CXO

How to augment your human workers with AI

Employers need to think through the business problems that artificial intelligence can solve when planning for human-machine collaboration, according to a Forrester report.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • In 2018, bots will replace and/or augment 311,000 office and administrative positions and 260,000 sales and related positions. — Forrester, 2018
  • When considering how to augment human workers with AI, employers must target specific roles and workflows, pilot test solutions, and introduce robotic coworkers with specific competencies into the team. — Forrester, 2018

In 2018, global technology spending will surpass $3 trillion for the first time—but that investment has failed to drive employee productivity and engagement at most enterprises, according to a Tuesday report from Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder.

As a result, employers are increasingly looking to augment human workers with technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), wearables, and more. But getting humans to work side-by-side with robots remains a challenge.

As many fear, automation will replace many human workers. However, it will also create new jobs, and, most importantly, transform existing jobs, Gownder wrote in the report.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

In 2018, robotic process automation-based digital workers—or bots—will replace and/or augment 311,000 office and administrative positions, and 260,000 sales positions, according to the report. However, most of these bots will augment their remaining human colleagues' capabilities. For example, one company created a financial services back-end function in which human workers passed repetitive, rote activities to the bots, allowing their own jobs to become more strategic.

They key to introducing AI augmentation is starting with focused business problems, Gownder wrote. Here are three steps to help you augment the employees at your company, and examples of companies that have already done so, according to the report.

1. Proceed step by step, targeting specific roles and workflows

Managers should analyze their workforce by segments, to determine what business problems could be solved with technology automation. The vendor Theatro saw a need for augmenting retail store employees, who often use walkie-talkies to communicate with their teams, which creates problems because every employee can hear the chatter. Theatro's solution involves a wearable device and a software platform to aid in the communication process, the report noted.

2. Gestate solutions in an innovation lab or other piloting environment

Augmenting employees with technology requires a structured approach, the report stated. An innovation lab can act as the organizational entity that leads the process of designing and testing new solutions before implementing them. For example, a global gas and oil company was able to solve safety problems for field workers by monitoring new innovations, testing them in a lab environment, starting with small pilots, and iterating at every step until it could make a decision on what was most effective.

3. Introduce robotic coworkers with specific competencies into the team

While bots, including chatbots and physical robots, are starting to augment human work, they currently work best in very narrow, specific contexts, the report noted. For example, Emagia's intelligent agent Gia acts as a digital assistant for CFOs, and can serve as a general purpose digital finance assistant across different processes, including enterprise resource planning.

Overall, focusing on the employee experience is key for successful augmentation, Gownder wrote in the report. It will also require an upgrade in employees' skills that companies must be willing to invest in.

"How workers perceive their interactions with a company deeply affects their levels of productivity and engagement and, ultimately, their relationships with customers," Gownder wrote. "The ability to be productive and to complete meaningful work every day heavily influences employee experience."

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/oyacobchuk

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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