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Everywhere you go or read, everyone is now talking and writing about “Digital Transformation”. Although everyone seems to agree that it will be a big event in the near future, typically, as with any other hype, there are several phases that everyone goes through when absorbing a new concept or technology as described by Gartner.
 
Hype-Cycle-General-resized

Stages of coping with a disruptive technology

  • Firstly, there is either a singularity or a slow crawl that creates a Technology Trigger. A new technology or concept is created by new people or new materials, and at this point usually there are only but few proofs of concept to back the Technology and it’s early Producers.
  • Afterwards, we rise the Peak of Inflated Expectations. A small amount of successes begin to arise and early adopting companies board the new “Technology Train”. For “Digital Transformation”, we are most likely at this peak.
  • Through the Trough of Disillusionment, the newly found interest begins to fade and a kind of natural selection takes place among those early producers of the new Technology.
  • The main phase is the Slope of Enlightenment. Now the Technology’s application and true effects are understood more in depth and adoption begins to go into full steam.
  • Lastly, the Plateau of Productivity. By now, everyone acknowledges that those not using Technology are out and find themselves in dire straits. The remaining Producers begin to reap the full rewards of their early pushes for success.

Although it is important to figure out what the nebulous “Digital Transformation” actually is or what the next big thing will be, it is also important to be aware from where it comes from.

Paul Harmon from BPTrends (who himself has been around the block for quite some time), sheds his opinion on the matter and states, correctly, that automation will have a huge impact on our society. I believe that Automation will be an Internet-like phenomena with potential to reshape our future. Of course there are some disbelievers (after all, we are in the Peak of Inflated Expectations), but at many aspects, serious technical and social challenges await us:

Unfortunately, lots of jobs may be going to disappear or become obsolete in the future. As an example, only the most artisan or high segment (high quality, low production) of manufacturing will survive.

Also, Technology will see a big impact as it turns on itself to automate. Business Processes, driven by the need for greater profits, will need to be largely automated due to stakeholder pressure to increase profit.

But not all jobs will be impacted in the same way. A study from Grant Thornton International Business Report via a survey of 2,571 executives in 36 economies reveal that over half (56%) of firms surveyed, either are already automating business practices or have done so over the next 12 months, since the study was performed in mid 2015. By industry, 43% of manufacturing firms said they expect this to eventually replace at least 5% of their workforce. Cleantech was in second place on 39%, followed by the technology and food & beverage sectors on 35%. At the other end of the spectrum, unsurprisingly, just 9% of hospitality, education and healthcare firms expect 5% or more of workers to be replaced.

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With some jobs becoming of second importance, us humans will need to focus on other motivations and climb up the Maslow Hierarchy of needs.

maslow-pyramid

Right now, our jobs provide us with at least tier 1 (Physiological needs) and 2 (Safety needs) directly. When those needs are met without significant effort on our part, people will need to find answers about themselves and what it means to be themselves somewhere else, since automation has taken over. We will need to relearn to be ourselves.

The optimist in me wants to believe we will enter an utopia, but the realist in me knows that that’s just not human nature and our society could very well degrade into decadent and problematic behaviours. And I’m not the only one thinking that, even Stephen Hawking thinks so himself, as well as a few other notable personalities (such as Elon Musk) agreed and published their concerns on the evolution of Artificial Intelligence, striving for a more thoughtful approach.

Further in the future, questions about the sentience of machines or automata will begin to arise. We, their creators, will then have to chose to acknowledge them as rightful members of society or risk having yet another episode of our already bloody and tragic history as a species when we treat the new sentient machines as another substandard beings and use and abuse them.

Maybe then Philosophy will be a discipline worth studying again.

In the end, software will changed the world (again). BPM software in particular will have its part on that change with BPM Automation, helping companies to improve their processes in a more automatic fashion by increasing productivity of the collaborators of the processes themselves and also by lowering the costs to maintain and change them. Let’s just contribute to a sustainable evolution to a Brave New Automated World.

JOÃO ESTÊVÃO

BPM Consultant and Evangelist at Polarising