Automation is increasing but fret not, bots won't take away your jobs

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    Role of Robotics And Automation in Human lIfe

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In the workforce of the future, would you consider software a co-worker? According to a new quarterly metric reported by mid-sized IT firm Mindtree, that future may already be here.


Under employee metrics in its March quarter earnings, Mindtree also said it has 335 bots, or “software that acts autonomously, free from any interference, human or otherwise, to perform a significant task which will otherwise be performed by a human”.


“Our larger organisational vision is to create a strong, future-ready, and digitally-empowered workforce. Most Mindtree employees are already working and interacting with bots on a day-to-day basis, like they would with a co-worker. It is but natural for us to list them under the employee metrics. We will definitely be continuing this practice going forward,” said Amisha Munvar, Chief of Staff at Mindtree.


The Bengaluru-based firm also said it would add 1,900 campus hires this year and would hire laterally based on need.


“Industry is changing at a rapid pace, and the future workforce will include both humans and machines. Even though we are pioneering technological adoption across multiple levels within our organisation, we are only aligning ourselves to the eventual paradigm,” said Munvar.


Similarly, IT giant Wipro last week said it has deployed its automation platform HOMES deployed across 320 clients via 92 unique bots.


Does this mean people will lose job to bots or their equivalents in the future? Industry experts do not seem to agree.


"335 bot’s is a small number for a service provider. By way of comparison there a number of companies which have more bots installed in their own operations. In the case of Mindtree, which is a service provider, you would expect them to have many more than 335 bots operational at this time. This indicates that they are not very mature in their use of RPA. I know of service providers far smaller than Mindtree with far more installed bots than 335," said Peter Bendor-Samuel, chief executive at research firm Everest Group.


Around 13 percent of tickets, or problems raised in an organisation, are being handled by bots, and the number is likely to go up in the future, said D D Mishra, research analyst at Gartner. "These are all maturing (technologies), and the experience may not be consistent with users. So BOTs may be an important indicator (of efficiency) for some time, but will lose importance over time. There is hardly any company which is not using BOTs," he added.


The focus on automation, especially to take over routine or low level work, has been a theme across industries for the past few years. Not just technology focused companies, but also sectors such as banking, retail, manufacturing and so on have been exploring the use of automated software to improve work quality and efficiency.


“At Mindtree, the bots do the more routine work, which leaves the ‘minds’ – our human team members – free to create more meaningful and value-added services. This approach also enables Mindtree minds to reskill themselves as per the evolving industry requirements and continue delivering value-driven work, without creating any kind of bottlenecks in our operations,” said Mindtree's Munvar.


Bendor-Samuel, however, said that as of now, digital revenue is a more meaningful metric than the number of bots deployed. "RPA is one of the important technologies in the ongoing automation movement but measuring the level of intelligent automation by the number of bots indicates immature thinking and a simplistic and naive approach to a big but complex market place," he said.


Agreed Mishra, who said IT service providers are trying to oversell the capability of bots.


Most IT services companies have been reporting digital as a percentage of revenues. Tata Consultancy Services, the largest IT provider in the country, said its digital revenue crossed USD 4 billion in the last financial year, and accounted for nearly 24 percent in the fourth quarter of FY18. Infosys said its digital revenue was now USD 2.8 billion, over 25 percent of its annual revenue. Wipro said its digital revenue accounts for 26.7 percent of its revenue. Mindtree said digital business rose 18.9 percent during the year.