Is automation necessary for business success? Absolutely not. However, the benefits of automation for organizations of all sizes is well documented. AI and humans have such different skill sets that, when it comes to embracing augmented intelligence with automation, one plus one often equals more than two.
The strategic approach to incorporating AI into processes throughout the innovation lifecycle is about more than whether or not implementing automation is necessary. It’s about when to automate—and when not to.
When to Automate
Knowing which processes are candidates for automation requires reflecting on the characteristics of the tasks at hand.
Cost is at the root of many strategic decisions and is a factor in deciding when to automate as well. AI-powered automations will, over time, save an organization labor costs. However, automations are not free. Depending on the platform you use, there is likely an upfront or recurring price. Automated processes require setup time from either in-house resources or a third party.
These costs must be compared to direct savings, like labor. Your organization should also attempt to quantify any indirect and opportunity cost savings offered by automation, like preventing human error and freeing employees’ time for more strategic or innovative work.
AI is well-suited for repetitive, frequent, and scheduled tasks. These processes are usually clearly understood and well-documented, especially at established companies. Both of these characteristics make these tasks prime candidates for automation. In order to program an automation—and have the time it takes to do so be worth it—the author needs to fully understand the process and utilize the automation regularly.
Complex tasks are often time-consuming and prone to human error. Sometimes, two or more tasks must be completed simultaneously, requiring additional skill and attention to detail. These characteristics cost businesses money, both directly and indirectly. The higher costs of complex tasks allow automation to further benefit the organizations that choose to invest in it for these types of processes.
Frustrating or Boring
There are elements of almost every job that are frustrating or boring to human employees. AI doesn’t get frustrated or bored! While more difficult to quantify, the potential benefits of removing these tasks from human employees’ to-do lists can’t be ignored.
When Not to Automate
Of course, not every task or circumstance calls for automation. In some cases, especially with experimental or exploratory processes that will only be used a few times, it’s not worth the resources required to automate. There are also tasks that simply require human skills that AI cannot offer. Visual quality assurance—depending on the complexity of the task—is one example. Another is the elements of a process that aren’t included in the programmed process AI uses to complete a task. AI doesn’t know what it doesn’t know!