In one of the meetings that I had with a customer in Madrid last week with some doubts, which recently are becoming recurrent, rose up when we started a process of digital transformation in any type of business. Digitalisation or Automation? What is the difference? Is automating an improvement of digitalisation?
If we assume that the transformation of a business in digital is to generate new business designs by using digital technologies, we can establish that the implementation of any such process is useful to make everything easier, more profitable and to reduce the phases of a value chain. However, when this digitalization enters the field of tools that should be used, appears the second concept: automation.
I’m not talking about that automation is only robotisation with machines or software of any process, but the ideal is the combination of both. It is not about replacing people by automatic processes, at least not only that. In fact, there are moments when automation is an extension of digitalisation itself or the contrary, digitalization comes from the degree of automation that we have established in a business model.
In this blog I have told countless times that a world without a job is approaching, where machines will replace everything which they can do faster and more efficient than a human being. That will be programs or armed arms, autonomous cars or intelligent algorithms, but what always will happen is that the ‘digitalization’ will aim to provide a new value to customers, while the ‘automation’ will try to improve what one is doing and how it is done.
A practical example: an agency. If one of the workers in a professional office daily uses monitoring of all his customers while checking their payment dates, their duties, their tax exemptions, and other relevant aspects which must be updated every day, the replacement of traditional forms by a software is not largely ‘digitalization’ but it comes close. Obviously, in this change there is a huge benefit where data entry and updating of needs occur almost in real time and we can see quickly the benefits of this basic digitalization.
However, what is changing the business and paperwork process of the manager in question is when monitoring and data collection is ‘automated’, notifying incidents or observing in the crossing of situations something outstanding. In this way, the ‘human’ manager can do human things: can talk, have dealings, and empathize with their customers while the machines do other jobs. The software can monitor the status of a company, give its conclusion and indicate what should be done and how. The manager acts in base of this and transmits it in time, in anticipation of the situation that could be detected. The final result is a better relationship between company and customer.
The idea is to use technology to value much more the human factor. Technology makes us more human and brings us closer to a natural state where creativity, empathy, and intuition have an exponential value. In very basic and metaphorical terms, we could say that a Bluetooth headset is nothing more than an automatism that allows the use of hands while taking a call. The importance is not whether it is digital or not because it is mechanical, but when the data of this conversation are examined, enters the digitalization. The sum of both is digital transformation and process automation.
I defend automation and digitalisation to the extreme. And I am not doing it because it is a sign of our times, an irremediable course towards the immediate future, a competition model where whoever does not cover will be risking everything. I am doing it because I am clear about that, under a humanistic point of view, this technological and industrial revolution we live is not trying to get people out of the process, but that human beings do that in which they are the only species capable to do.
If we can use the machines, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, automation of all, the Internet of Things or the platforms that eliminate intermediaries from an application to encourage, support, and complement the potential of human beings in the company and in personal life, it is clearly a breakthrough. To do otherwise jeopardises the evolutionary role of any revolution.
It is not logical that a person is spending a workday entering data. That can be automated from applications or tools that allows it. Digitalisation then extracts the value of that data. The ‘humanisation’ finally allows that this person acts from a perspective and a time that would not be if those tasks had to be done by him or her.
When we talk about the future, about a world without employment, we should clarify that the next world is a world ‘without current employment’ and where we have to conquer our sense in this scenario by identifying a ‘work à la carte’ appropriate for every person. The Minimum Universal Rent will go from that, ensuring livelihood for everyone and at the same time the most stimulating working space where human profitability goes to the background for this analysis will be reserved for machines and software.
With each client I analyse the same point. If the digitalised business represents a great opportunity in terms of innovation and competitive advantage, the creation of this value departs from a complete initial approach where everyone’s role is key: the one of the machines and of the persons. Automate and digitise is the most innovative way of humanising.
(En español aquí.)