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Digital is More About Humans Than Machines

Euan Davis, Senior Director, Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant | Aug. 1, 2016
The digital era will rely on machines, but winning will require — perhaps more than ever — talent pools that can thrive across an increasingly digitised economy.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

The digital era will rely on machines, but winning will require - perhaps more than ever - talent pools that can thrive across an increasingly digitised economy. The challenge for many companies today is to assemble work teams to blend skills, capabilities and innovative thinking inside, outside and across traditional organisational structures. Oh, and did we mention the need to master the Robots?

Make no mistake, knowledge work is undergoing a profound change as analytics, algorithms, big data and automation technologies dramatically enhance innovation, productivity and decision-making. But robots (essentially software tools) are also automating and abolishing rote tasks previously performed by humans. For example, process automation technology ensures insurance customer payments get to the right place, faster and with more accuracy; retailers automate to extract, authenticate and verify supplier invoices in minutes, not days.  Although leaders in Asia-Pacific are exploring robots to reshape process work, it's clear that the workforce of the future needs a new architecture to work because Cognizant's analysis indicates that new human-plus-machines workflows will become the business norm.

Man vs. Machines? No, it's a team-up and needs a new architecture to work

"Robots will take all our jobs!" We hear this nearly every day now but despite the doom and gloom, we remain optimistic about machines and the talent (people) that firms will need for the future. As much as humans are beginning to rely on robots, robots won't be taking over when it comes to intelligent, knowledge work. Robots need smart people to ask good questions, solve problems creatively, and manage data. It is not about having one or the other; rather, robots will need to work in tandem with humans to enable more agile and smarter businesses.

For all of us to stay ahead of the curve, it is no longer a race about "faster or cheaper". Humans will need to focus on developing, honing and capitalising on the capabilities that are uniquely human and cannot be replicated today by automated software - for example, constructive problem-solving, inventiveness, empathy and physical touch (say, in medical management). Humans must focus on jobs that require a high degree of intelligence - at least more than what can be applied today by any robot. So how can companies tap into the strengths of both man and machine so that they achieve higher productivity and superior business results?

We see the rise of a new digital business architecture that will determine the talents organisations need and the structure in which they are set to work. This new digital business architecture features mastery with data at its core, flatter organisational structures, and an ability to use software tools and robots to augment knowledge work. At its core is a new work platform that will augment talent with insight, orchestrate new digital workflows (farewell silos!) and create the infrastructure the people working in a digital business need. Here are five principles organisations can use to begin the journey on building one:

  • Use data on talent to build better talent


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