortunately, can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction and attrition.
Digital workers can assist staff by pulling information from unstructured content stored in various systems and making it readily available. Staff will have more productive workflows when searching for the information they need, and decisions and inquiries will be resolved faster.
Home loan volume will reach a record $4 trillion this year, and the SBA Paycheck Protection Program processed over 4.9 million loans for small businesses and non-profit organizations as of June 2020. These volumes are expected to increase as the mortgage industry continues to boom and SBA PPP loans transition into loan forgiveness requests. Processing these amounts of loan applications and the documents supporting them can be overwhelming for loan processors who are notoriously known for spending 12 to 18-hour days.
Using digital workers, lenders can process the equivalent of 10 years’ worth of loan applications in just two months. Rather than having loan processers handle hundreds of millions of documents each year, digital workers with the aid of AI skills that understand digital and scanned image documents like humans do the brunt of the processing.
Using artificial intelligence to boost automation and human augmentation will be a growing trend in 2021, according to Forrester. The research firm estimates more than a third of companies will use AI to help with workplace disruption and support knowledge workers working from home – even to the point where every worker can have their own digital robot.
Working with digital co-workers will be easier than it appears. There are new no code/low code solutions entering the market that enable organizations to add cognitive skills to robots like reading, understanding and reasoning, otherwise human workers would spend unnecessary time correcting robots’ work.
Depending on the type of task and content they work with, knowledge workers can grab the skillsets their digital worker needs from open marketplaces that have a variety of options available, such as invoices, tax forms, receipts and others, with core skills available that make it easy to train the new generation of digital workers to their specific industry.
The way in which the employee works has forever changed. The goal for all organizations is to equip employees with the right digital tools to get the work done smarter and faster.
Author bio: Bill Galusha is Director of process intelligence at ABBYY, a Digital Intelligence company. He works with global organizations to advance the understanding of their content with AI-enabling digital skills to achieve better operational outcomes.