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Want to feel more impactful at work? Give automation a try

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Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG.

I recently went back to read an article that I bookmarked a while back on the predictions for 2020. Forget self-driving cars and flying cars; Popular Mechanics magazine predicted in 1951 that every family in the 21st century would have at least one helicopter in their garage. They also predicted in 1957 that every road and street would be “replaced by a network of pneumatic tubes,” and your car would only need enough power to get from your home to the newest tube.

Dave Evans, the chief futurist for Cisco Visual Networking, actually predicted in 2012 that he'd be out of a job by this time because, as he forecasted, everyone would be able to predict the future themselves.

Automating Everyday Tasks

I wasn’t alive when Popular Mechanics made its predictions, but I was alive for the statement by Dave Evans. What I know for sure is that while his prediction for companies to make data-informed decisions is slowly coming to fruition, we are far off from a world without futurists. What amazes me is that most automation predictions were in the form of self-driving cars rather than taking place in everyday life.

Indeed, many failed to predict the basic ways automation would alter our daily lives. While we haven’t yet been made redundant by robots, nor have they completely taken over physical work in many industries, we are seeing automation at a much more basic level. Automation by definition is intended to keep human intervention to a minimum; it allows us to get rid of the need to do repetitive, boring tasks, while giving us back time to reflect on the more strategic areas where we can make an impact in our work and personal life.

A Disciplined Approach to Automation

I personally feel automation is the most important tool that will continuously improve our work lives in the next couple of years. In its simplest form, it eliminates the need to do tedious, monotonous work — while in its most elegant form, automation reduces the need for human touch points until well into a process, at a point where human interaction is a benefit, not a necessity. As people look to automation, it is important to differentiate between basic automation and automation that needs intelligence built into it for the future. So, when I say “building in intelligence,” I’m speaking to the need to transform your operations through automation and the need to introduce disciplined approaches to automation program structures in order to identify and prioritize those scenarios that can be automated.

What this entails is the ability to differentiate between tactical process automation and transformational process automation. It means that you need to be able to characterize the tools available to assess automation efficiency, effectiveness and applicability. You must also be able to describe and understand the key business drivers for automation and recognize the associated benefits. In order to build a business case for automation at an enterprise-level and by project, you must understand how to progress from tactical to strategic (transformational) projects, by combining automation technologies with process excellence.

Moving Forward with Automation

In January, SIG introduced the Certified Intelligent Automation Professional  (CIAP) program as we seek to help all parts of an organization with their automation activities. The certification program was designed with Virtual Operations, a company that specializes in automation and automation technologies. The CIAP certification will provide students with foundational knowledge in prevalent technology components of intelligent process automation toolsets and show them how these technologies integrate. Importantly, students will gain an understanding of the characteristics of automation, what constitutes a good automation candidate and the common considerations that have to be assessed before undertaking an automation project.

When it comes to the automation project lifecycle, learning to understand and recognize typical roles in the standard delivery approach and the key deliverables in automation projects will be a key learning takeaway. Students will also study the steps required to define, design, develop, test and apply an automated process while identifying delivery milestones and techniques used to keep the project on track. They also will learn how to establish the necessary skills in the operational resources to run automated processes in production and requirements for supporting automation. And upon graduation, students will understand that a standardized approach to assessment, configuration and deployment is essential for scalability and reusability.

My personal opinion is that all professionals will benefit from the CIAP certification. Automation is going to continue, and it is the right thing to do. As I’ve often said, smart people do not want to do dumb work. After speaking to futurists and people in technology and government, I don’t feel that automation is the ultimate job killer. As others have said, we can probably not predict more than 50% of the jobs of the future. In my lifetime alone I have seen the addition of such job titles as app developer, social media manager, drone operator, content moderator, budtenders, 3-D printer operator, influencer, sustainability manager, online store operator, telemedicine physician, driverless car engineer, cloud architect, data scientist, chat bot designer and the list goes on.

While automation may reduce the need for some jobs, it will also introduce jobs that we have not even imagined. As long as the human mind continues to operate in multiple planes, I think jobs that require empathy, listening and emotional connectedness will always be done by humans in my lifetime.

I encourage you to look into the Certified Intelligent Automation Professional program, as both an educational tool and to better understand the human implications of automation. I am very optimistic about the future and excited for all the new jobs that will be created when monotonous jobs are automated and eliminated. Please join me in this exciting new journey!

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