Will Robotics automate my job?

During my Robotics Automation program of work at CBA, I was asked this question repeatedly.

Over the course of my career, I’ve met with many clients with diverse strategic objectives and technology requirements. I have been constantly confronted with new challenges that can be solved creatively using artificial intelligence, and these technologies are only becoming smarter and more powerful by the day.

So when I get questions from my colleagues working in Technology, Risk, Legal etc., I can’t help but think about what these jobs may look like in ten, twenty or even thirty years and be really excited about the prospect.

A few months back, CBA’s graduate community reached out to me and asked me to present on the topic of: ‘What does the future of work look like for millennials?’ It was a great opportunity to sit down and compose my thoughts on the topic and here’s what I presented.

Automation will lead to job loss, but this is a good thing.

Invariably, automation is associated with job loss.

Every year, a tier 1 Australian bank spends millions of dollars to keep the bank running. This investment is needed on a continual basis to keep the lights on and happens largely behind-the-scene. Over time, this cost only increases because systems need to be kept alive, available and functioning and synced up with the rest of the systems in the bank.

The true cost of an application living in a banking ecosystem is much greater than it seems. If a bank is running over 1000 applications, it is easy to understand why the cost is so high and therefore, why cost saving is a pretty good business incentive to take an interest in technology which automates manual tasks.

The lion share of operational costs comes from the sheer manpower needed to work with customers, understand their needs and fulfil their requests, while working within tight Service-Level Agreements, updating and interacting with many systems.

Further, many banking units work in isolation. For example, credit card teams are often separate to advice business or home lending teams, even though the same customers might be interacting with them across the board. Many banking systems operate in silos because deep integration is complex and expensive, and it’s easier to rely on human expertise to bridge the gap at times.

Ultimately, this adds friction to the process, consuming valuable time and resource. With the rise of artificial intelligence and the broadening of the commercial applications for these technologies, it may not be necessary to rely on human expertise to bridge that gap because smarter systems are able to automate the operations and maintenance functions that have been so costly up until now.

If this were to happen, roles can shift towards deeper, strategic work and funds can be directed towards employee development, driving growth for the business. Technology will not be able to replace a human-level understanding of a client’s needs, or a meaningful heart-to-heart conversation about finances, but if the employee is no longer stretched across administrative functions or trying to liaise across departments, they can become deeply engrossed in the real work involved in customer service.

This is how saving bucks has not only become a good enough reason, but rather an excellent reason for investing in automation. Automation is a vehicle to unlock this possibility and will be an enabler for greater things to come.

How is this relevant to Robotics Automation?

Robotics Automation works by mimicking human work steps. A human employee comes to work everyday, understands what needs to be done, and opens a standard operating procedure and logs onto systems to execute certain steps.

A robot can be codified to perform these exact steps. Robotics Automation today doesn’t have cognitive intelligence, so it is best suited for tasks which are repetitive in nature, following exact steps with only a few variations.

Okay cool, but will it automate my job?

The truth is that automation will transform many sectors and change many aspects of our lives. Imagine the first car on the road, or humans using a washing machine for the first time. These technologies automated many manual jobs, which caused anxiety at the time. Can we now think about not having one of these today?

‘Will it automate my job?’ I could not quite answer this question on the spot. Because I could sense fear behind this question.

Artificial Intelligence and Automation will bring change and may automate jobs, but this will only open us up to a world of possibilities. Like anything, this change is gradual, inevitable and our lives and economies will evolve. Rest assured, Robotics Automation will not ‘steal our job’ overnight.

Instead of thinking about what will happen when our jobs ‘disappear’, this is the perfect time to be thinking about skills development and building the skills that make us human.

There will always be a place for leadership, empathy and uniqueness of experiences in the workplaces of tomorrow, and the sooner we invest in these traits, the sooner we invest in growth and in workforce of tomorrow.

Final thoughts…

The future of our work is exciting.

Our workforce will only be stronger when we use technology to aid growth and unlock true potential, creating many more job sectors that we have not yet imagined.

If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is!